Under the Radar with Sarah Spiteri
This week I spoke with TI Media's Editorial Director of Homes and Gardens, Livingetc and 25 Beautiful Homes, about the key to success being collaboration, guiding a brand through its centennial year and the importance of visual, crafted storytelling...
Ellie Austin scored a job at Immediate Media as a Features Writer for Radio Times after graduating from the Magazine Journalism MA course at City University. Here she talks about working in the fast-paced world of a major weekly magazine and the power of a good coffee.
What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
What I love most about magazines is that the focus is equally on visual impact and crafted storytelling.
What have been your career highlights so far?
It has been a highlight to be the Editorial Director on Homes & Gardens in its 100th year. I relaunched the brand in January (Feb 2019 issue), with a completely fresh look and a new website, and we are now entering a summer of celebrations, with engaging reader and industry events. It has been fabulously exciting to take a legacy brand and reinvent it for today’s audiences.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
Not really. I wear dresses, jeans, skirts, shirts... I do love to wear colour, particularly a bright coat or hat.
How do you handle deadlines?
Pretty calmly. I just sit quietly and work. Which is handy as I’d say that we’re pretty much always on deadline now!
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
That today’s editorial teams also need to think commercially. I passionately believe that, for the future of brands and magazines, we need to have a collaborative relationship with clients and partners.
Walk me through your typical day.
One of the best things about my job is that there really is no typical day. Some days will be all about collaboration, and I’ll have editorial meetings with content creators and strategy brainstorms with my brand team. Others will be more focused on copy and picture editing. Others will involve external meetings with clients or PRs. It’s a big mix. The only thing I do every single day is sit down with the creative director to run through the in-progress magazines and any other collateral or brand work.
How has being a member of the PPA helped you/added value to your brand?
Network and conversation are two very powerful things, and the PPA facilitates both of these. And as the magazine and wider publishing industry evolves at breakneck speed, connection is particularly valuable. We also need to look outside of our own world and see how other creatives are innovating.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
I’d spend more time with my little girl (as long as in this imaginary world she doesn’t need sleep either!) If she was asleep, I’d read fiction. I used to devour a novel a week and at the moment it takes me something like a year. Oh, and I’d also do a History of Art Masters.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
We just spent a glorious long weekend in Puglia – and this is at the gorgeous Masseria Potenti.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I don’t really have one. I suppose I love dark chocolate ginger biscuits and fruit pastilles. But I don’t feel that guilty when I eat them!
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
I have all the phone numbers I need.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t worry about it.
What/where is your happy place?
With my family. In the sunshine. Travelling somewhere new.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I like to be in bed by 9pm and up at 5:30am.
What would be in your Room 101?
I would always have said bananas. But I’ve kind of had to get over it now I have a toddler.
Introvert or extrovert?
Both. Depends on the circumstances.
Optimist or pessimist?
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
I can’t really say either. We don’t have a TV, but we do use our projector to stream specific series, like Killing Eve, Big Little Lies or Handmaid’s Tale. I’m a pretty useless person to watch a movie at home with - I sometimes don’t even stay awake past the opening credits.
Sweet or savoury?
Morning person or night owl?
Tea or coffee?
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
I don’t have strong views on emojis. Which do I use the most? Probably the lightening bolt, heart and girl shrugging. And the blue spiral – that’s a good one.