Catherine Mayer

13.01.05

8am and already I’m at my desk. The job and I got hitched in December and I’m still exhibiting symptoms of infatuation.

Even
if it weren’t love, I’d factor in at least an hour for the papers. I
need to know what’s happening, especially in Europe, the Middle East
and Africa. TIME’s EMEA editions are produced out of our London
headquarters. Reports and features originated by our correspondents and
writers make up some 60 per cent of TIME Europe’s content and many of
them are also picked up by our US, Asian, Canadian and Australian
editions. I’ve listened to music radio and a chunk of the Today
programme on the way here and now speed-read the British broadsheets, a
couple of tabloids, the Wall Street Journal, Le Monde and the
Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Must keep up my German. Until recently I
was London correspondent for the Munich-based news weekly, Focus, and
was fluent, though never bilingual. Unfortunately, synaptic connections
are beginning to fizzle. I miss my old colleagues and would call them
for a little light German practice, but they’ll be in meltdown. The Sun
has published a photo of Prince Harry dressed in a Nazi uniform. This
merits only the briefest of items in Time but their phones will be
ringing off the hook. Not that it’s quiet here. My primary role is as
senior editor but this week I’m thrust back into reporting. Time’s
London bureau chief, Jef McAllister, has been delayed on his return
from holiday.

His deputy, Helen Gibson, and I have started to
research a four-pager about the latest spat between Tony Blair and
Gordon Brown. We assume Jef will transform our contributions into one
of his deft analyses until editor-inchief, Eric Pooley, explains that
Jef has been further detained and asks me to write the piece.

This
is my first article for Time. I consider wimping out of a long-arranged
dinner in North London, but decide that would be craven. Switch off
computer at 8.15 and head to Hampstead, resolved to leave by 11. At the
latest.

14.01.05

The early morning Thames flows past my office window in soft focus. Good evening, but I didn’t fall into bed until 2am.

After
four hours of sleep, I’m back at the terminal, doing my best to
concentrate on British politics, but thinking about this week’s cover
story instead. It’s about sleep and why our brains need it to function
effectively.

Still, the Blair-Brown story writes itself and I complete a first draft before our 10am conference. Eric tells me it’s “writers’

privilege” to miss the meeting but I stay put, enjoying the brainstorming and the deadpan humour that accompanies it.

As
a tyro reporter at The Economist, I was intimidated into silence as my
predominantly male, public-school-and- Oxbridge-educated colleagues
squared off with displays of rhetoric. At Time, a collegiate atmosphere
encourages contributions from younger staff members and there’s a good
balance of the sexes too.

Eric is complimentary about my draft but requests changes.

I watch my piece progress through the editing process, agree with most alterations, but wonder if the text hasn’t lost pace.

Then
I remember one of the silliest complaints ever levelled at my editing:
that I had “disrupted the delicate internal rhythm of the sentences” –
and this from a dull writer. As an editor, I try to guard against
excessive interventionism, but journalists can be precious as hell.

16.01.05

A
quiet weekend. I’ll work next Saturday and the one after while
colleagues attend Davos. Lounge about while a writer from The
Independent interviews my husband and fellow members of his rock group,
Gang of Four, about their forthcoming tour. Music journalists
substitute alcohol for flattery and banter for questions, aiming to get
their subjects drunk and anecdotalising. Today the ploy succeeds.

17.01.05

Run
from Time’s morning conference to the Foreign Press Association for a
series of meetings in my capacity as FPA President. We discuss plans
for the UK elections. Foreign correspondents will get an even rougher
deal from the political parties once the election is called – Alastair
Campbell summed up their attitude when he dubbed us the “no-votes
press”. The FPA will help members by organising briefings and access to
events and running an election news service.

The committee
decides to appoint a British journalist with good Westminster
connections to coordinate our elections support. Return to the office
then on to the opening of an exhibition, Colour My World.

Artist
and critic Matthew Collings publicly interviews one of the other
exhibitors. It’s a cerebral exercise expressed in deceptively demotic
language, shedloads of theories but no attempt to reach a conclusion.

Glad I don’t have to edit this one.

18.01.05

Eileen
Naughton, the New York-based president of Time, arrived from Singapore
this morning. 11am sharp and her powerpoint presentation to Time
staffers commences. She is friendly, refers to us collectively as
“gang”, but her command of marketing lingo marks her out as a corporate
chief. We are pleased to hear that the magazine may be 82 years old but
is entering its vigorous prime.

Busy afternoon of story
discussions and forward planning is followed by evening rendezvous with
Kamal Ahmed, executive editor of The Observer , to attend a party for
the founder members of Soho House. He, too, moved from writing to
editing last year. We compare hours spent in meetings and how
productive these are – or not.

19.01.05

The discussion at morning conference is how Time should cover the story of British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners.

Evidence
and photos, stark as they appear, seem different to the systemic abuse
revealed at Abu Ghraib. One of Time’s team is able to provide an
insider perspective. A member of the Territorial Army, he served with
the Desert Rats in Iraq, and tells us that trophy photographs are
regularly sold or swapped by soldiers.

Jef McAllister and I lunch with another man accustomed to dodging snipers.

Paddy
Harverson, a former FT journalist and communications director for
Manchester United, is now responsible for press for the Prince of Wales
and his sons.

Prince Harry’s infamous choice of fancy dress drew
fire not only at the Royals but their advisers, who will be questioned
by a Commons committee next month. Paddy is cheerful and remarks that
you have to keep press coverage in perspective.

Jef and I can only agree.

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