Thursday is the beginning of the week at The Guide. Yesterday we sent Saturday’s magazine to the printers – all 330 pages – and today we begin again. I read The Guardian online at home and look at features copy on the Tube so that I’m ready to discuss ideas with the art desk.
Two pieces are in: a feature about the wild dudes of metal (they’re all secretly Renaissance men who love painting, fencing and astronomy) and a guide to weird summer events in the countryside (toe-wrestling, brick-throwing and nettle-eating championships). We reckon illustration is the best route, so our stand-in designer briefs a favourite artist that we’re after a funny picture of Marilyn Manson in the style of a 15th century Florentine portrait.
Normally, I avoid PR lunches, but VH1 has invited me to the Grosvenor Hotel for the Ivor Novello Awards and I’ve not been before. Turns out they’re not as starry as The Brits or as blinging as the Mobos, and for some reason we have to say grace before lunch.
The table is loaded with champagne but sadly I’m back to work. In any case, the party appears to be over when the plastered guest on my right falls asleep in her chair and the woman on my left has her purse stolen.
Back at the office, the cover feature on Morrissey has arrived. I call the writer to suggest some tweaks, then discuss photos with the picture editor. Fix an interview with a hot New York band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as a likely cover for the following issue and confirm it with the US writer. Then it’s off to the Design Museum with half of Shoreditch for the opening of Peter Saville’s retrospective.
Flick through the papers and my e-mails before the features conference at 10.30am. The hot topics for debate are the schools funding crisis and asylum seekers. Top of our features list for tomorrow is a piece about all the Ferrero Rocher-style ambassadors’ parties that precede Eurovision.
The Guide office chat is about which former Big Brother contestants we hate the most – working on an entertainment magazine, we all spend a lot of time watching television and picking it apart.
Chat to Charlie Brooker about what he’s going to cover next in his TV column and to Peter Paphides about his next swipe at annoying commercials: TV ads that make you feel sick. Then it’s time to write the Morrissey coverlines – Smiths lyrics are a clichÃ©, but a desk brainstorm comes up with something that works.
Last job of the day is chasing up a courier who’s taken over four hours to deliver a bag of review CDs two miles up the road.
One of the best things about working on an entertainment magazine is that you can go clubbing and call it work. I drop into Return To New York, which is brilliant and full of hilariously dressed people.
The worst thing about working on The Guide is no bank holidays. We have to keep going to get the magazine out. There are three columns to edit on Mondays, pictures to select, feature layouts to shape up and headlines to write. Fortunately, there are no phone calls or e-mails – there have been more writers than ever pitching to work for us since we celebrated our 500th issue this month – so there’s time to look through the mound of magazines we get and to scout round some websites: NME, billboard, hollywood reporter, peoplenews, popbitch and the genius new blog popjustice.
Four problems. 1) The interview in New York didn’t happen yesterday. The writer sounds panicky. The band is being tricky. The singer is freaking out and in hiding. They sound fantastic – I want it more than ever, but there’s not much I can do at 9.30am because of the time difference. Start mentally lining up possible alternatives.
2) Another section editor asks if we’re doing something on Morrissey. He has something planned too.
3) Our television editor spots that the Morrissey documentary our cover story is pegged to has been set back a week. Neither the producer nor the channel told us. It’s annoying but we can’t pull it because the cover went yesterday. Can anything else go wrong?
4) Yes. The piece is about Morrissey’s wilderness years without a record deal. A diligent sub spots a website posting that Moz has been crowing on Radio 2 about his new contract. The record label won’t confirm or deny it. Ah well, why would anything about Morrissey be straightforward?
Spend the day subbing features and columns, then reading TV previews. Quick calls: one to fix up a pop column about gay antics in videos (we really watch a lot of television); one to our film writer in Los Angeles and two to bag an interview with a young US actor. We usually avoid the scrum for celebrity interviews, but this one may be fun.
Finally, a call from New York. The writer tracked down the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s guitarist last night and pestered him into meeting her in a bar. The singer has surfaced in New Jersey and has reluctantly agreed to chat to our writer in a shopping mall tonight. We’re up to the wire on this one – copy is due on Thursday. Feeling slightly twitchy.
Wednesdays are a blizzard of proofs. We start sending the national section of the magazine at 10am and there are always final tweaks. Fix a feature for two weeks ahead, fielding calls in between from clueless PRs who want to know if I’ve had their fax or how to get their pottery exhibition listed.
Turn down a trip to visit a museum in Madrid. What would I do with that? The five regional sections go to press after lunch – another stream of proofs. At 6pm, I run through the features list for the next issue with the art team, crossing fingers for our Yeah Yeah Yeahs story.
“That sounds great,” says our designer. “I’d read that.” I hope she gets the chance. The writer in New York now seems to have gone into hiding and her phone just rings itself out.