Chicks Chat Careers with….
Caroline Millington journalist. Award-winning acting deputy editor at Now Magazine. With 15 years of experience across print media behind her, she was shortlisted for British Media Commercial Campaign of the Year 2015 for Now’s Fifty Shades of Grey partnership with Universal Pictures UK. Fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and part of Team Gav Aid raising money for charities in memory of journalist Gavin Reeve-Daniels, she has worked at Now for three years.We at Those London Chicks are so pleased Caroline has taken the time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about the world of journalism.
What made you decide you wanted to pursue a career in journalism. Did you have other thoughts of doing something completely different when you were growing up?
When I was about six we had a class assembly about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I painted a very vivid picture of me holding a microphone and declared to the entire school I was going to be a pop star. My sister Leanne is four years older than me so I grew up listening to Culture Club, Wham! and Mel & Kim. We even wrote a song called Path of Rain but the closest I got to becoming a pop star is probably belting out karaoke with Westlife on the Smash Hits tour in 2001.
As a teenager I hadn’t got a clue what I wanted to do when I was older. I do remember at careers evening in school talking to a journalist from a local newspaper who basically said it was a life of covering village fetes and writing the birth, deaths and marriages. Obviously he was wrong. Music and magazines were my biggest passions growing up. I would buy Smash Hits, TV Hits and Big magazines, read them cover to cover, cut out articles on my favourite stars and then file them in chronological order in one of my special ‘star folders’ I kept under my bed. I prided myself on knowing everything about New Kids On The Block, Janet Jackson and Phillip Schofield and showing off my celebrity knowledge to my friends. Annoying for them but recall skills which would help me later on in life!
Tell us a bit about your journey from Loughborough University to your first job in journalism?
I left Loughborough with a degree in English and a few articles published in the university magazine. It had taken a while to realise my dream career had been staring me in the face for a decade. I’d applied to do work experience at New Woman magazine (RIP) the summer before I graduated and spent a month sleeping on my sister’s bedroom floor in Sidcup, commuting into London every day and being in awe of the cool journos. The health editor even sent me on a press trip – telling me to pretend I was a junior writer – and I got bylines in the monthly mag. After a stint at Red the following Easter, I knew magazines were the place I wanted to be.
I went to City university to do a post-graduate diploma in periodical journalism in 1999 to hone my skills and made some of my best friends there too: Sally Eyden (ex-Now editor and new editor of Loose Women at ITV), Suzy Cox (Heat editor) and Susan Riley (deputy editor at Stylist) were all in my year and remain close friends. A year spent in the pub – sorry lectures – in Farringdon with my friends and a handful of exams later I had my diploma and apparently knew what it took to be a magazine journalist.
I applied for Emap’s (now Bauer Media) Young Star trainee scheme at Smash Hits (RIP), was offered the job on the eye watering salary of £12,000 per annum, bit their hand off and started as junior writer in 2000 with a wardrobe of slogan t-shirts and naïve enthusiasm of what lay ahead.
Were there any challenges along the way, if so what were they?
Yes, plenty! From interviewing media trained celebrities who didn’t want to give anything away to working with some challenging people. Like many of my peers, I’ve had some knock backs but I’ve learnt from them. It’s a small industry and your reputation proceeds you so work hard, be kind and make sure you can hold your drink!
IF YOU WANT CAREER INFO THIS IS EXTRA!
Following my time at Smash Hits I went freelance, working for TV Hits, Inside Soap, All About Soap and Mizz. It was a fantastic couple of years meeting people across the industry and learning to adapt to different publications quickly.
I worked at Northern and Shell on the launch of New magazine before heading back to Emap and joining More! (RIP) as deputy showbiz editor. But it wasn’t long before I was back at Northern and Shell on the launch of Star magazine which was originally supposed to be a handbag size cross between Glamour and Heat! This quickly changed to a pure celebrity weekly with me interviewing celebrities and attending parties. Good times! I stayed for over four years – and met some of my best friends – working up to deputy features and travel editor.
In 2008, I swapped Jordan and Peter Andre for the Loose Women and joined Woman’s Own at Time Inc UK.
I had the opportunity to join Now, also at Time Inc UK, in September 2012 and work for my City university friend Sally Eyden as well as the brilliant Victoria Kennedy. In the past three years, I’ve had five job titles, been nominated for various industry awards and sat proudly alongside a fantastic team who create some showbiz magic in a challenging market.
What was it like joining NOW Magazine?
When I joined Now as Assistant Editor (Showbiz) it was still a traditional print role but the past three years has seen the brand – and my job – go through some major changes. We are now a fully integrated team working across print and digital and my job, although content focused, includes social media and all brand commercial projects. It’s an exciting time for magazines albeit a challenging one. I’m currently acting deputy editor, covering Victoria Kennedy’s maternity leave, and working with our new editor Mark Frith.
You recently gained a ‘Highly Commended’: Game Changer at the PPA Award which celebrates the brightest stars in UK consumer magazines and business media. Was that totally unexpected…how did you feel?
The award was unexpected and I was obviously thrilled to be given Highly Commended. It came on the back of my involvement in Now’s very successful media partnership with Fifty Shades Of Grey partnership with Universal Pictures UK and my work on the brand’s social media strategy – we increased web referrals from Twitter by over 600% in six months last year. I like to tweet!
You’re clearly no stranger to the term ‘celebrity’. Who has most surprised you and why?
The bigger the name, the more professional and savvy the celebrity. From Dame Helen Mirren, Victoria Beckham, Simon Cowell and Usher, they all know how to give you a headline, charm the pants off you and are a pleasure to interview. That said, some reality stars have terrible reputations for being stroppy divas and I’ve even emailed their management to flag up unprofessional behavior in the past.
Have you had any disasters interviewing anyone that you care to share…you can omit names?
In my early days at Smash Hits I did a phone interview with the ‘bug’ that records it plugged into the wrong hole in my Dictaphone and only recorded myself talking and not the singer. I realized straight away and wrote the interview up from the notes I’d taken at the same time. Always triple check and always take notes at the same time! I never messed up again.
What would you say are the perks of your job?
Making friends for life along the way, being invited to review theatre productions – I’m famous for my jazzhands – working with a talented team who are laugh-out-loud funny every day and meeting inspirational people like Katie Piper and Stephen Hawking.
Proudest career moment?
It’s not directly connected to my career personally but it’s definitely my proudest moment – Gav Aid. Gavin Reeve-Daniels was the associate editor at Now when I joined and my desk buddy before he left to be deputy editor at heat magazine. Just months later he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In shock, his friends at Now had a meeting about what we could do to support him and Gav Aid – the showbiz quiz of the year – was born. Now and heat put their professional rivalry aside to team up with some of Gavin’s other past colleagues and his wife Leesa to organize the event in just a matter of weeks. The first Gav Aid took place with 400 people from across the media industry out in force at The Hippodrome in January 2014. We raised £40,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support with Gavin making an emotional, and very sweary, speech. Sadly, Gavin died in September last year leaving us all utterly devastated. Team Gav Aid joined forces again in January 2015 going bigger and better in tribute to our fantastic friend. It took place at The Troxy in London with 800 eager quizzers from newspapers, TV, PR and magazines turning up in support and money going towards Pancreatic Cancer Action. We raised nearly £30,000 with the quiz and auction – and hit up the @Gav_Aid account to help #GavAid trend on Twitter. Gav Aid has made me prouder than any byline ever could.
What with the work at Now magazine and your charitable work, what do you do to relax?
I have an eclectic mix of friends in London who I spend time with drinking too much red wine over dinner, road-tripping to the seaside and going to the theatre. My passport is put to good use with as much travelling as I can fit in and afford – Australia, Thailand and Ibiza this year, with a family trip to Wales too. My niece Eliza, two, and nephew Jake, seven, are regular visitors to my flat with my sister. I see my best friends, godchildren and their sibings – James, Edward, Jessica, Katie and Joe – as much as I can, as well as my parents back home in Rugby. Apart from that – trash TV, some good tunes and books keep me entertained.
What advice would you give to an up and coming journalist hoping to break into the business?
There is no such thing as a magazine journalist so prepare to think multi-platform: digital, print and social. Bring extra skills such a video editing to the mix and be ready to generate ideas that can sit across the whole brand. Be kind. Always have a pen and notebook on you – phone batteries die. And always offer to make tea.
Thank you so much Caroline.
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