Susan has been working in publishing and media for over 25 years. Prior to becoming editor-in-chief at Canadian Living, she held the position of managing editor of Canadian Living and Homemakers Magazine. Susan is married with two children, aged 22 and 25. She is co-chairman of Heart and Music, supports SOS (Students Offering Support), and works with Free the Children, Breakfast for Learning, St. Mary’s Food Bank and other charitable foundations. She also works to promote the importance of the arts in school curriculum’s across Canada.
Canadian Living is a dynamic, contemporary, engaging brand that touches on all aspects of the busy lives of today’s Canadian women. Susan believes that women choose Canadian Living because the brand works hard to respect who their readers are, how busy their lives are and offers them accessible ideas, solutions and stories that will inspire and engage them and help them make the most of their day-to-day lives.
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I always thought music would play a role in my life. I sang competitively as a child and was even in a rock band in my early 20s and really wanted to “make it big!”. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that I needed more than $35 a week to live. I was only willing to starve for my art for so long.
I also worked at a radio station for a short time and thought I’d like to be a radio personality. Though it’s been a running joke for years with friends that with my voice, I could have considered call-in centres of an entirely different kind.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I can honestly say that I would be most happy if I was right where I am now — at Canadian Living. I couldn’t work with a better team, I love the brand, I love our readers. However, I’m fortunate to also love the business side of publishing, so who knows what five years will bring?
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Take an internship! I know there’s been a lot discussed these days about the merits of interning, but I really feel that it is the best hands-on experience you can get. It is the only time in your career that you can request working in different sections (of a magazine, newspaper or online) to really get a feel for what works for you and what you enjoy.
It’s also extremely important to understand the online side of the industry, from blog posts to social media. It’s an ever-evolving industry that has certainly experienced a lot of change in the last few years, so it’s important to be able to go with the flow and learn as much as you can to keep up!
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
I am a news junkie, and I always start my day with reading the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail, and I watch and listen to CBC whenever I can. I am a big Jian Gomeshi fan!
And about once a week, usually on the weekends, I spend time reading the New York Times and the New Yorker online, along with food blogs and guilty pleasure blogs, often ones that mostly show pictures of cute puppies and kittens doing cute puppy and kitten things.
Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
A few years ago I was invited to be a moderator at the Canadian premiere of Food Inc, a documentary about the food we eat based on the book by Michael Pollen. This was at a theatre downtown and some of the people in the film, including Michael Pollen, stayed for a Q-and-A session. The crowd was very receptive to the film and we had a lively discussion about it. I was lucky to be asked to take part.
As for my worst interview, I’d have to say it was when I had a few minutes with Martha Stewart in the middle of the paint aisle at a major retail outlet in Toronto. It was so rushed and hard to settle into, and it was Martha freakin’ Stewart! I was trying to come across calm and cool but instead I was nervous and sweaty. I’d love a do-over.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Salt, tequila, lemon! And if that doesn’t work, treat people how you want to be treated. I know it’s such a cliché but my mom always used to say this to me and I truly believe that in the larger, karmic way of how things go, life is just more pleasant when you treat everyone with love and respect, and it makes it more likely you’ll get it in return.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
It’s taken me a long time to learn this, but I try to let go of negative things and thoughts. That goes for my personal and professional life. I used to really let it get to me but it’s just not worth carrying that kind of baggage around. Think positive, be positive.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
I work with many PR reps and I’d say the most important tip I can offer is for them to understand that we must consider editorial integrity first and foremost. Pitch the idea or concept and let us determine whether it’s the right fit for our reader/audience.
It’s also more pleasant when they’re not too pushy.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
John MacKay from MacKay and Co — every interaction I’ve had with him has been positive. His approach is a soft-sell, he has great ideas and does his research on the media outlet that he’s approaching. He is the ultimate connoisseur in his field. He’s been bang on in regard to Reitman’s and Tiffany this year. The guy is top-notch.
Bananas! And any baked goods bananas can hide in.
My husband, Greg, my children and my dog Scooter McGee (not always in that order!). I’d also add licorice, fudge, PEI, and farmers’ markets to the list.
Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie by Alan Bradley.
Best place on earth?
That’s a tough one, but Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island comes to mind first, so I’m sticking with it.
Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor who wrote a book that I often refer back to, I Shall Not Hate. And Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate who has written about his experience as a teenager during the Holocaust. I’d have us sit down for dinner and figure this whole Middle East peace process out.
That’s another tough one. I think anyone who sees an injustice and has the guts to stand up to it is a hero. Craig Kielburger, the founder of Free The Children, comes to mind. Here’s a guy who was just 12 years old when he first read about children rights issues in Pakistan. He was so bothered by these sweatshops that he went on a mission to change it. I love that. His brother, Marc runs a close second.
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Twitter, and some newspaper apps.
Pool or ocean?
Ocean! I used to scuba dive and I’ve always loved swimming in such vast, open spaces. I love knowing I’m sharing the space with millions of other creatures, many of which haven’t even been discovered yet.
Voicemail or email?
I’m cool with either.