This week FeaturesExec catches up with Kirstie Newton, editor of Cornwall Today. Below, Kirstie tells us about the title’s content and how PRs can make a successful pitch to the magazine.
About Cornwall Today:
Describe a typical reader for us
Our readers love Cornwall – pure and simple. They might live in the county; they might holiday here once a year; they might have emigrated. All of them value their “little slice of Cornwall” dropping on the mat every month. Traditionally they are affluent and aspirational, and tend towards middle-aged or older, although I like to think that Cornwall appeals to discerning younger people too!
What stories are you most interested in covering in the publication?
We cover a wide range of subjects, from community activities to topical news stories, aspirational homes to public gardens, Cornish walks and drives, personalities both eminent and quirky. As long as it’s Cornish, it will be considered.
How does the editorial process run?
The magazine goes to print mid-month, and is on sale a week later. As soon as print deadline has gone, it’s onto the next issue. I’m always thinking a few issues ahead, and most platforms are filled with stories (which will hopefully have been shot) by the time a particular issue comes around – it pays to get in early with ideas.
How do you decide the content, front covers and headines?
Content is determined by many things, from local events to high profile campaigns. We endeavour to cover the whole county in each issue, and our freelance writers are always unearthing interesting and quirky stories! Front covers are designed to be eye-catching, and ultimately “Cornish”.
Do you produce a forward features list? (If not, why not?)
I don’t produce a forward features list – the local magazine scene is lively in Cornwall, and I’m not about to let my secrets out! Also, I don’t want to be bombarded with emails I can’t use about clients that aren’t in Cornwall (see below).
Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
Practically all of our content is produced by freelance writers and photographers – we don’t have staff positions. This enables us to have a wide reach, as our contributors are a lively and interesting bunch with varied specialisms. Some freelances take charge of entire sections, such as wildlife, art, homes or gardens; however, I’m always happy to hear individual pitches.
Do you work closely with PRs?
I take a lot of stories from PRs, but the PRs I work most closely with are based in Cornwall. They know the publication and the readership, and only deal with Cornwall stories.
Do you have a PR pet hate? And is there any advice/information you would like to give to PRs?
My biggest pet hate is being contacted by national PRs who seem to have no knowledge of the magazine or where Cornwall is, trying to pitch clients to me who have no Cornwall connection whatsoever. The Cornwall connection is key, so I would ask PRs to think carefully, first and foremost, about whether their client ticks that box!
Secondly, remember that as a monthly magazine, our deadlines come earlier than other publications. If you want to pitch a story for, say, June 2010, I need to hear from you ideally by the beginning of April. Calling me two weeks before the big event would be way too late.
When pitching, keep it brief and to the point. I’m really busy, and will be able to tell you pretty quickly if your story suits CT or not. I might ask you to send me an email so that I can have a better look at my own leisure, or hang onto it in case there’s a space for it at a later date.
If you ring me a few weeks later to ask if I used it, that’s fine, but again: keep it brief. If I can’t remember your press release, it’s more than likely that it didn’t fit our target audience.
Describe a typical day at work
A typical day at work is pretty hectic, and can involve anything from commissioning writers and photographers, to hearing pitches from freelance journalists, subbing incoming copy and proofreading designed pages, forward planning future issues, meeting potential advertisers, and dealing with innumerable calls and emails! I don’t do so much writing anymore, as I’m so busy, but I try and keep my hand in with the occasional feature, such as the scenic drives.
What do you love about your work?
I love the fact that my work gives me the opportunity to dig deeper into the culture, heritage and everyday life of the place where I live and work. Cornwall is a beautiful county, and I’m privileged to be paid to explore it and gain access to behind-the-scenes stories – such as climbing Truro Cathedral tower to see the crumbling state of the stones at the top, the subject of a recent fund-raising campaign. I also get to drive lots of different cars for the motoring section, which keeps my other half happy!
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I started out as a trainee reporter 12 years ago, at the Western Morning News in Plymouth. There I learned the value of matching sparkling copy with eye-catching pictures, and I deputised for farming editor Carol Trewin, who was a great mentor. I went onto work for Farmers Guardian as its South West correspondent, then joined Devon Today as deputy editor where I thrived on writing endless features about fascinating people and places. Editing Cornwall Today was a natural progression.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I’m sure I’ve been given lots of good advice over the years, and now I try and give equally good advice to young journalists and work experience students. I was once told by a sub-editor that “qualifications don’t necessarily make a good journalist”, and I think he was probably right. Some people just have a knack, and you don’t get qualifications in tenacity – you just have it!
If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
If I weren’t in journalism – a scary thought, given it’s all I ever wanted to do – I’d like to write a novel, or would perhaps become a tour guide so I can show visitors all the hidden places in Cornwall that I’ve come to love. As it is, I’m about to become a first-time mum so I’ll be on maternity leave from the end of June taking on a whole new challenge!
What media do you seek out first thing in the morning?
I’ve become a Radio 4 junkie, and my day doesn’t really start unless I catch the Today programme first thing. I also get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t see The Guardian each day – an old habit. I love magazines, and read those which celebrate what Britain has to offer (such as Coast, Heritage and Countryfile), along with the Radio Times (every week, without fail!) and Psychologies. I’m currently trying out the wide range of pregnancy and parenting mags to find one that suits my approach!
What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
It’s difficult to forget about work on a day off, as days out in Cornwall are the ultimate inspiration! But for a really nice day out, there’s nothing better than a walk along the South West Coast Path to make you feel lucky to be alive and living in the West Country.