Media, Darling: Doug O’Neill

Doug O’Neill is the executive editor of Canadian Living magazine,
where he also produces the weekly Travel Talk blog.  Doug’s career in
magazines has taken him to a slew of Canadian titles including Toronto Life, TV
GUIDE
, Homemakers, and he’s also freelanced for a variety of Canadian and
American magazines. He most recently taught “Service Journalism” in
the Magazine Publishing Program at Ryerson University.




Did
you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the
horizon?
I‘ve
always been smitten with words. Storytelling was part of my Gaelic heritage.
But for some reason, I took a detour and studied environmental science at
university. Two semesters spent mucking about swamps was all I needed and I
transferred to the English department. After graduation I made a bee-line for
the magazine world.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’d like to be in a position that
enables me to work overseas for chunks of the year. I spent seven months in
Paris in the mid-1990s and it was a daily brain-twister – and a lot of fun. A
project (long-term or short-term) that would take me to Asia would turn my
crank.
Any advice for people getting started in
your industry?
Follow your gut. If you have a
quirky interest, make time for it. Those signature passions are what define you. No job is 100% perfect – but make sure one part of your job is a
perfect fit for you. And play with technology, even if you’re technophobic.
New gadgetry will unleash more creativity.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including
your own? 
Podcasts: Ted Talks, CBC’s “Definitely Not the Opera” and “The Amateur Traveler.” Print magazines (in no
particular order):  Afar (travel), Vanity Fair, Geez (new age, alternative
spirituality), GourmetNational Geographic, Globe
and Mail
Focus section (and anything penned by Elizabeth Renzetti), Food &
Drink
(for the pretty pictures), Enroute and the Springwater News (the
tiny community weekly that covers my home town – my aunt buys me a subscription
each year). Digital – where do I begin? Too many to mention but a
few off the top include Tyee, Spacing,  Macleans.ca (I still can’t read
the print version but love what they’re doing digitally), Toque & Canoe,
and the social media/community sections of CBC.ca (their news packaging has
been dull of late, but some great bloggers right now!).
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Irish
singer Sinead O’Connor.  She swore, then I swore, we both swore. I swear
it was the best interview ever. We talked about religion and dysfunctional
families.
Worst?
Margaret
Atwood. I was a junior researcher at Toronto Life in the mid-1980s. Ms. Atwood
answered the phone by saying,  “So, what’s your problem?”. I was quaking in my Birkenstocks.
Best
advice you’ve ever been given?
From a former boss/mentor:
“Keep asking yourself questions. Invite your inner editor to perch behind
your ear and  then listen to him/her. You discover your best answers when
the questions come from within.”
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
I’d like to say I live by this
rule, but sometimes I falter. In short:  Do what you want – not what
you should. If you do as you ‘should,’ sure you could probably have a really
good job. Do as you ‘really want’ – and you’ve got an amazing career you
absolutely love.
What’s the most important tip you can give
PR pros?

Don’t
be dismayed if we don’t return your call or reply to your email right away. If
we like your pitch, we’ll definitely get in touch. It just may not be the right
moment. 
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We
love to hear about #wins.

I
worked on an intensive editorial partnership at the London Olympics sponsored
by P&G. Their on-the-ground team, Toronto-based MSL Canada, frequently used
a phrase that is pure magic to media: “Okay, Doug, we’re going to leave
you alone now so you can do what you’ve gotta do.”  H-E-A-V-E-N. They
knew when to pull back. Some PR folks tend to shadow media a little too much at
 media events and when working on projects. The MSL team were there when I
needed them, and then gave me the autonomy I required to get my story. It
worked for everyone. (Oh, and if you’re going to sit in on interviews — be sure
to ask the interviewer in advance if that is okay.)
I
hate?
#1. Mid-day PR luncheons.
 They wreak havoc on the schedule – and my tummy. Immediately after work
is so much better.
#2. Shopping – unless it’s for
kitchen gadgets and travel accessories.
#3. Small talk.
I love?
#1.When PR folks make a specific
reference to a recent editorial item in the print mag or online. It shows they
really know us.
#2. Patsy Cline. And not just
because we share the same birthday.
#2. My Bose iPod dock.
Reading?
I tend to read a few books at
once, but not all of the same genre. Currently: Linden MacIntyre’s Why Men Lie (fiction, not a self-help book!),  Rita Golden Gelman’s Tales of a Female Nomad (a travel memoir), and Naomi Duguid’s Burma: Rivers of Flavours (food meets history.)
Best place on earth?
A toss-up: Haida Gwaii off
Northern British Columbia or Southern India.
Dinner
guest?
Annie Lennox.
Hero?
Jane Goodall because she is
forever breaking the mould. And my late Dad, who single-handedly raised eight kids
on his own. He, too, broke the mould.
Favourite
app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Packing Pro. Seriously, I can pack
for a 10-day trip with no stress, no fuss. I simply do what my Packing app
tells me.
Pool or ocean?
Ocean, preferably at dawn.
Voicemail
or email?
Email. 





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