Lurking on the darker side

While I’ve had my “respectable” moments in journalism – as a cadet at the Newcastle Morning Herald and as editorial director of Singapore Harper’s Bazaar – I’ve mostly spent my career on the “darker” side.

My work has usually focussed on subjects that offend conservative or high-minded individuals.

When I was at Cosmopolitan, I copped it for all the articles about sex (many written by me, such as my experiences as a judge at Miss Nude Australia and stories on novelty condoms and vibrators). I can remember having quite the to-do with Paul McDermott in a Kings Cross bar when he had a go about Cosmo being an insult to feminism, or something like that.

Then I moved to Singapore to edit CLEO and became infamous for a cover story called How to Blow Like A Pro … offering fellatio tips from a call girl … I almost got chucked out of the country for that one.

I returned to Australia to edit Woman’s Day, not that long after it was blamed for killing Princess Diana. I loved running a weekly gossip magazine and had so much fun with it. But the growing pressure to zoom in on celebrity cellulite and stalk them with paparazzi photographers started getting to me. It just wasn’t my thing. I don’t think I could handle that merry-go-round now or the backlash it receives.

Moving to digital five years ago, I worked for the often maligned Mamamia, editing its parenting website. Ooooh do people love to hate Mia Freedman and slag off the stories her site runs.

Things went faintly respectable for a few years after that as I tapped away quietly at escape.com.au and kidspot.com.au.

But it becsme unexpectedly harrowing. While you’d think kidspot.com.au would be all birthday cakes and parenting advice, readers had far more sinister interests. I started calling myself the “dead baby editor” – shocking a few people at parties – because my job each morning was to find the most horrifying child-related news story that had happened in the world overnight and republish it by 7.30am.

The aim was to provide something irresistibly clickable for mums to enjoy with their morning coffee. I soon realised that “nice” stories, other than ones about celebrities getting pregnant or having babies, would fail on social media. People wanted something shocking with their Vegemite toast.

It started eating away at my soul, searching for those terrible stories, reading the awful things that happen to kids and knowing the huge number of clicks my resulting story would get.

Now I work for a company that provides services to the alcohol industry. Better than being with Benson & Hedges, but lowly regarded by wowsers who think alcohol is the devil’s drink.

Bugger them, I love it. Being a booze writer might just be my favourite gig yet.

I’ve become totally obsessed with the ins and outs of the alcohol industry. This week has been a doozy. I actually squealed at the news Lion has sold its 50% share in BevChain to Linfox; plus a sixth generation Cooper has joined the SA brewery; McWilliams has sold a 70% stake in Evans & Tate; and Brian McGuigan has bought the historic Lindeman’s site from TWE. I can feel your palpable lack of excitement from here. But I was buzzed. Those stories go gangbusters on Facebook with the liquor lot.

And tonight I’m off to the Australian drinks Awards. It will also be a doozy – its one of the industry’s biggest events.

The only downside is that I have to dash home the moment the final award is announced to publish lots of stories about the night. No letting my hair down at the after-party while the big band plays. I have a newsletter to compile and eight stories to publish. I will be quite addled come Friday morning.

We had cake in the office yesterday to farewell the woman who got me into the drinks industry, my CEO Sandra Przibilla. Everyone said a few words about their favourite Sandra moment or simply thanked her for everything she’d done for them. I said what I liked most about her was that she didn’t harbour any “ists”. She’s not ageist or sexist or racist. She treats everyone with equal importance. She didn’t care that I was 48 and a little long in the tooth to be working digital media (as seems to be the discriminatory opinion in some circles). She just gave me a go.

And I reckon it’s worked out pretty well. Visitors to our websites have been climbing steadily since I joined the association. Last month we celebrated having almost 40,000 UAs. (That means 40,000 individuals visited the sites in a month – you can only count each person once.)

I’m pretty proud of that achievement, as it comes entirely from organic growth on sites that aren’t Google optimised. I’ll be celebrating with a cocktail or two at the Awards tonight. Stay tuned for happy snaps in the morning.

What’s been your favourite job?

Song of the day: Marvin Gaye “Heard it through the grapevine”

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