I recently completed 10 months as acting news editor of the insurance industry legend Post Magazine – so called because it was the first magazine ever sent by post. It has been going since 1840. I saw a lot of changes in those 10 months.
We switched format from newspaper to a smaller magazine design. Initially we could still put news on the front page but that was dropped in favour of a magazine cover each week. News stories inside were replaced with more analytical, heavier researched pieces. News went online.
So much else happened in such a short space of time too. We moved desks twice as the three-people-to-a-row desk spacing was jettisoned and five people were shoehorned into the same space to save money. Think noise pollution, temperature issues and toilets unable to cope with demand.
The offices suffered several days of power outages that left many of us unable to work. And the company was targeted by a denial-of-service attack that all but paralysed us for a day.
I cycled in most of the time, paying for a local H2 cycle/gym club where I could park my bike safely and shower and change – the company had no shower facilities, which I found surprising in this modern age. The H2 club provided an excellent service with friendly staff. I was sad to leave.
But the biggest thing I miss is the journalists in the office. Being freelance from home you don’t get that office banter – the ribbing, mickey-taking, collective whingeing when the toilets or coffee-making facilities are broken. You also miss out on drinks in the pub and sharing sweets and cakes.
But collectively it is also possible to produce better journalism. When the team pulls together – one person researching a timeline to help out another’s story, or a colleague prepared go through a complex subject or set of accounts or just to proof read a first draft – it makes for a better product.
I hope I’ll stay in touch and maybe even work with some of the team in the future – journalism has a habit of ensuring paths cross again (I first worked with my AOL boss, Tom Flack, when he was at Post’s rival, Insurance Times).
Laying down the law
There are other advantages to working for a decent media company (this was Incisive media) – access to a smart lawyer.
Having had to battle with ultra-conservative, risk-averse media lawyers in the past it was a refreshing change to work with a legal mind whose objective seemed to be to publish as much as possible in a way that lessened the risks, rather than just taking a blue pen to the best bits.
Having said all that, I am glad to be back working from my cramped little office at home. I get to work, go for cycle rides and have lunch, with my wife. I see my kids more and get to speak to them when they get home from school. And I have time to read the Economist again.