Toronto freelance journalist Sandra Martin specializes in parenting
and personal finance — two very hot topics. In her previous role as executive editor of Today’s
Parent, she appeared regularly on television news and current
events programs to discuss everything from diapers to drinking underage.
you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the
Once I was honest with myself, yes, I always wanted to be in the media. But
for a long time, I tried to be practical, entertaining the idea of becoming (in
this order): an architect, an accountant and a technical writer. Oy.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
For the first time ever in my career, I don’t have an answer to that – and
it feels really, really good. This spring I gave my notice at Today’s Parent,
after nearly seven great years. As much as I love the brand, am invested in the
brand, it was time for me to move on and challenge myself with something
different. Don’t get me wrong; I bawled like a baby when I handed in my letter
of resignation; it was a really emotional move for me. But in the media,
stagnation is the death of creativity. And if you lose your creativity, you
might as well kiss your career goodbye.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
I graduated from journalism school at the height of a recession, and except
for, well, now, I’ve never been without a salaried job. My newbie mantra? Work hard. Be humble. Speak up when you have an idea. And don’t stay in one place
too long. (See, I almost didn’t take my own advice.)
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
My addiction to covetgarden.com is becoming a bit of a concern for all those who love me. I think they’ve
nailed everything that my demographic wants in a shelter mag; the interiors are
a little bit quirky and totally approachable – the rooms don’t look as though
they’ve been staged to an inch of their lives. Plus you get to see the
homeowners; you get to know them, as well as their spaces.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
You mean in the course of researching an article? The biggest thrill has to
have been when I was granted 20 minutes on the phone with David Cronenberg, who
was promoting the premiere of his film M. Butterfly at TIFF. He ended up
speaking with me for an hour.
Either I haven’t had a complete train wreck, or I’ve wiped it from my memory
in order to protect my sanity.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Why don’t you just do it.”
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
It sounds corny, but I treat people I work with – bosses, peers, those who
report to me – the way I’d like to be treated. I take it as a huge compliment
when people come to me with their problems, and I respect the fact that they’ve
chosen me to confide in. Also, I hope to live my life with no regrets. That
goes for my interactions with people, as well as the path I choose for myself.
I don’t ever want to look back and say, “What if I had….”
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Don’t rely on email programs. I can’t tell you how many pitches I’ve
received addressed to “Sandrae” because my Today’s Parent email
address uses my first name and middle initial squished together. If you start
out misspelling my name (which is really, really easy to look up), you’ll have
to have some phenomenal pitch to win me back.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Hmm, I can’t pick out just one, but I really love when PR pros work with me,
like a partner. If I come to you all flustered because a hole has opened up at
the last minute, and I need a high-res image for the magazine, or props for a
TV shoot, I’ll so appreciate it if you’re willing to scramble with me to put
together what I need.
I’m coming down from a bunch of back-to-back rock bios; for some fiction, right now I’m reading In One Person by John Irving. He’s one of my favourite
Best place on earth?
That depends on my mood. Today I’m going to say New York City (I feel like
my people are there, and I can’t believe I’ve never lived there). Sometimes,
I’ll say a remote woodsy place. I’ve never been to Tofino, BC, but I just know
I would love it there.
Ever since I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I’ve had a helluva
lot of admiration for Rebecca Skloot. Every journalist should read that book,
and remember what the pursuit of the truth is about.
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I could not live without BlackBerry Messenger, but I’m afraid other media
types will think I’m terribly uncool for saying that. There’s nothing I
download more enthusiastically than music; I feel like I need to backfill my catalog
with some of the seminal albums I didn’t grow up with (my family was very pop).
Maybe Some Girls by the Rolling Stones?
Pool or ocean?
Pool. I’m not a strong swimmer, plus I’m a control freak – so I like knowing
the edge is never more than a few strokes away.
Voicemail or email?
Email. One hundred per cent.