For this month’s Ask-a-Journalist Bvisible turned to Aisling Kennedy, Staff Editor of Woman’s Way, to give us an insight into the world of magazine journalism.
Aisling started off as a news journalist for her local Gazette Group newspaper in Lucan, then went freelance and did a brief stint in RTE, along with writing for several national newspapers. In 2008 she got the position as Staff Editor in Woman’s Way magazine. As well as writing for the travel, the food pages and makeover section Aisling is also the Picture Editor. She was also recently appointed Deputy Editor of the Woman’s Way Cookbook – a true all-rounder.
How did you come to work for Woman’s Way?
I love travelling so I took a year out in 2007 to travel around Thailand, Vietnam, Australia. When I got back I worked as a freelancer for a while but at the same time I was applying for full-time journalism positions. I heard of an opening in Woman’s Way through another journalist friend so I went for the interview and got the job.
What is your typical working day as Staff Editor?
There’s never really a typical day if I’m honest! We work at quite a fast pace so planning and organisation are key. My main roles include writing my various pages, editing content, sourcing pictures, liaising with our page designers and sales team on advertorials, organising shoots and planning ahead for future issues. Then there’s emailing or calling PR agencies, meeting with PR people, attending press events on a weekly basis. I am also currently planning for our Mum of the Year event in June.
Did you always want to get into journalism?
Funnily enough I originally wanted to be a nurse and trained for a year in college for it. However it wasn’t for me and I always had a passion for English in school, so I started to think more and more about a career in writing. I always loved reading and writing and was always writing short stories when I was young. I remember even getting a V-Tech typewriter when I was 7 years old for Christmas and it was and still is one of my all time favourite presents. So I suppose I always wanted to write, but it was only in later years that I realised it and decided to study it.
Did you make a specific choice to enter the magazine world?
Yes I did. I had done 2 years in news journalism and I loved it, but I was also curious to see what it would be like to write for a magazine. They’re two very different roles. News journalism is all about immediacy and what’s current that day or week. You can’t ever plan ahead because news always has to be fresh and current to that day/week. With magazines a lot of it is planning and organising features/shoots/interviews for future issues. It’s still current but I like the fact that you can plan in advance for certain things.
What are the highlights of working for Woman’s Way?
I have so many great memories it’s hard to know where to start. Last year’s Woman’s Way Live at the RDS was an amazing event to be a part of for the first time – organising the Woman’s Way makeovers was a real challenge.
I’ve also been lucky enough to stay in some truly amazing places throughout Ireland thanks to the travel section.
Recently I attended a Medieval Banquet in Barberstown Castle that was simply out of this world. I also visited Biarritz in France on a press trip three years ago and fell in love with it, so I’ve been back on holidays every year since.
What are the best bits about working on the Travel desk?
There’s no doubt about it, the amazing places you get to see, visit, and explore. I’ve been and done so much in the past few years, and I’ve explored so many parts of Ireland in the process. Finding that we have so much to see and do in our little country that we just don’t know about is very satisfying.
One press trip to Killarney had me horse riding in the morning, cycling in the afternoon, and canoeing in the evening around the Lakes of Killarney – I was exhausted by the end but loved every minute.
It’s not the five star hotels and treatments that bowl you over, it’s discovering the hidden beauty and scenery that’s just on your own doorstep.
What kind of media do you like to consume – print, broadcast, online?
I don’t really have a favourite to be honest, I like all formats of media. I know that journalism is going online more and more every day, which is great in many ways, but there’s still nothing like picking up a newspaper or magazine and turning the pages to read them. I hope that doesn’t change completely over the next few years.
Are you a fan of, and happy participant in, social media?
Yes I am a happy participant in social media but I must admit it took me a while to get there. I think I have an old fashioned soul! I’m now constantly checking my Twitter feed for news and information – it’s a great news alert mechanism.
I’m also addicted, like many people, to Facebook. We have a Woman’s Way Facebook account so I’m constantly on it. I’ve recently started writing my own blog too so I can happily say I’ve embraced the social media world.
Do you deal with PR agencies on a daily basis?
Yes, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t speak to at least two or three PR agencies and email at least ten to fifteen PR people.
What are the good and bad aspects of dealing with agencies?
In my case, the good aspects are that I’m constantly up to date with what’s current in the travel, food, beauty, or fashion world. PR agencies are great for giving you ideas for features, one-off pieces, competitions, or just titbits of news that you can write about.
PR agencies are generally extremely helpful in whatever aspect of help you need for the magazine, which is great. I couldn’t imagine doing my job without them.
The bad aspects are dealing with PR companies that constantly ring to check you received a press release or to find out if you’re going to use it. That can be frustrating because if I can use the information I will and I’ll always let the PR company know. So it’s just finding that happy medium really.
Do you rely on PR pitches to fuel ideas for the magazine?
I wouldn’t say we rely on pitches, but we do take pitches on board when we get them.
Each issue usually has a set theme relevant to the time of year and each feature revolves around that theme. We often get pitched great real life stories or interesting press trips – so there is a little give and take on feature pitches. A million different elements pull the magazine together so pitches are always welcome.
How can PR practitioners make your job easier?
Most PR companies are brilliant at getting back to me when I request something at the last minute, which can be quite often! We have deadlines to meet, weekly in my case, and sometimes we’ll need information/prices/images quite quickly.
When this information comes back from a PR agency straight away it can really help as I hate having to harass the PR agency. But deadlines do make this unavoidable.
Keeping me up-to-date with new events, sending press releases in the body of the email as opposed to as an attachment, sending low-res images so files aren’t too big (we always request hi-res if we are going to use the picture) and putting the main point in the subject box all make life easier.
Offering press trips relevant to our audience and just being friendly and not too formal make relations with PR agencies much easier. We’re all working together at the end of the day and I know that PR agencies have a lot of pressure on them too so it’s nice when you have a friendly relationship with PRs, it makes all the difference. Especially when you’re both having a very stressful day and you end up making each other laugh via email or over the phone.
If you weren’t in journalism right now, what would you be doing?
I like to think I’d still be doing some form of writing because that’s my passion and I love it. But I’d probably be working for a travel agency or be working as a tour guide somewhere because I love to travel and I can’t go a year without feeling the sun on my skin.
What advice would you give any young journalist starting their career in magazine journalism?
Work hard, intern for a few months as this gives a great insight into what it’s like to work in a magazine/newspaper, attend events and meet people. Networking is very important. Be friendly and email and pitch ideas to magazines but always make sure you’ve read the magazine first and you know who the audience is and what kind of features are relevant to that magazine. Be available when needed and don’t give up.