Still feel as though I’m on Satellite 5 after last night’s screening
of the final Doctor Who. Not often you see a roomful of TV people
exuding genuine childlike excitement and enjoyment. A triumph.
Read through copy on Live 8, the Proms, astronomy, the French
legion, sex differences and apartheid. RT’s range is utterly eclectic.
I love it.
10am. The daily team meeting. Five or six issues on
the go at any one time and we belt through the flatplans at a fair
lick. To an outsider, it’s mad. The conversations are staccato:
“Liveâ€¦?” “Copy in, pix tomorrow.” “Finest?”
“Recommissioned, in Friday.” “Eeurghâ€¦” “We’ll change.”
Actually, it’s pretty mad to an insider, too.
The RT weekly. All our department heads gather for an update. We discuss Christmas. In June. Enough said.
minutes to pelt through proofs, copy and emails before cabbing into
town. I rarely do lunches – they take up too much time – but this week,
unusually, I have two. Today I’m a guest of New Statesman. I’m
intrigued. Round the table are host Geoffrey Robinson, in particularly
genial mood; John Kampfner, the new editor; deputy ed Sue Matthias – a
pal from another magazine space/time continuum; Rory Bremner; and
Today’s Kevin Marsh, among others. Special guest is Ruth Kelly, the
education minister, whose voice isn’t as low as you might expect.
Chatham House Rule, sadly.
Back for weekly covers meeting.
There’s only so much planning you can do. You might have a dozen covers
in the bag only to find the programmes they’re pegged on have all been
rescheduled for the same week. It’s the ongoing p-inthe- a you learn to
We’re planning special covers for Live 8. They should
have gone to repro by now, but with such late confirmations of who’s
playing, we’re still trying to track down some of the world’s biggest
(and most elusive) rock stars. We want a fourchange cover, which feels
like a step too far. So we take it.
So far we have nobody.
Geldof’s on board for Live 8. Phew.
After the morning meeting, it’s into a briefing about upcoming BBC dramas. It’s a good line-up; lots for us to start working on.
lunch in town with Andrew Duncan, who conducts most of our major
interviews. OK, he told me to say that. In fact, he’s excellent
company. We have a good old whinge about how most celebrity interviews
are not interviews at all, having been vetted in advance (as have the
writer, photographer, the stylist and the make-up artist). That’s a
press release, not a feature. Pah!
Five minutes back at the desk
before another meeting – this time about our TV listings. This job is
about spinning plates. Just as you’ve got the features sorted – whoops!
need attention again. We revisit sections of the magazine on a regular
basis and look for further potential for improvement. I’d be
disappointed if I couldn’t find any.
Listings, in particular, are
about functionality – no room for self-indulgence here – and it’s a
good discipline. We’ve come up with a long list of things we want to
Flurry of proofs, and fast decisions needed on a Live 8 Annie Lennox cover. Suddenly we’ve also got REM. Great!
Some schedule changes. A big series is running earlier.
Blast. Change the flatplan. Another programme’s dropped.
Change the flatplan. Another one’s a week later, and belongs in an issue that’s crammed already. Change the bloody flatplan.
Breaking news: we’ve got Coldplay.
Check diary. Omigod, another lunch. Surely not. I can’t possibly fit
all this in. It’s a blistering pace from the get go: read through copy
while checking emails while getting lunch cancelled while checking the
state of our Live 8 coverage.
What do you mean the entries for the in-house magazine awards have to be in by Wednesday?
An update with the publishing director goes on a bit so I’m late for a session with the radio team. Proofs piling up.
emails about setting up a rare interview with Michael Grade, putting
readers’ questions to him. I say I won’t do it if it’s intended as a PR
exercise, and no, we don’t give copy approval. He’s fine with this.
Just as well, eh?
Debrief team on recent research. With 80 people
on the editorial team, many of whom work shifts, it’s a nightmare
getting them all into the same place at the same time. I’ve set up two
main sessions and then one for stragglers. Suspect we’ll need a fourth.
Give first debrief.
Eight – count ’em – EIGHT Live 8 covers now in, including Sting, Joss Stone, Paul McCartney and U2.
Fantastic! What a mag! What a team!
and can I make a salad for the school barbecue on Thursday? I ask you.
I can get eight of the biggest music stars in the world on our cover,
but I can’t get a bowl of salad together. Am out the next two nights
and the fridge is on the blink, so can’t even prepare anything in
advance. In this weather and in that fridge, any salad could probably
make its own way there.
Tuesdays we take a first romp through the week’s programmes to look
at possible contenders for main features. But not this Tuesday. It’s
big pitch day. We’re down to the last six out of 64 for the new
Mercedes B-class promotional business.
Winner takes all. It’s surprisingly good fun. We’ll seeâ€¦ Straight
back to second research debrief followed by a full-on meeting with the
film team to discuss where next.
Frantic writing of cover lines
before belting off with our TV editor, Alison, to a Royal Television
Society debate on the ethics of film-making. Sheena McDonald is
terrific at chairing the discussion. These are thought-provoking issues
– can people with profound personality disorders ever fully understand
the implications of agreeing to be filmed? – but the one that gets
everyone talking is Tom Cruise being squirted in the eye for a prank.
All I can say is: try that one on me, pal, and I’ll do more than squirt
Twice a week, I make the gym. It’s a one-minute walk from my office, so there’s no excuse.
This week’s excuse: I’ve not had a single moment free.
I get up at 6am and go for a run before work instead. I just feel
rubbish if I don’t exercise; it’s self-preservation rather than
Wednesday is post-mortem day – reviewing the latest
issue – as well as ‘treatments’ day, where we plan the next issue in
detail: writers, angles, visuals. It’s also press day for features, so
we’re at full stretch, with lots of late Live 8 copy.
shattered, but feel this is a Job Well Done. A frenetic day in store
tomorrow, but right now I’ve got a nice relaxing evening ahead seeing a
friend in Death of a Salesman. Then I remember I have to write this. Oh