Media Interview with Andrei Harmsworth, showbiz editor at Metro
About the Metro
Describe a typical day at work…
My job is to edit and write the show business related stories for the paper and edit our Guilty Pleasures gossip pages. The day begins by reading all the showbiz-led newspapers and magazines whilst eating toast at my desk. I then go through an endless stack of emails, stories, pictures and gossip that have been sent in. I speak to my contacts and line-up interviews for the day before I hit the web and trawl Twitter and Facebook. Then it’s time to filter everything down into a list of the best dozen or so stories.
I take this into the lunchtime conference and present it to the editor, who decides what he likes best. I peg it down to Pret, wolf a sandwich at my desk and then it’s all systems go to bash out the stories. I pause every half an hour or so to fact-check stories, call agents and have a fresh look at emails, the web and wires and continually update the list. It’s a bit like a hamster wheel as news never stops. Weaker stories are replaced with stronger ones throughout the day. I may have to run out to do an interview and then transcribe it. Everything is done for about 7pm before dashing off to an event or a restaurant to do a bit of networking. Something may break at 6.30pm and then it’s all change and everything goes out the window. Finally, a microwave meal and bed!
What interests you most about your job?
The most rewarding aspect is putting the best possible read together for 3.6 millon readers – it’s a lot of people to please! I am happiest when I am writing at my desk. The aim is for all ten stories on the page to be interesting to the average man on the Clapham omnibus – even if he has no interest in showbiz at all. Every inch of space is precious. I like spotting stars on the rise and introducing them first to our readers and then covering their journey. I try not to get too caught up in running dull stories just to please a PR.
How many people work with you on the ‘Guilty Pleasures’ section?
Me, myself and I. Metro has four pages of gossip compared to the normal two run by teams at other papers. It means time is a scarce resource and I may be a little, err, let’s say brief on the phone but it’s a daily achievement to be proud of. One of Metro’s greatest strengths is its ability to deliver big, time and time again with a relatively small but top class team. I have recently introduced a six month internship on the showbiz desk to help lighten the load and share the experience.
Do you work closely with PRs or do you keep them at arm’s length?
I work very closely with a dozen or so PRs who truly understand Guilty Pleasures, read it, and make my job easy.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Think of how you can help first and then think if your project fits with Guilty Pleasures. There’s no point trying to fudge a dud story that has no relevance to the tone of the page or our readers. Wait until there’s something of real value and relevance or re-work or tweak the project so it’s a perfect fit for Guilty Pleasures. The story shouldn’t be 'one size fits all'. You have to develop a separate story for each publication.
How should a PR approach you about their client?
Never start with "can you do me a favour?" Journalists have zero time, so be very brief and to the point. An email is a billion times better than a call. We’re not fogging you off when we say, “send an email”. It is so we can manage our time better. Don’t send reams of stuff. Less is better – one paragraph encapsulating the whole pitch, including figures, quotes and pictures with a contact number on, so you can be reached if more is needed. Ideally, and no offence, we shouldn’t need to speak at all if a pitch is great! An email that is Guilty Pleasures focused, with the plug as a second priority does the trick. These are the PRs I work closest with. The biggest ‘no-no’ is a phone call to ask if an email can be sent, an email and then a call ten minutes later to check if it was received! If your story’s good, it will appear in the paper. Judge if the journo sounds keen and don’t badger endlessly to find out if it will run – we never make promises.
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
A Guilty Pleasures related story that is exclusive to Metro.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you, and what is your deadline for contributions?
Find out when news conference is – best to ask an editorial assistant or the equivalent – then steer clear of an hour and half before each conference time. For me, between 10 and 11 is the best time as that is when I am looking for stories and compiling my list. Don’t send something over for the next day at 4pm. The early bird and all that….
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
My jobs have ranged from running a water sports hut, to toilet cleaning, to real estate agent. I initially trained in arts management and was heavily involved in art galleries. I wanted to be a fashion stylist but landed the lucky job of opening three sacks of post at Metro seven years ago. I made sure I was there to pitch in and help at every chance, jumped at every opportunity and walked through every open door…oh, and worked blooming hard! Heavy slog; late nights and sometimes enduring the bitter cold on a red carpet is 99% of it. There’s not a lot of corners to cut.
Is there anything you’re still itching to write about/a person you’d like to interview?
I am very hot on LGBT issues. I do my best to include the gay community as much as I can in the mainstream subject area of showbiz in the hope lots of young adults will read it. We’re at a key time where gay stars need far greater representation in the media and to be portrayed in a far more realistic manner if we are to end homophobia.