Fleet Street's first female editor Lori Miles on her move to customer mags

Lori Miles hands me her CV as if she were being interviewed for a job rather than for a magazine profile. If the CV looks simplistic in design it's probably because it does not need any dressing up.

Nor do you imagine that Miles actually needs it, for she was the first female Fleet Street editor with five-high profile consumer mag launches under her belt – two before she hit 30 – in a career spanning 30 years.

Miles spoke to Press Gazette after taking over as editor-in-chief at customer publisher Cedar, where she will be in charge of the day-to-day running of the company, overseeing contract titles for big guns such as Tesco and British Airways.

She is obviously highly prized: Cedar called her their "highest-profile hiring yet" and it's no wonder. This is the woman who moved from writer on IPC's Woman to launch editor of teen title Mizz, launch editor of Chat – the first women's weekly launch in 35 years in 1986 – and went on to launch edit what remains the top selling real life weekly, Take a Break, all before the end of the 80s.

Miles's London media career started in magazines in 1979, working as a beauty writer for Woman before she was promoted to section editor. It was only when she jumped ship to be features editor on Company at Natmags, that IPC realised what it had lost and wooed Miles back to launch Mizz.

"IPC thought: ‘if she's gone she must quite good, we'd better get her back now'. They didn't recognise you when you're sitting there with some talent."

Miles launched Mizz in 1985 – a heady period for the teen sector, thriving under the twin forces of Just Seventeen and Smash Hits!

Next up was the tough task of launching Chat into the women's weekly market, bestrode by the twin titans of Woman and Woman's Own in 1986. Miles was 29 when she edited Chat for ITP [Independent Television Publications] – which was the first colour magazine produced on newsprint.

Her biggest controversy there was an interview with Myra Hindley, which The Sun was so keen to get a look at that ITP had to have security at their printworks.

It caused a major storm, says Miles, even though the content was light. "People were furious that I'd given her a voice because she'd never been heard since she'd gone to prison."

Why did Miles go with it? "I knew it was controversial, but that was a big story to hear from the other side from one of the most legendary, feared, hated women in Britain. Journalistically it had to be done. Wouldn't you?"

Miles insists she was happy at each title she's ever launched, but her career is a series of launch and run – which she puts down to people coaxing her to new projects.

In 1987 came the Fleet Street gig, as launch editor on Associated's spoiler the London Evening News – launched against Robert Maxwell's attempt to take on the Evening Standard by launching the London Daily News.

The Evening News was a more female and south London-friendly title than its big brother, the Standard and – as soon as Maxwell admitted defeat and closed the London Daily News – it was shut down too.

"They brought it back from the dead, to mess up the marketplace, [and they asked] would I come in and edit it to show that they were committed to it. And I went in there and kept going until we got rid of Maxwell," says Miles.

Was it not tough being a pawn in a bigger game? "Well, it's not very flattering, is it?" she admits.

The London Evening News job signalled a return to newspapers after almost a decade in magazines. Miles started her career as a reporter on the Maidenhead Advertiser in 1977. While there, she got a front-page splash in The Sun about a school boycott by teenagers after the headmaster enforced a strict uniform code, including a ban on black bras.

"I delivered it all [to The Sun] and the next morning I said to my boyfriend ‘did it make anything in The Sun?' and he said, ‘Yeah slightly. Black Bra Ban on School Lolitas.' I bought a car on the strength of it."

It must have come as a surprise to many when she jumped ship to go into advertising after the demise of the London Evening News. She worked for WCRS agency from 1988 to '89.

She says she didn't encounter sexism on Fleet Street, but while at WCRS she got pregnant and was told to apologise to the management for being so. She didn't, and left for another agency but predictably, this did not last long.

In 1989 she was ensconced at German publisher Bauer at the helm of what a former colleague called "a shitty little puzzles magazine". That was Take a Break, which within a year had achieved sales of 1.3 million.

What was the magic of TaB? "It was the combination of true-life stories and puzzles – let nobody tell you any different. It really cared about the reader and still does. Every piece of post had to be answered. In fact the Germans [Bauer] would send readers' letters in to see what responses they got. You really looked after your readers and they paid you back by buying it every week."

A launch whiz – Miles was quickly charged with reviving the fortunes of Bauer's TVQuick, then launching TVChoice and Total TVGuide – she left Bauer in 2004 after David Goodchild became managing director.

"He and I never saw eye to eye. He was my publisher for years, I always knew there'd be trouble when he became MD and thus it was within a month. It was a foregone conclusion."

And with that she was gone, but had five job interviews in first week of unemployment. She became consultant editor on the Daily Express under Peter Hill, brought in to bring a female angle on breaking news and features, then returned to Woman as acting editor in 2005.

During a period of freelance editing for News Magazines, Burda and Riva, and the stint as deputy editorial director at News Magazines, she worked on a business brief for Cedar, which led to the new role.

After such a long stretch competing on the newsstand, is the move into customer publishing a sign of Miles putting her feet up? She laughs. "This is not easy, I've been here 10 days and I have never worked so hard. There are so many products going through – spin-offs as well as the main titles for each client you can get – the production schedule is gruelling."

There's a certain snobbishness among hacks about customer publishing, seen by some as too close to advertising to be considered journalism. Miles doesn't concede the point. In customer publishing there's an opportunity to get in more talent and spread the agenda, she says. "Of course you serve the client as well – but it's a bigger job that that."

Besides, she adds: "You're looking for news, but a different kind of news – you're looking for positive news. If I was back in the women's press, writing about Victoria Beckham's diet – that's not really news, not Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism, is it?

"There's no point sneering at the customer magazines because what the consumer titles are producing is, kitten heels are in and here are a lot of bags – that's not great journalism. I'm not going to miss any of that."

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