Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I wanted to be a journalist from about grade 11 when, predictably, I first worked on my high school paper. Before that I wanted to be an architect, until I realized I couldn’t draw well enough, and an obstetrician, until I learned I couldn’t stand the sight of blood.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’m not sure but I hope it involves a little more time padding around my house drinking tea and being writerly.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Just be flexible and keep at it. If you’re not held down by a mortgage and kids or other commitments, be willing to leave Toronto. Be curious and open-minded about all kinds of subject matter. I wrote about everything from real estate to pig farming before I landed any kind of a staff job. If anything, that flexibility has become more important. Don’t despair about the field being competitive. There will always be room for people with tenacity who want it enough.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
Online I wind up wherever the links take me from the tweets I find most compelling, but in free time I enjoy nytimes.com/health, epicurious, houseandhome.com/tv and all kinds of others. I think the magazine Psychology Today is a bit underrated. It is so lively and well-reported, and the art direction is really clever and unexpected. New York is a city magazine that manages to be entertaining and relevant to both residents and non-residents, without taking itself or the city too seriously. I like that.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Hard to say. I really find so much that’s interesting from people’s ordinary experiences.
Raffi. I guess I got all flustered and star struck or something?
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Journalistically, someone told me “there’s always another source.” While sometimes there isn’t – a profile hinges on getting a particular person, of course – I remember this mantra helping me as a young journalist with that feeling of vulnerability to people getting back to you. If there isn’t another source, there is always another story. It’s good to have one in your back pocket.
In parenting, my mom gave me the best advice. She said, “You don’t have to love every minute of it.” That helped me go easy on myself about those times when you have a screaming baby and you just wish you could head for the hills.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
I don’t know. We’re all just trying to figure this out, right? I guess my main thing is just to try to be decent to people. Some believe you’ve got to be a hard ass to be taken seriously in news. I think that’s old school and, often, contrived.
Apart from that? When you’re in too deep, call someone. Otherwise, put on something pretty and trudge on like it’s not a crap day.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
I think a tailored pitch that’s realistic for the publication is important. Understand what the website, magazine or paper you’re pitching does and doesn’t have in the way of regular departments where the product you’re representing could fit. And when you suspect your pitch might be a stretch, it likely is. I’m just not buying that your shower spray is going to liberate all kinds of time I can spend with my kids.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
My best experiences have started with realistic, helpful pitches I can turn into useful service for readers, and have ended with sources I’ve turned into friends.
Emails with subject lines that only say “media release” and those containing loads of unsolicited PDFs and Jpegs that paralyze my work account. (Ed note: PR people – please stop sending attachments – it gives us all a bad name. There is a great invention called Flickr. Learn it.)
What do I love? Are you sure this isn’t an online dating profile? Skiing, dancing, Saturday mornings, cheese.
I have two on the go: Esi Edugyan’s Half-blood Blues and Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe.
Best place on earth?
Wrestling on the bed with my two boys, eight and four.
I know I should reach back in time here and select someone important from history or something, but I’m rarely happier than when my dinner table is surrounded by a quirky group of friends old and new — preferably all enthusiastic eaters.
My younger sister, Erica, is my hero for surviving mental illness. It takes a lot of bravery to keep going when your mind regularly betrays you, especially given that these conditions are still poorly understood and frightfully under-resourced.
I use my phone for email, Twitter and Facebook, but I’m not especially taken with any apps. I’m trying to put my iPhone down a little more often these days.
Pool or ocean?
No contest. Ocean.
Voicemail or email?