Focus on AI (Arts Industry) with co-editor Simon Tait

AI (Arts Industry) magazine, the national trade fortnightly for those working in the cultural sector, is relaunching as a monthly on 17 September with a new and enhanced website. Today’s Focus is with Simon Tait, co-editor of the magazine.

About the publication:

Who reads it and what’s the readership figure?
At Arts Industry – AI – we estimate the readership to be 20-25,000 among those who work in the rather loose sector of arts and culture – not in any particular order, artists, arts administrators, journalists and broadcasters, PRs, sponsors, local government officials, civil servants and politicians.

What subjects do you cover and what stories are you most interested in covering?
We are a news magazine, fortnightly since we launched seven years ago but now about to go monthly. We cover, through news and features, developments in the cultural sector – creative, financial and political – objectively but with a unique insider insight.

What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
We are not afraid to be irreverent, in fact we relish it, and we think it is almost as important to entertain as to inform, with a sense of humour.

Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?
We don’t produce a features list at the moment because we are news led, and so we will decide content in the week before publication.

How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
The joy of being such a small organisation is that, with two co-editors equal in every respect, Patrick Kelly and I are in constant touch and editorial decisions are almost osmotic, even though we are based in different cities.

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
We have a tiny budget which forbids using freelances on decent rates, my one great regret which I hope to be able to assuage before long. If I were to use freelances regularly, I would want insight, originality and good writing.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs (e.g. for supplements, round tables, events) or do you keep them at arm’s length?
PRs are vital to publications like ours, but they need to be treated properly, They are often the most reliable source for what is actually happening in the sector, but their agenda differs from ours in obvious respects and that needs to be recognised and honoured. At the same time PRs need to be aware of our criteria and deadlines, but a good relationship with a good PR is gold dust and there’s a fair bit of glister around here.

How should a PR approach you about their client?
A phone call and then an expansive email.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Don’t ring at lunchtime.

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Story, dates, names.

About you:

Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
I work as a freelance reporter, feature writer and critic as well as co-editing AI, so those activities have to be insinuated into the AI regime. I write many of the features, as does Patrick, and we both commission and sub. We are fortunate that our publisher, Simon Tooth of BC Publications, is also a first rate production editor and acts as chief sub. Depending on where we are in the cycle, a typical day would start at about 8am with checking the national press on line and answering emails, then either transcribing interviews or writing until 10 when things are still quiet. There is likely to be a press conference or interview to be done mid-morning, and lunch is usually at desk. Phone calls dot the day, both in and out of the office, and they will often dictate how the day flows. The day usually ends with writing at about 7, but there may well be evening events which have to be attended. Other days will start with proofing, a time consuming essential duty that has to be done in quiet time.

What interests you most about your job?
The subject matter, the people who make art and allow it to be seen, and following our own agenda.

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I have had a conventional career in journalism, my last proper job being arts correspondent of The Times. I had wanted to work on a magazine that covered all the arts, as an arts correspondent has to, and that addressed the huge community of the arts cultural sector. There wasn’t one, and after two attempts to do it with other partners I had the great good fortune to fall in with Simon and Patrick.

Do you use Twitter? Why, why not?
No. Haven’t had time to work out what it’s for.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Two, both from my first editor, R M Taylor of the Croydon Advertiser: Treat deadlines like brick walls; if you haven’t been given a deadline, make one. Is the story right? If in doubt, check again from a different source; if still in doubt, don’t file.

If you could time travel what time would you go to?
Two: the first half of the 18th century when the likes of Addison, Steele and Defoe could and did bring down government with their reporting, but they were working to a tiny sector of society; 1950s, when news writing was at its apogee and new boundaries in both art and journalism were being encountered and passed.

[img|jpg|AI co-editor Simon Tait]

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