Chas Newkey-Burden on Eleanor Levy

It took
an underhand trick to get her attention, but I knew that Eleanor Levy
would be well worth the gamble. In the mid-1990s, as a second-year
journalism student at the London College of Printing, I booked a week’s
work experience at the late, great IPC football weekly 90 Minutes. For
my first day there, I was dumped in the corner of the office and
ignored until 4.45pm when the deputy editor said I could go home when I
wanted. I had been warned that 90 Minutes treated work experience
students in this way so I had a cunning trick up my sleeve.

The
previous week, I had been experiencing work at Time Out and had penned
an article heaping praise upon the form of Tottenham Hotspur under
Gerry Francis. The Time Out article was published on my second day at
90 Minutes so when I arrived that morning I waved it under the nose of
editor and keen Tottenham fan Eleanor Levy, demanding more exciting
tasks for the rest of my stay. She was won over by my pro-Tottenham
piece and made sure I spent the rest of the week writing features. Only
later in the week did I ‘fess up that I am an Arsenal fan.

Eleanor
called me in for regular freelance shifts in the following months. I
was soon able to leave my journalism course and work full time at the
magazine. Working for Eleanor didn’t really feel like work. I always
felt that her approach to editing had, in the best possible way, a
touch of the fanzine about it. She was irreverent, bright, provocative
and witty and expected her writers to be the same.

It is not easy
for any woman to secure a top job in the macho world of football
journalism, but it was clear how Eleanor pulled it off. She was hugely
passionate about football – not something you could say of all the
staff – and loved the game in a more sincere way than most of the
boorish men in the industry. Accordingly, once Eleanor left to have her
second child and the office became all male, life in the IPC Football
Group became something of a yawn. I followed her out of the door within
months.

A few years later, I spent two years as editor of
icons.com during the football website’s heyday, and modelled a lot of
my approach on her example.

She was not just a fine editor, but
also a great manager. She needed to be to cope with the person I was
back then: a horribly over-ambitious upstart with no sense of decorum,
patience or social skills. I’m not quite sure how she put up with me in
those early days, but I’m glad she did.

Chas Newkey-Burden is chief sub and writer on The Big Issue

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