Media Interview with Emma Barnett, women’s editor at The Telegraph
About Wonder Women
So you’ve recently taken on the newly created role of women’s editor at the Daily Telegraph, and you’re now responsible for the Wonder Women section of the website. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Wonder Women is a new daily online section of Telegraph.co.uk filled with sassy, irreverent and intelligent content about politics, business, family, life and sex.
What kind of coverage can we expect from the site?
All too often ‘women’s content’ is either lipsticks and handbags or BMW – bitching, moaning and whining about the ‘plight of being a woman’ – a tonne of coverage this generation of women rarely identify with or enjoy reading.
Wonder Women, with its raft of brilliant writers defined by their reactive, witty and honest style, aims to articulate views which will get both women and men fired up, shine a light on individuals, issues and stories people will want to discuss with their mates down the pub and crucially, make readers laugh too.
I also really want to showcase women who are taking action on discrimination against women – it’s important to show more practical responses.
Who are the main target audience for the site?
The target audience are women from their 20s through to their 40s. We have a huge number of them coming to The Telegraph’s website anyway so they’ll really enjoy this content. We’ve already seen lots of interaction and had lots of positive feedback about the tone of the site.
Where does the inspiration for the name come from?
The name for the section came about as many ladies I spoke to absolutely balked at the word ‘Women’ being the title. Interestingly for some, the description of the female gender as the name for a new newspaper section had all types of negative connotations, not dissimilar to the annoyingly negative reaction the word 'Feminist' provokes, too.
So Wonder Women was duly born. The name works on a few levels – as well as prompting predictable gags about lycra knickers and capes (if that floats your boat than why not is my usual response to those harmless japes).
One: it’s playful and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Two: many regular womenfolk (not just the high-powered female CEOs of this world) feel as if they are wonder women, even before having children, as they continue to do the majority of the housework and ‘womanly chores’ gals always did – while keeping down a full-time job. And three: the name is a nod to wondering about things and wanting to learn about new people and stories – a propensity not restricted to women, I must add.
How will you differentiate your coverage from more gossipy coverage found in the tabloids?
The main difference is that we’re not covering celebrity – the site is more about commentary, coverage, reaction, features and profiles of inspirational women. Obviously, there will be more high-profile people covered but the aim isn’t to do gossipy showbiz articles about them. If we were aiming to be gossipy we’d have included an entertainment section.
You’ve a whole host of celebrity columnists signed up for the site, what can we expect to hear from them?
Well, we have the brilliant Cathy Newman, presenter of Channel 4 News and former political hack, covering politics and supported by regular contributions from MPs and other political types.
We’ve also got business coverage spearheaded by successful entrepreneurs Emma Sinclair (Target Parking) and Sophie Cornish (Notonthehighstreet.com) who will share their views and wisdom each week.
There’s parenting coverage overseen by new mother, Time Out food critic and former Telegraph assistant foreign editor Sally Peck; sex coverage from the fabulous Belle de Jour, now known as Dr Brooke Magnanti; and for the life section writer, comedian and actress Katy Brand gives her take each week on the world she sees around her.
If you could cherry pick one other woman to write for the site, who would it be?
Either Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (Miriam Clegg) or Sarah Silverman.
PR and freelance contributions
Do you accept freelance contributions?
We aren’t in a position to take on anyone new or regular but, as and when, there will be sections that people can contribute to.
The area of the site that is most likely to host a lot of freelance content, as long as it’s in keeping with the irreverent, sassy tone we’re aiming for, is our family section, Mother Tongue. Sally Peck, who’s heading it up, wants to showcase as many voices as possible (within reason) in this section as parenting is such a different thing for everybody. We see one of the strengths of this section being the variety of voices and opinions it showcases.
Freelance contributions that are most likely to impress are those that say something a bit different or something really on point. I really like it when contributions react to the news, are very fresh and are from people who aren’t afraid to express their opinions.
Those that I don’t want to see will be ideas that are a little bit simple or boring – ‘a woman has done something’ or ‘'there’s a senior woman in this organisation, please can you profile her’; please don’t send those.
And what about contributions from PRs?
Again, I would like contributions to react to the news. If a PR sees that we’re running with on the site and they have something to add that would be of interest, then they should get in touch. I would like this to be really specific to whatever it is we’re running with though. I’d also rather it was news events than products, unless the product is particularly relevant to something we’re covering.
We’ve given out an email address on the site – email@example.com – so if PRs have things they think would be of interest, this would be the best way to get in touch.
How has your career to date led you to the women’s editor role at The Telegraph?
I trained in journalism as a postgraduate at Cardiff University and after this joined Media Week. While there, I was writing all about TV and radio, which was great for me as it really cut my news teeth. I also did a lot of features and interviews, which gave me a very good insight into the media industry.
I then joined The Telegraph, about three and half years ago, covering digital media and technology. It was a great beat and very exciting, especially as I got to spend a lot of time in Silicon Valley interviewing people making amazing and exciting products – I once interviewed the guy who started Twitter.
In terms of the women’s editor role, I have a huge interest in women’s issues. It’s always been something that I’ve been passionate about, ever since I went to the school that the Suffragettes went to. I’ve always felt women’s voices are very important and so taking on this new role was very exciting to me. Especially considering the huge audience it gives me the chance to write for.
Are you involved in any other projects?
Well, I present the Sunday drive-time radio show on LBC 97.3 each week where women’s issues actually come up quite a lot (so I’ve honed this content on the show). I also make Radio 4 documentaries and sometimes appear on the telly.
What women’s issues are particularly important to you?
I think it’s really important to highlight and promote inspirational and brilliant people who are rising up and doing really well. It’s really important to celebrate women and their achievement; for instance, on our first day with Wonder Women we did an interview with Mercury nominee Jessie Ware.
I also think we’re coming into a huge area of change in society and it’s giving women much more opportunity, e.g. fathers having more leave when children are born and flexible working becoming the norm. Women are much more able to ‘have it all’ than they used to be – career, kids, etc.
Women’s representation in politics is also really important, as issues that are particularly pertinent to women need to be discussed. So things like David Cameron cutting the number of women in his cabinet quite dramatically is a pretty big issue.
And finally, which female icons from history most inspire you?
I’d have to say Anne Frank and Hillary Clinton.