It was a while ago since I came across Muddystilettos.co.uk, seen as the ‘urban guide to the countryside.’ The owner (Hero) of the site is an ex London editor, and I thought she would have some great things to tell us about online media, journalism and founding this website.
Hello Hero. Thank you for doing this interview. How did you first get into Journalism?
I started in New Zealand working as an editorial assistant on a style magazine called Pavement because I’d moved out to Auckland with my then boyfriend (now husband). Although New Zealand is a tiny nation in terms of people, they are mad about magazines and have the highest number of mags per capita of any nation in the world! I gained lots of experience on Pavement in terms of investigative and celeb interviews and then went freelance. I had a column on the New Zealand Herald newspaper and did bits of TV (quite badly!) and wrote quite broadly, from high end culture to soap stars. So when I came back to London I was able to show quite a large, varied portfolio.
Why did it interest you so much?
In truth it didn’t particularly. I nearly worked for a record company in the classical music department – I would have loved that! But the Pavement job came up and I was into youth culture, clubbing, etc at the time and thought it would be a laugh. And it was.
For a Journalist, do you think a degree will give you better chances?
I’m not sure. I can always tell a good writer within a paragraph or two, whether they’ve taken a degree course in journalism or not. I did an English degree and basically found my breaks because I’d built up a good portfolio and had good ideas to pitch. Equally though, I guess a journalism degree shows commitment and you’ll definitely learn useful skills like shorthand – I can’t do that and always get irritated with myself when I have to scrawl stuff down.
Could you tell our readers a little bit about what you have done in the field?
I’ve edited the lifestyle magazine Reality on the Independent on Sunday, was deputy editor at Red, had a social column in the Independent on Sunday, and freelanced for Elle, Observer, Telegraph, Times, Marie Claire. I still freelance but most of my time now is taken up with my blog Muddy Stilettos, which focuses on how to make the most of your free time in the countryside. I’m franchising it next year which is very exciting.
As an ex Deputy Editor of Red Magazine, what where your responsibilities?
Securing celebrity interviews and editing the entertainment section, and overseeing the back of the book – travel, health and beauty, food interiors.
Did you ever go through the classic route of going continually on work experience, and never leaving?
No, but I know plenty of people who have had their first breaks that way. It’s a good route in if you’re tenacious and talented.
Are there any advantages to freelancing in your opinion?
Plenty – working for yourself gives you freedom and you don’t have to fit in with anyone else’s holidays! But you have to be well connected, have loads of ideas, get used to people rejecting those ideas, and work fast to make serious money.
Last of all, do you have any tips?
File on time and to length. If you can do that you’re half way there already.