A working week in the life of Laura Lee Davies, editor of Time Out
This is a weird week for us as we’re finishing off next Tuesday’s magazine but we’re already working on the next issue because of Easter. Almost anyone at any publication will agree that bank holidays are more a curse than a blessing.
Blur, our cover stars for Tuesday’s edition, are tucked up in bed already, so most of today we’re putting through all the preview and review copy we usually do on Thursdays plus sending the last of the features to press.
Our subs and lawyer check for last-minute legal minefields and I try not to be too bossy about how I want the design to look. In a magazine crammed with features, picture captions and more listings than anyone else, we need clarity of design rather than art. It doesn’t mean we can’t be stylish too.
Today I’m also sending out a finalised memo on syndication of copy and use of writers over other Time Out titles. Now that there are several other TO magazines around the world, co-ordinating what we do has become all the more important.
My deputy, Christopher Hemblade, is a five-star fixer for film covers, so politely telling film PRs what they can do with the “special” images they think will suffice for covers in May and June. TO has always put film, music and other arts stories on the cover, but with the increase in celeb titles, these are now often overtaken by the London-oriented consumer stories our readers seem to appreciate.
Out in the evening to try one of the restaurants shortlisted in the vegetarian category of our Eating Awards 2003. I don’t think it’ll be the winner.
Weekly planning meeting in the morning with our marketing, distribution and advertising directors and the magazine’s managing director, Lesley Gill. We talk about everything from upcoming cover possibilities to marketing promotions and sponsorships. The decision about what goes on the cover comes down to me, but the final product is a result of everyone’s hard work.
We don’t have the money the major publishing companies have to back our product, which makes these meetings more about ingenuity than briefings on where the next million is going. However, we recently found we were excluded from entering an independent publishers’ awards because our turnover was four times the stipulated threshold! Caught between the devil andÃ‰ a smaller devil really.
An afternoon of catch-up meetings with some of the section heads about features. We have a weekly editorial meeting on Tuesdays, but it’s vital we don’t let feature ideas slip through the net or we’d end up simply reacting to PRs’ press releases.
Monday morning is sign-off on gossip, quotes of the week and late news stories. At the same time, the theatre section is busy inputting reviews and our sports editor is amending fixture previews based on the weekend’s football results.
The film section is compiling its vast listings section, which has to wait until exhibitors have reacted to the weekend’s takings. The final pages are usually with the printers by about 9pm, and the magazine hits the streets first thing Tuesday.
The magazine is in by the time I arrive at the office and this week’s looks great. Time to do coverlines for our “Sex and the Working Girl” issue.
Due to the short week, today is equivalent to Tuesday, Wednesday and most of Thursday in one. I really enjoy music writing still (I used to be the music editor), so I have to file a Go-Betweens column and a bite-sized review of the new “Dub Side of the Moon” album, which isn’t half as funky as it sounds!
We have to flatplan the magazine a day-and-a-half ahead of our regular schedule.
In a magazine as full of ads (of all shapes and sizes, from car advertisers to one-man yoga centres), this is a drawn-out process. I think our production editor would still have a full head of hair if it wasn’t for the last-minute requests for extra ad space versus listings editors who come begging for that crucial extra quarter-page. We also have to get the cover off especially early to make deadlines for our current poster campaign on London Underground.
The Underground’s new system has allowed posters to be changed weekly, which has at last made it worth our while.
Wider exposure has its downsides, though. Our recent St Patrick’s cover, featuring a naked Graham Norton hiding his, er, shame behind a framed picture of the Pope managed to garner a small postbag of unhappy observers.
It’s pre-Easter Wednesday, we’re already working on Friday deadlines: subs checking cromalins, systems running out listings and section heads laying out preview pages.
Being a vegetarian of 23 years, I drag my deputy out to Hammersmith to sample the delights of the last veggie Eating Awards nominee. It gives us some great catching-up time, although we talk about TO in hushed tones as all of our food reviews are paid for and sampled incognito; our food editor, Guy Dimond, feels very strongly about this. I have to agree with him, but I do fear it’s only a matter of time before he claims false beards and sunglasses on expenses.
Another afternoon of meetings with sections, plus preparation for tomorrow morning’s interview with Brummie R&B diva Jamelia.
Easter weekend still seems a long way off, but at least the sun is shining for now.