Media, Darling: Sharlene Chiu

Sharlene Chiu was born in Vancouver and graduated from Ryerson University’s Radio and Television Arts program in 2005. Before starting MTV News Canada, Chiu helped launch MTV
in Canada in 2006, and worked behind-the-scenes as a segment producer for MTV
Live
. This included producing a music segment that ran on the show called On
the Radar
, where she established an exceptional reputation for selecting
and featuring new independent bands. 

Chiu introduced MTV News to Canada as a weekly segment
on the original hour long version of MTV Live. The regular segment featured
her traveling around the world reporting on music trends and covering
festivals such as SXSW, Austin City Limits, Osheaga, V Festival, and T in the
Park. This included over 250 honest and entertaining interviews with a wide range of artists, including
Coldplay, Rihanna, Kings of Leon,
Cee Lo Green, Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, Phoenix and Feist.  

After winning the 2009 Travel Journalism Award presented by
VisitBritain for Best in Broadcast for her special, MTV News Pounds Britain,
Chiu created SHARLENE VS., an MTV News music travel series that takes
viewers beyond where the tourists go. In each city, Chiu meets artists of all kinds who take her under their helm, showing off unique, off-the-beaten-track spots that are special to them.

Photo credit: MTV Canada
Twitter: @sharlenechiu
Website: news.mtv.ca

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers
were on the horizon?
I
had always wanted to do music journalism on television when I was growing up.
If I didn’t go for that dream job, I would have gone into photography, which
was also a huge passion of mine as a kid.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
Five
years from now, I hope I have my own production company creating badass TV
shows internationally in the food and travel realm.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Patience
and perseverance!

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 
I’ve
been obsessed with Nowness.com since its inception 3 years ago – they feature
the brightest, most innovative artists in fashion, food, music, film, and art
in wonderfully written articles and beautifully shot film forms. I also love
watching the video segments on Vice like “Munchies.”

Best interview you’ve ever had?
Cat
Power in 2008. This was just after she had released the album, “Jukebox,” and
had gone through a rather public hospitalization/breakdown. She’s one of my
favorite music artists ever and I remember how easy this interview went. We
chatted for about half an hour and she was incredibly sweet and candid about her
childhood and her struggles with alcohol and performing live. The
press/interview grind can get monotonous, so it’s rare you get someone who’s so
open, genuine, and unrehearsed.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
From
my mom: “Work hard and never give up!”

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Follow
your instincts and (this one’s a hard one) try not to worry.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Know
who you are reaching out to and make the pitch personal. For example, certain
publicists know I’m a sucker for knowing what’s new in music, fashion, food,
film, and travel so when something comes up in those areas, I get a personal
email with a simple “heads up, you’re gonna love this…” I see so many generic press
releases so this helps to grab my attention.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about
#wins.
I
was at an event where manicures were being offered so of course I indulged and
while my nails were getting painted, I was telling the nail artist what a horrible
time I was having with my lips cracking and peeling out of nowhere. The
loveliest PR pro was sitting beside me and told me about a product that helped
her with her lips. The next day, I got a package with the said product and a
note saying how fun it was to hang out and that she hopes that the product
helps like it did for her. It was so unexpected and memorable.

I hate?
Liars.

I love?
Laughing.

Reading?
Cook
books.

Best place on earth?
My
bed.

Hero?
My
parents.

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Instagram.

Pool or ocean?
Ocean.

Voicemail or email?
Email.

Media, Darling: Wing Sze Tang

Wing
Sze Tang is the beauty and health editor at FLARE,
and has been working in magazines for more than nine years. She started out as
a grammar cop (a.k.a. copy editor) and still cares about the smallest
details. Back in her freelance writing days, she contributed to Fashion, Elle Canada, Best Health,
Travel + Leisure and Marketing Magazine. She appreciates when
people pronounce her first name correctly (hint: the Sze sounds like
See, but calling her just Wing is
perfectly cool, too).


Photo credit: Adam Moco


Did you always want to be in the media? If
not, what other careers were on the horizon?

Looking back, I can see I was always
heading in this direction. Words make sense to me (numbers do not!). I studied
English at the University of Toronto, and all my “grown-up” jobs have been in
publishing.



Where would you like to be five years from
now?
My heart is in journalism. But I have a lot
of disparate interests and ideas, so who knows what the future will bring.
Any advice for people getting started in
your industry?
Don’t assume that being passionate is
enough to set you apart. While it’s essential, know that everyone else
clamouring to work in this business feels the same way. Work harder than them.
If you feel insecure about your experience or skills (we all do sometimes), don’t
let that hold you back; use it to drive your ambition to get better. If you
want to write, read 
 everything. Figure out what makes great writing great. And
then write. Learn from your editor.
What are your favourite media outlets, not
including your own? (i.e.: what do you read/listen/watch?)
I look at the usual suspects in the
fashion/beauty and health beats, since of course I keep tabs on my competitors.
Beyond that, my reading list is eclectic – everything from Toronto Life, Wired
and Gawker to The New York Times, Outside and The Atlantic. I also love the
serendipity of finding a great story via the smart people I follow on Twitter.
I have terrible taste in TV.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Hard to choose. Since I cover beauty and
health, I get to talk to lots of different people  movie stars and scientists,
makeup artists and MDs, athletes and business execs. The variety keeps my job
interesting. I love interviews that feel like natural conversations, not
interrogations. And I love getting answers I didn’t expect and learning things
I didn’t know.
Worst?
Any interview where I’m allotted a few
minutes. Or where the interviewee delivers coached or rehearsed lines.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
If you want something, ask for it.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Don’t let fear rule your life.
Try, try again.
Be curious. Be skeptical.
What’s the most important tip you can give
PR pros?
1. Know who covers what. It’s not a secret
(see: the masthead). If you email your pitch to everyone on staff when I’m the
one who handles the section, I’ll assume you don’t read the magazine. Sometimes
we get packages addressed to people who haven’t worked here in YEARS.

2. Save trees. Keep press releases short
and sweet. Some of the ones I get rival book manuscripts. But deliver the
relevant details (e.g. specifically what’s innovative/new), not fluff or
over-the-top claims. If your pitch has a whiff of B.S., I’ll doubt if I can
trust any of it (or you).

3. Be honest and transparent. If you can’t
reveal the information because you don’t know it, or you’ve given another
publication the exclusive, I’ll understand. But I’d rather hear no than wonder
why I’m getting the silent treatment as my deadline looms.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro?
We love to hear about #wins.
Once, an expert source flaked out right
before my deadline and decided he was too swamped to do an interview. Without
missing a beat—in fact, within half an hour—the PR reached out to two different
sources to see if she could secure an equally appropriate alternative for me. I
interviewed one of them later that afternoon. The PR deftly turned a
near-disaster into a win, and I couldn’t have solved the problem faster myself.
I hate? 
Going to sleep. Writing the first
paragraph. Dealing with people who are bitchy for no reason.
I love? 
Sleeping. Traveling. Eating.
Reaching the finish line. Collecting lipsticks and skin-care potions. Escaping
to the movies. Hanging out with my dude and my dog.
Reading? 
I’m slowly making my way through
my Instapaper archive of long-form nonfiction articles. I wish I had time to
read more books for fun.
Best place on earth? 
Depending on my mood:
home, or far away.
Dinner guest? 
Happiness is good food with a
great friend.
Hero? 
My mom, who raised my sister and me
almost single-handedly. We’re very different people, but she taught me that it’s
possible to defy the odds through hard work and sheer will.
Favourite app (or whatever you are
downloading these days)? 
I’m a news junkie, so Twitter is the most addictive. I
tweet sparingly but listen all the time. (Say hi: @wingszetang.)
Pool or ocean?
I can’t swim, though it’s a
life goal to learn. Till then, you’ll find me on the beach under an umbrella, dodging
the sun.
Voicemail or email? 
Email! Fastest for
everyone. I do answer my phone, but don’t call to read me the press release.

Media, Darling: Susan Catto

Susan Catto is deputy editor of Hello! Canada and
has been with the magazine since 2009. After studying at Columbia and Oxford,
she returned to her native Toronto and became a freelance journalist with
regular gigs at the
New York Times,
the
Economist.com, TIME Canada and Lucky. Susan lives in the east end with her husband and two young
kids.




Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
As soon
as I discovered magazines, I wanted to be a freelance writer. I did a detour,
earning a doctorate (in eighteenth-century literature, yay!) and even teaching
university courses for two years. I was freelancing at the same time, though,
and journalism always felt like a privilege, not a job. It was a pretty easy
call to make.

Where
would you like to be five years from now?

Still finding my work as interesting and challenging as I do now. 

Any
advice for people getting started in your industry?
Read a
newspaper every day — and if you read it online, at least scan each headline,
don’t just click on the stories you are already interested in. Young people who
are curious and well-informed with good general knowledge really stand out. The
people you are working for or pitching to may be decades older and it helps to
understand their cultural reference points. Plus, life is just more interesting
when you know stuff!

What are your favourite media outlets, not
including your own?
For work, Celebitchy
and the Daily Mail; for fun, The New Yorker and HBO Canada

Best
interview you’ve ever had?

I recently interviewed Joan Rivers, which was a kick because I had interned on
her talk show when I was in university. She didn’t remember me, of course, but
it made for a nice rapport and she was as funny, frank and interesting as you
would expect.

Worst?
As a
stringer for the
New York Times I once had to knock on doors in rural Muskoka
— at night — trying to find a guy who’d just been accused of child molesting.
didn’t find him but just thinking of what that interview would have been like is bad enough. 



 Best advice you’ve ever been given? 


“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” 



What
rule(s) do you live your life by? 

Find the bright side and practice gratitude.



What’s
the most important tip you can give PR pros?


Get to know what we do and don’t cover so you can tailor your pitch to our
magazine.



Best
experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
I
screwed up the time of my Joan Rivers interview and Lia Caponecchia at the
Shopping Channel had to take the flack for it…but still helped me get a new
slot. Lifesaver!


I hate?
People
who are routinely rude or dismissive. Are they really so important/stressed out
that general standards of politeness don’t apply to them?


I love?
Godiva
dark chocolate-covered pretzels.

Reading?
Yes,
compulsively and indiscriminately…


Best place on earth?

Outer Banks, N.C.


Dinner guest?


Hero?
Tina Fey.


Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Netflix,
to catch up on the first few seasons of Breaking
Bad
.


Pool or ocean?
Ocean,
no contest!


Voicemail or email?

Email.

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.