Media, Darling: Tara Ballantyne

Tara Ballantyne joined Style at Home last February as its resident style and food editor. Tara began her
styling career in Norway and worked for publications like Norwegian ELLE and
French ELLE along with various other European publications. She has had
numerous television appearances on the Marilyn Denis Show, Breakfast Television
and CityLine.



photo credit: Transcontinental Media 

Did
you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the
horizon? 
There are so many things you can do in a
lifetime, and I’m guilty of wanting to do anything to satisfy my creativity. My
schooling is in interior design and I worked in architecture for three years
before I switched to magazines. It was the best decision I have ever made and I
love what I get to do and how creative I can be each day at Style at Home.
Where
would you like to be five years from now?
In a studio with a totally inspired
photographer, great light, lots of beautiful food, great models and a hundred
baby bunnies shooting some wild Tim Walker-inspired images.
Any
advice for people getting started in your industry?
Don’t be afraid to sweep floors, pour endless
amounts of coffee, or even pick up someone else’s dry cleaning (seriously I had
to do this once). I’ve had to learn countless coffee orders by heart and had
design proposals ripped up right in front of my face. It can be a long road of
being humble, but you watch and learn and in the end, it’s completely worth it.
What
are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
Having spent so much time in Norway, I really
developed an affection for swedish RUM magazine, ELLE Norway and Sweden, and I
love emmas designblogg –
design and style from a scandinavian perspective
. I also adore Canadian blog Bijou and Boheme, and spend entirely too much time selecting fashion
ensembles from the The
Sartorialist
, that my husband and I
should definitely purchase. Fortunately, he is a kind and patient person who
politely nods and says “uh huh” while I involuntarily involve him
in selecting my favourite looks to wear on a vespa, and for braving the
cobblestone streets. 
Best
interview you’ve ever had?
My interview for ELLE Norwegian… it ended up
landing me my first cover, and I was so insanely excited to be part of the
magazine in another country – it was pretty amazing. There is always something
very special about your first.
Worst?
I’ve been super lucky so far, in that I’ve only ever had great interviews. Fingers crossed this continues!
Best
advice you’ve ever been given?
Avoid horizontal stripes and don’t eat a full
meal before you go swimming.
What
rule(s) do you live your life by?
If you truly love something, it’s worth
fighting for. And edit to clarity – fashion, interiors, your words…
What’s
the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Open and honest communication I guess. I’ve
worked with great PR people and I’ve always appreciated when they tell me what
I need to hear, not necessarily what I want to hear. Also I am always super
impressed when they remember names!
Best
experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Being convinced that the $250 sweater I
bought for a television appearance was not a bad decision and in fact a
worthwhile investment piece for my wardrobe. Cashmere really is timeless, lol.
I
hate?
Subway delays.
I
love?
Butter tarts, and the way Instagram always
makes you instantly look amazing.
Reading?
International design books (magazines); I
love seeing what’s going on in other countries and get a lot of inspiration
from that. Right now I am also re-reading Rebecca for the second time, and am
guilty of choosing my knitting project over my half-finished copy of Infidel
Best
place on earth?
Any place where I’m surrounded by family and
friends, a great glass of wine, and good food and conversation.
Dinner
guest?
Brother and sister, Sibella Court
and Chris Court. I am so astounded with the creativity that they both exhibit
in the work they do with styling, development and photography. 
Hero?
Coco Chanel. 
Favourite
app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Instagram, and that
new Christmas app that helps you with shopping and wrapping.
Pool
or ocean?
Definitely Ocean.
Voicemail
or email?
Definitely email.

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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: 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. 





Fave 5: Magazines gone bust

We read A LOT of magazines on the fourth floor. Aside from being an integral part of PR, a new magazine arriving at the office calls for a break to check out the latest trends, beauty tips and celebrity gossip. But we also get really, really sad when a magazine announces it’s ceasing publication – it’s like losing a trusted friend. Today, a tribute to five magazines we still miss.

Domino

If you re-pin decor pics on Pinterest, you’ve likely pinned from Domino.
Image source.

We all let out a collective scream when Domino announced its last issue in 2009. There’s a reason why every second living room on Apartment Therapy contains the ever-familiar mint green book, Domino: The Book of Decorating. Every issue contained page after page of beautiful inspiration, chic interiors and refreshing ideas. Type Domino Magazine into Pinterest to see what you missed. 

You can get your fix this month with a special new edition, Domino Quick Fixes, that is currently on newsstands. Their revived Facebook page is also addressing important questions such as “to colour-coordinate or not to colour-coordinate bookshelves?”. Could this be the return? We can only hope. 

Sassy

Yes, that’s Milla Jovovich, circa 1991.
Image source.

The thought that there are girls out there not getting advice on relationships, sex, body image and how to grow up to be a cool chick from Sassy makes us worry about their generation. Founded by Jane Pratt, the magazine offered (as its name suggests), a sassy, sometimes-controversial, feminist voice for young girls. The magazine was published until 1994, which makes us feel a little old, and also wonder if our mothers knew what we were reading. Need a fix? We’re enjoying a lookback with this Sassy Magazine LIVES tumblr. 

Jane

Premiere issue of Jane, with covergirl Drew Barrymore (who Jane claims to have had an affair with).
Image source.

Luckily for 90s girls, Jane magazine stepped in to fill the void left by Sassy, running from 1997 to 2007. Also headed by Jane Pratt, the magazine was said to ‘appeal to women who are irreverent’. If you’re still lamenting these magazines, we’re sure you already know about xoJane.com, where you can go for a daily dose of the irreverent.

Wish

A little bit of everything.
Image source.

Headed by another well-known Jane, the subject matter was tamer but featured lovely pieces covering fashion, beauty, home and food. Running for five years, the magazine was shut down at the end of 2008. We still pull out old issues to check out  20-minute Supper Club, a feature that planned out meals for a week, including wine pairings.  

Blueprint

RIP Blueprint, 2006-2008.
Image source.

Part of the Martha Stewart Living brand, Blueprint was targeted to a younger demographic than Martha Stewart Living, one that enjoyed pretty DIYs, fancy cocktails and decor inspiration for small spaces when you don’t have a manor like Martha’s. We consult our archives when there’s an occasion that calls for a little Martha: first turkey dinner cooked for the extended fam, an inkling to make a wreath that doesn’t look like grandma’s, the desire to plant a herb garden in a windowbox, you know…