Belated mag love, tears and more confessions

paper-giants (1)

This is what I wrote BEFORE watching part 2 of Paper Giants …

It must be love – Husband arrived home from Dublin a mere 10 minutes before the second episode of Paper Giants … a fact I hopefully pointed out … only to be greeted with a steely stare.

Ah. Obviously Husband wasn’t feeling the import of the occasion. He regarded his arrival as the main event.

So I made my peace with it and ignored all the Facebook and Twitter updates about the show.

I pretended it hadn’t screened until last night.

I can’t quite believe that just a few years after Nene King left Woman’s Day as editor the job was mine. Me. That shy little flower from Adamstown Heights who did work experience at the Newcastle Star and was given a report suggesting she might not be entirely suited for a career in journalism.

Me who’d almost vomit every time she had to ring someone as a cadet journalist at The Newcastle Herald.

Me who spent nine years clawing her way with agonising slowness up the ranks of Cosmopolitan magazine to the position of deputy editor (trust me, if you’re a “star” it should happen WAY faster than that. Mia Freedman scored the editorship of Cosmo at 24. Yes, 24!).

My reign as editor of Woman’s Day lasted five years, but was quite unremarkable. That was probably a good thing. I’m not sure how many larger-than-life editors one staff can handle.

I was often regaled with tales by staff of the Nene years and they sounded pretty scary at times.

One former staffer sent me a tweet saying she couldn’t bring herself to watch Paper Giants, adding: “If there’s a scene featuring Nene calling her associate ed a stupid c***, let me know. I could sue.”

While the larger-than-life character that was Nene meant some ugly moments, she also helmed Woman’s Day through some incredible moments. As my mentor of 20 years, Pat Ingram, described in an article in Fairfax Media last week: “They were heady days for all of us, the unprecedented circulation growth as the young royals unravelled. Diana’s dying marriage, then divorce and Fergie’s fecklessness fuelled the voracious appetite of the weekly mag readers, week after titillating week, making Australia home to the highest circulating women’s magazines in the world. Celebs were mercilessly pounced on by paparazzi dizzy with the possibilities of the telephoto lens; some caught in flagrante or, shock horror, without their make-up.”

I call my era “Mag Wars: The Boring Years”. Although a former colleague has suggested the title “Mag Wars: The Hewitt Years”.

Which is pretty accurate because at one point we had four people on permanent cover rotation: Bec Hewitt, Princess Mary, Jennifer Aniston and Oprah. (With the occasional Nicole Kidman cover for variety.)

Literally. I’m not kidding. We’d cycle through the four of them then start at the beginning and cycle through again.

Not entirely my choice, but when left to my own devices I did things like put Pamela Anderson – taking back Tommy Lee – on the cover, or Bindi Irwin with a grinning wombat, so perhaps it was best that I was given stringent guidelines.

Or not. I certainly harboured plenty of “not” feelings at the time. But there’s no use wondering about what might have been. It wasn’t. And the whole four-person-rotation thing worked quite well for a while. Pushed the circulation figures up no end. You’d think people would get sick of seeing the same four faces every month. And sure, they complained that they did, but they kept on buying it each week anyway.

Eventually the Bec Hewitt bubble burst. And Oprah stopped yo-yo dieting. And Princess Mary could only have so many heartbreaking betrayals inside the palace walls, or speculative pregnancies (although I did find it very entertaining when it was suggested recently she was pregnant with twins AGAIN … cue massive eye roll from me). Meanwhile, Jennifer never could seem to find someone A-list to date after Brad. Damn her.

And so my faint star waned. As it always does in the magazine world.

No-one keeps their magazine editorships forever. Well, no-one except Jackie Frank, who is up around her 18th year as editor of Marie Claire. You go girl. Well, not quite a girl anymore. But pretty vibrant nonetheless.

I do miss being the editor of Woman’s Day sometimes. I loved that magazine with a giddy passion. I think that’s why I adored Paper Giants so much. It was a mini-series about MY magazine. OK, a magazine that was MINE for five brief years.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to edit Woman’s Day.

But I also feel incredibly lucky to be editing again, this time in the digital world at ivillage.com.au

Editing is a buzz. It’s my ultimate natural high.

I’ve gone from editing monthly magazines to editing weekly magazines to effectively editing a daily magazine. Every single day I produce a whole new mini-magazine in cyberspace.

How cool is that?

Trust me, it’s very cool.

And I’m trying to make ivillage.com.au something very special for women. As one of my beloved staffers described it, the site is like “a hug”. Sometimes it’s a happy hug, sometimes it’s a sad one, and we try and throw in a few laughs for good measure.

If you get a chance, let me know if you like the direction I’m taking with ivillage.com.au

Because it’s me editing in my purest form. Stories that move me. Stories that make me laugh. I’m so close to it, it’s so close to me. It’s the best of me … I hope.

This is what I wrote AFTER watching part two of Paper Giants …

I feel unclean. All that stuff about being proud of editing Woman’s Day. I didn’t feel so proud after watching the Princess Diana death scene, glossed over as it was.

I wasn’t at Woman’s Day when that happened. I wasn’t even close. I was at Cosmopolitan. I remember hearing the news at a garden centre, sobbing all the way home.

Enough years passed between then and walking into the Woman’s Day office for the memory to fade.

While it got all very earnest at the end of Paper Giants, with Nene addressing the camera, saying “you asked for it, we gave you what you wanted” or words to that effect. But does that make it right?

I still gossip for a living – one of the first things I introduced to ivillage.com.au when I arrived was an “igossip” column. But I no longer pay paparazzi photographers.

OK, I’ll be honest, I can’t afford them. So it took the decision out of my hands.

And I’m glad. Fortunately, it’s easy to report on celebrity lives these days without the paps. The stars provide their own snaps on Instagram and Twitter and the like.

It’s like I’ve always said – they court the publicity as much as they moan and bitch about it.

But I prefer doing it this way. I climb up on my freshly acquired moral high ground and call it “ethical gossip”. Even though there’s no such thing.

Give me a few days and I’ll be proud of being editor of Woman’s Day again.

But right now I just feel a bit sad.

Poor Princess Di. Poor Nene. Paper Giants wasn’t about winning after all. It was about loss and flawed humanity …

And it was bloody good TV.

8 thoughts on “Belated mag love, tears and more confessions

  1. I have yet to see the second part, yet, but I really enjoyed the first part. Not only because I loved reliving the ‘get the story’ buzz (I love watching Devil Wears Prada and The Spring Issue just as much). But because it an era when the rules changed, a time when you didn’t have to follow the establishment. And I think that is what Nene stood for, a time when media stopped waiting for permission. Do I think it got out of hand? Yes.

    I was made Art Director for one of the newspapers within weeks I worked the Stuart Diver rescue, Diana’s passing and Michael Hutchence suicide stories. We didn’t have the budget for the big paparazzi scoops so felt I was on the side of news not gossip. But I have work other stories on the papers, witchhunts, beat ups and other nonsense that after awhile I realised I didn’t have the stomach to pedal the crap while waiting for the news.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love media, but I love the truth of the story and right of all people to access to it but not it’s manipulation by the media to produce sales for sales sake.

    So you go Alana, you make a website that is like a hug. My request is to just keep it real!

  2. You should not feel too bad, I think. It is a shame that Di died, she was young… But she should have worn a seat belt, and the driver should not have been speeding, no matter what. Does it make the paparazzi right? I guess not. But if you are on the tabloid day in and day out, I guess you live with that… What is one more picture in a car going to do? The industry is created by curiosity and by celebrities living lives that induce curiosity. sometime it is shocking how we do not realise how out nature can hurt others. But other than suggesting some deeply felt introspection, it is hard to poit the finger. It is a shame that this unlucky series of events lead to the death of three people. People who broke the law should be prosecuted, but other than that I think that this is the beginning and end of it.

    A short time after Di’s death, mother Theresa of Calcutta died but not much fuss was made. I lived in London at the time and the mass hysteria that followed Di’ death, along with the little advertised event of mother Theresa’s death…. well that was more shocking to me.

    Now, I am not a reader of magazines other than Scientific American type publications, and have no curiosity for these things. I am not religious either. So I am feeling quite an outsider. As an outsider I feel like absolving the magazines, although it is important that those sad events of 1997 made them reflect.

    Orsola

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