Journalism careers are always a topic of interest. From the big screen world of The Devil Wears Prada, the retelling of great investigative journalism such as All the President’s Men and, more recently, Spotlight, TV documentaries taking you inside Tatler’s offices and the phone hacking scandal hitting front pages, journalists inspire stories as much as they actually write them.
I’ve wanted to work as a journalist since my Year 5 teacher mentioned the idea to me aged 9, and I’ve wanted to work in magazines since my first work placement at Horse magazine aged 14. But even when you are on a placement it’s hard to get a sense of what it is really like to work there, and films like The Devil Wears Prada are more drama and nonsense than anything remotely real.
But I have discovered the best way to delve into magazine offices, learn about publishing history and hear stories about the greatest parties with the biggest names is through memoirs by magazine editors. These books are almost impossible to track down. All three I have here I discovered pretty much by accident. I’m still on the search for more, and I promise to report back if/when I find them…
*Mama Mia, by Mia Freedman: Mia became editor of Australian Cosmopolitan at just 24. Her memoir documents her rise to the editor’s chair, her highs and lows as editor and her departure from the world of magazines alongside an intimate glimpse into her personal life. My aunt gave me this book for my birthday, and I became completely absorbed by it. Mia is witty and honest, and gives us a very real look into what it is like to work in magazines. We see the glamorous side of her career but she doesn’t allow it to overwhelm the book and she isn’t a name-dropper, you learn more about her co-workers than the celebs. I would highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in magazines.
*A Diary of The Lady, by Rachel Johnson: This couldn’t be funnier even if it tried. Rachel Johnson’s memoir of her time as editor of The Lady takes on the form of a diary, with almost daily entries documenting the havoc at Lady HQ. I particularly loved this one because I have done placements at The Lady (they are always looking for workies!), so I was familiar with the offices, the setting and many of the characters. She includes hilarious email chains trying to secure cover girls and columnists, past covers (including the one her beloved dog, Coco, “guest-edited”) and daily updates on her in-tray (in which she always laments the lack of chocolate). We don’t see much into her personal life, but I don’t think the book misses this. She is so funny and engaging, you just want to hear about each fast-paced and nutty new day at The Lady.
*The Vogue Factor, by Kirstie Clements: Kirstie Clements was editor in chief of Vogue Australia for thirteen years when she was unceremoniously fired in 2012, and this is where the book begins. She then goes back to tell all on her career at Vogue, from answering the phones to the editor’s chair. You don’t see as much into the magazine offices in this book as you do with the other two. I felt it was all famous names, luxury travel and big parties, but that wasn’t balanced up with what it is like to produce Vogue every month. Having said that, she has some great anecdotes. I loved the chapters about Karl Largerfeld as guest editor, and when she managed to shoot and interview the royal couple of Denmark (the princess being an Aussie). It doesn’t quite have the lightness of touch of the other two and takes itself a little too seriously at times, but if fashion journalism is more your thing, this is definitely one to read.
If you guys know of any more memoirs like these, then please, please share – I’m desperate to get my hands on them!