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Life in Lockdown – Jennifer Cox, Commissioning Editor at News UK

Each day we speak to a journalist about their new normal, today we hear from Jennifer Cox.

Jennifer Cox is Commissioning Editor at News UK.

Where are you working from right now?
In my tiny home office in Wimbledon. It’s at the front of the flat overlooking the road, so I’m trying not to get distracted watching passers-by help themselves to the free books I left outside (I help run a local book festival so always have loads of new ones). Don’t worry, I left a bottle of hand sanitiser too!

What’s your new morning routine?
Not that different to my usual one when I’m working from home. I get up around 7.00am and do 20 minutes of stretches followed by either 40 minutes of pilates, a run or a bike ride. Then I have breakfast, read the Times followed by the Mail sidebar of shame, then finally around 10.30am, I get down to work.

Have you got dressed today?
Always. It’s a short step from not getting dressed to sitting with unbrushed hair in your dressing gown all day, watching Mrs Maisel and using biscuits to spoon Ben & Jerry’s straight from the tub. I know this to be true.

How has your working week changed since Covid-19 hit?
I used to go into the News UK offices 3 days a week, now I don’t. I never thought I’d miss waiting for the lift up to my office on the 10th floor, but I do. Now everything is video conferencing, Slack chats and Google doc brain storms. It’s exhausting, but also a time of real creativity. We’re getting some really interesting insights into consumer interests and behaviour: for example, the Times readership has increased by 30% as people want more (and reliable) news. But inevitably that traffic is online, so it’s thinking about how to use digital to tell interesting stories in a new way. And cutting through the deafening digital noise.

What are the current plans for filling your pages?
As a freelance (for The Times and Mail on Sunday) it’s about suggesting interesting UK angles, and aspirational armchair travel ideas. From a commercial perspective it’s coming up with short and long-term strategies to help the travel industry recover.

What does a work lunch look like these days?
A bowl of Heinz tomato soup at my kitchen table over a Zoom or Google-hangout chat. And muting the mic occasionally to tell my husband: No, he can’t come in and boil the kettle, and can he *please* strip off his training gear in another room.

What’s the biggest challenge for your desk/publication right now?
The downturn in advertising: when Covid-19 hit, advertising fell through the floor. But as the country adapts to this ‘new normal’ – working from home, social-distancing, weekly applause thanking the NHS – companies are starting to see their roles in it. Whether that’s the supermarkets maintaining food supplies, Joe Wicks keeping us fit, or the boom in streamed edu-tainment. We’re starting to see advertising lift as a result.

Has anything positive come out of this?
I’ve been on a number of video conferences along with other journalists, PRs and travel companies. And it’s been genuinely heartening to see individuals and organisations across the travel industry coming together to offer support, also to try and find a way through this terrible situation. Seeing so much passion, strength and experience has been humbling, it’s made me value our industry even more.

What’s your top tip for PRs right now?
Look at other PRs’ releases, then write about something different. I think we’ve reached peak drone video footage, but what else could be an interesting digital story?

What’s your comeback plan?
Listen closely, think creatively, act fast.


Follow Jennifer Cox on Twitter.

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