Once upon a time, the world of newspapers was pretty much like it’s depicted in the movies. The editors (all men) had big glass offices. We could smoke at our desks, which were piled high with papers: newspapers, magazines, press releases, letters, photocopies, our press cuttings books (yes, we cut our stories out of the paper and stuck them into a scrapbook with glue).
Because we spent 12 hours a day with each other, and email and messaging hadn’t been invented, life at work was very social and often quite noisy. Phones rang. Journalists gathered in gaggles to swap info on the latest rumours and editors stood around picture desks (with real photographs) to figure out what they wanted a page to look like. If a journalist had an idea, they just walked up to the features/news/books editor and talked it through.
Technology has changed all that. Today, not only are newspaper offices pretty quiet – filled with hundreds of journalists typing conversations onto their screens – but very often we aren’t in the office at all. These days, although I’m deputy editor of a magazine, I’ll probably spend only about 50 days a year in the same building as my editor. The rest, I might be working from home, or an airport, where I am now, or a plane, typing as I fly over seas and deserts.
While in some ways, these flexible working arrangements have enormous benefits, they also have drawbacks: one of them being that I can’t give you an answer as quickly as you’d like.
Making a decision in the old days was easy. A freelancer would phone and pitch an idea and if I liked it, I’d walk up to the editor, and if she/he liked it too, I’d phone the journalist back and commission it. Job done.
Now, when a PR or a journalist emails me an idea, not only will it be one of about 1,000 or so that I receive a day, but there’s a high probability that I won’t be in the office – or even in the country. I might be in in Ecuador learning about chocolate (I know, a tough one). Or interviewing an interior designer in Norway. Or researching a story on vicuna wool in Peru. Or on my way to a luxury travel conference in Cape Town (as I am right now).
And when I am in one of those places, I might be writing a story for one of several different publications for whom I write. This summer, I won’t be in the LUXX office for two months, but reporting from all over the world – for The Times travel pages, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel + Leisure, Luxury Magazine, Departures.
So when you send me brilliant ideas for LUXX, please bear in mind that, while you may want an answer straight away, and I’d like to give you one, I may not be able to. It’s not that I’m ignoring you. I’m just working for someone else that day. Or in another part of the world. And I can’t just stroll across the office, like journalists do in the movies, have a quick chat with an editor and call you back.