For an embarrassingly long time I thought Hannah hated me. I had sent her a stupid joke in a work email and she never replied. Turns out, she didn’t hate me and my joke was probably super lame. I miss working with her but here’s a little Hannah fix for everyone.
What is your job, exactly? I’m the Deputy Night Editor at The London Times. The title is misleading: I basically work all day and all night, then crawl under my desk to sleep. The job involves working with the head of news to plan, commission and design the daily paper. I manage a team of about 60 sub-editors, who take reporters’ copy, cut it up and bash it into shape, checking for accuracy, clarity and house style and writing headlines, as well as the iPad and online teams, who each produce their own version of the print edition every night. I’m the final pair of eyes to look over every page.
How long have you done it for and what were you doing before? I joined The Times straight after university as a reporter. After six years there I went to Farfetch, an online fashion retail business, where I spent a happy, super-fun ten months discovering that my heart was well and truly in the newsroom. I returned to The Times in March in my current role.
What was your first job? Apart from the obligatory stint waitressing and teaching English in an exotic location (China, in my case) during my gap year, my first job was at The Times. Despite dropping out of university, I managed to talk myself on to the paper’s graduate trainee scheme. I had managed to build up a pretty impressive cuttings book filing stories from China and working on the student newspaper.
What did you study? I studied Chinese at university but ultimately decided I could learn the language far better in China.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? I’ve always wanted to work in news and the media. My dad is a journalist - he was at The Times for almost 30 years, but had to leave before I became his boss - so it’s kind of in my blood. I grew up watching him go off on incredible adventures and I pretty quickly decided I wanted to do the same. I’m now tied to my desk in London, but there’s nothing like the excitement of a big story breaking.
Is there anything you would have done differently, given the choice? Nothing. All of the big, scary decisions that had the potential to be disastrous such as dropping out of university, leaving The Times after six years, and then returning, have turned out to be the best possible decisions I could have made. They have propelled my life into directions I could never have imagined.
Did you ever have a mentor? My dad has always been someone I can turn to for great advice. But it also meant that I never had a real mentor in the workplace as everyone simply assumed I had all the support and help I needed from my dad, and he didn’t want to be seen to be giving me help in the newsroom. I also felt like I had a huge amount to prove to counter any charges of nepotism.
Have you ever been in touch with a recruitment agent? Yes. There was a period when I was very unhappy at The Times. I felt like I had reached a glass ceiling that I would never be able to crack because I wasn’t part of the old boys’ club. I contacted a recruitment agent but quickly realised that she had no understanding of my job or my skills, as they are so specific to the newspaper world.
Have you ever gotten a role that was originally denied from you? How did you make your employers change their mind? I didn’t think I stood a chance of getting my current role. It was a huge professional jump for me, but I had nothing to lose. I think I managed to convince them through my total, unadulterated enthusiasm. I had to give a presentation on the future of digital and print production, which was a little daunting, but there is nothing I enjoy more than talking about newspapers! I was very upfront about my relative lack of experience and the struggles I knew I’d face managing a team much older than me. But I also stressed the positive things that I knew set me apart from every other candidate: my digital knowledge, my energy and my fresh approach.
Are you good friends with your coworkers? I love most of them. It has been an interesting experience returning as my colleagues’ senior and having to make that transition from colleague to boss, but there is a great camaraderie in the newsroom. People can be shouting and screaming each other in the build-up to deadline but it’s all forgotten as soon as that last page is sent.
Have you ever been discriminated against at work? Yes. When I was reporting, I was constantly given the “fluffy” stories, while my fellow (male) trainee was handed the hard-hitting stuff that made the front page. It was hugely demoralising. Even now, I often find myself surrounded by old white men planning weekend outings to cricket matches or sailing trips, or people will make comments about why the Editor hired me, all of which can be undermining. But I’m their boss now, so whatever!
What is your work schedule? Do you stay late/work weekends a lot? We produce the paper six days a week so I’m almost always working on Sundays and because it’s a skeleton staff, it tends to be one of the longest days of the week, from about 10am to midnight. The rest of the week I usually do about 12 hours, finishing around 11pm.
What do you wear to work? Do you think it matters? I think it does matter! I really enjoy getting dressed for work and I don’t think it does any harm to stand out from the crowd. I do that simply by being a woman in the newsroom. But I do sometimes arrive at work and realise I’ve made a mistake with a dress that’s too short, or heels that are too high. No one comments but I feel like I’m doing myself a disservice.
Who should I speak to next? My friend Sam who works as a question-setter for quiz shows.