Media, Darling: Sabrina Maddeaux

Sabrina
Maddeaux is the Managing Editor at
Toronto Standard, where she writes
and edits smart, candid content that sometimes makes people angry. Prior to
that, she was the Style Editor at
Toronto Standard. And before that, she
freelanced for publications such as
Toronto Life, blogTO.com, Sweetspot.ca,
TCHAD Quarterly, Faze Magazine, GlobalNews.ca, and more.

She
attended St. Bonaventure University in New York, where she studied political
science, journalism, and theology, and played NCAA Division I soccer for two
years. She likes things that aren’t boring. And cheese, always cheese.
Photo credit: Becca Lemire

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were
on the horizon?
Actually, I always thought I’d be a lawyer. When I graduated from
university, I got into top law schools like Boston College and Notre Dame — I
even put down a deposit at Boston College and moved there. Two weeks before
classes were supposed to begin, something just didn’t feel right. So I totally
freaked out my parents, got a one-year acceptance deferral, and never looked
back.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’d still like to be the editor of an independent publication. There’s
so much more freedom in what you can write and the opinions you can express — I
can’t see myself giving that up anytime soon.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Live outside whatever your beat is. If you cover fashion by day, be a
political junkie by night. It provides perspective and makes for a more
interesting writer and person.
Also, don’t regurgitate press releases. Think for yourself. Originality
creates value.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 
The Atlantic, the New York Times, Jezebel, xoJane, The Paris Review, The
New Yorker
, The New Inquiry, Gawker, and a slew of other small independent
pubs. I watch Breaking Bad, Damages, Veep, Mad Men, Dexter, Golden Girls
reruns, and too much TMZ.
Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
I’ve always had good interviews, maybe because I think of them as
conversations and not interviews. I’m also really picky about who I interview
because I hate transcribing.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
I think it was Kelly Cutrone who said, “Be everywhere, meet everyone.”
That was my philosophy for a long time, and still is. This industry is all
about networking and you never know when you’ll meet someone that can change
your career.


What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Always eat a good breakfast. Cereal doesn’t count.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Don’t complain about mostly positive coverage (unless there’s a factual
error). And don’t complain about honest reviews and feedback — even when
they’re negative. Also, don’t blacklist lightly. Media talk and we tend to have
each other’s backs when it comes down to it.
Finally, read my publication. If you pitch me an actress for our next
(nonexistent) cover, I can’t take you seriously ever again.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
I like any PR pro who takes the time to get to know my publication and
me. The agencies and publicists I prefer really get what I do and don’t try to
brainwash me.
I also appreciate PRs who set realistic expectations about their events
and products; it shows they value my time and trust. Don’t lie to me, and I’ll
like you. If I like you, I might just cover that dingy event where one Degrassi
kid shows up (You’ll eventually have one. Everybody does), because I care.
I hate?
Censorship, Internet outages.
I love?
Strong cheeses and John Lithgow.
Reading?
I’m slowly working my way through the Game of Thrones series.
Best place on earth?
St. Bonaventure, NY.
Dinner guest?
I’m a little obsessed with media mogul and feminist icon Jane Pratt
right now. Would love to pick her brain.
Hero?
I think everyone should be his or her own hero.
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Is it so five years ago to say Shazam? I’m on a BlackBerry, so my
entire device is so five years ago. I can’t be blamed.
Pool or ocean?
No question: ocean. The smell alone is so relaxing.
Voicemail or email?
Unless someone’s dying… NEVER, EVER voicemail.

Media, Darling: Pay Chen

Pay Chen is a TV host, writer and producer
who got her on-air start at OMNI-TV in Toronto, sharing short infotainment
segments in prime time and late night. Her favourite pick-up line during those
years was, “You’re the last woman I see before I fall asleep.” 
She’s also the former host of Breakfast
Television Winnipeg
on Citytv, and hosted programs for G4TechTV, The Biography
Channel and is seen nationally on the popular preschool series,
4 Square (it was a show before being known as a place
you can check-in).

Pay is currently The Bachelor Canada
Insider for iVillage.ca and The Bachelor Canada, where she’ll dish the dirt on
what’s really happening on the show, set to hit your screens this fall on
Citytv.

She has written for children’s television
shows and is currently writing for an animated series. Her passion for all
things local and edible have lead to regular food columns for the Toronto Standard, Metro newspapers and contributions to iVillage.ca.

Pay used to be very skilled at the ukulele.
Website: www.PayChen.com
Twitter: @PayChen

Did you always want to be in the media? If
not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
I had always wanted to be a teacher and
then became really interested in working in children’s television. After a few
years of doing educational TV and programs, I decided to go back to school to
get my teaching certificate. I was accepted into a post-grad program in
Australia and was making plans to move when, on a whim, I applied for the host
position at OMNI. I spent seven years at OMNI and never made it to Australia.
Where would you like to be five years from
now?
I’d like to be Tom Cruise’s fourth ex-wife. Or you know, happy. Loving what I do and
still feeling challenged by it.
Any advice for people getting started in
your industry?
A lot of people ask me how to get a job
on-camera. That’s a tough one. You don’t necessarily need certain skills.
Sometimes people are hired because they have the right look. I worked in
production and was writing before I was hosting. It gave me a true
understanding and appreciation for the process of making television. Also, when
you know how to produce segments and direct shoots, it’s harder for people to
bullshit you later as a host. To do well, you need to understand what others do.
My first job was as a production co-ordinator. I did the running around,
photocopying and tedious schedules. I have a lot of respect for good
co-ordinators and production assistants. They hold the show together.

Also, be willing to learn what other people do.
You won’t build that show yourself.
What are your favourite media outlets, not
including your own?
 
I leave those 24-hour news channels on all
day. They repeat the stories every 15 minutes so after the third time seeing
the same story I always think, “I knew that.” And I feel really smart. 

I also have a fondness for the CBC because it
had such a strong influence on my childhood. My brother and I learned to speak
English by watching TV. CBC, PBS and Magnum P.I. formed us as people. 
I also watch a lot of Food Network. It’s no
secret that I would love to host and produce a food show.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
I can’t think of just one, but the best
ones feel like you’re shooting the breeze with a friend. The laughs are genuine
and you’re sad when you have to wrap.
Kids and teens make up some of my most
rewarding and memorable interviews. I used to be a story researcher on a teen
show. We dealt with some heavy issues that affected kids (violence, eating
disorders, bullying, drugs) and kids don’t filter or edit what they say the way
adults do. They are brutally honest.
Worst?
Sometimes you interview people who don’t
want to do press and you can tell they’d rather be somewhere else.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
As a host: Be yourself.
As a writer: Read it out loud.
As a producer: B-roll. There’s never
enough.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Don’t be an a**hole. Be kind. Be helpful.
What’s the most important tip you can give
PR pros?
Know the show I’m working on or the column
I write when you pitch. I’ve had people pitch me ideas when I was on BT and not
realize we were a LIVE morning show. Also, it might be one product that you’re
pitching to many outlets, but let me know you’ve considered my audience by
suggesting an angle that suits what I’m working on. I’ll feel like you did me a
favour.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro?
We love to hear about #wins.
I’ve had many great experiences! I tend to
work with the ones I like over and over again. I count many PR pros as friends.
The ones who understand that TV is about visuals and good speakers. You want
promotion and I want content, so let’s make it work. 
Good PR people and good hosts have to be
great listeners. We both talk and “sell” for a living – sometimes you just need
to shut up and listen.
I hate?
Rudeness. When people have a sense of
entitlement. 
The sound of girls shuffling their feet
when they wear Uggs. Will they fall off if you pick your feet up? 
The smell of boiled hot dogs.
I love?
Kind people. Those who do things without
expecting anything in return and those who do it without drawing any attention
to themselves. 
Plain chocolate cake, no icing. Things in jars. Seriously, it’s an
obsession.
Reading?
Scripts. But I want to reread Tina Fey’s Bossypants. “Over! Under! Through!” – That’s great advice.
Best place on earth?
Anywhere I can have my closest friends,
access to cheese and dessert.
Dinner guest?
I would love to get Tina Fey, Ellen
DeGeneres and some of my best friends together because we’d laugh until we
hurt.
Hero?
Christian Bale as Batman. Wait, I didn’t
answer this correctly did I?
Favourite app (or whatever you are
downloading these days)?
I’m an Instagram addict. I post photos of
lattes and nailpolish like everyone else.
Pool or ocean?
Ocean. I grew up in Nova Scotia. I miss the
sound and the smell of the ocean. Not the bad smells. I don’t miss those.
Voicemail or email?
Email. I hate long voicemails and I’m
usually running around when people call so I’m only half listening.

Media, Darling: Fraser Abe

Fraser Abe is a freelance lifestyle and entertainment writer based in Toronto. He’s mainly known for his work with Toronto Life, but his writing has also appeared in The Grid, the Toronto Standard and SharpForMen.com. In his downtime he enjoys being a misanthropic curmudgeon yelling at kids to get off his lawn.

Twitter: @fraserabe
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
No, I worked on Bay Street doing Bay Street-y things. After I decided the only thing I liked about the business was after-work drinks on Thursdays at the various patios (including many a mis-spent evening at Vertical), getting laid off was the push I needed to apply for an internship at Toronto Life. That was in 2009 and I haven’t looked back since. Except, you know, when I realize it takes money to do things.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’d love to be living in New York and writing for GQ or Esquire or something, but I think if I re-read this in five years and I’m still in Toronto I’ll be depressed, so let’s just say still here, but making decidedly more money.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Unpaid internships get a lot of flack, but I think they’re the best way to learn and to meet people in the business. My writing was pretty rambling and incoherent when I wrote for She Does The City (I wrote a sort-of gay sex column called Homo Arigato Mr Roboto) and my internship really helped me polish my work. It’s also really great to know how to fact-check and what goes into making a magazine, even if you want to work online or, I’d guess, in PR. Also, check your expectations. This job isn’t even close to glamourous. Find a rich husband (I’m still looking, fellas) if you want glamour or Balenciaga tote bags.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
This is a tough question for freelancers, since I’ve written for Toronto Life, The GridSharp and the Toronto Standard (all amazing outlets, of course). But I like Gawker (they’re snarkier than I could ever actually be in print – though I probably come close in real life), the AV Club and anyone else who would like to pay me to write for them. My new favourite magazine right now is Wired – they do great stories with fun charticles like “What’s In Pop Rocks”.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
I don’t do a lot of proper interviews, but during TIFF I talk to celebrities for nanoseconds. This year I peed with Gerard Butler. I also had a great time chatting with Aaron Levine and Michael Williams from A Continuous Lean for the Toronto Standard when they came to Toronto for the relaunch of the Club Monaco on Bloor.
Worst?
If only I had interesting stories to impart. I’d just say generally when people give one word answers it makes writing something pithy pretty difficult.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
I think Carley Fortune (torontolife.com associate editor when I was interning) was a really great mentor, despite us being the same age, and she really helped my writing. I used to submit 500 word posts, but now my work is a lot more succinct. I’ve also got to give thanks to Matthew Fox (torontolife.com‘s editor) for giving me a chance to cover TIFF my first year, when he’d only seen me write for one other outlet. Jen McNeely from SDTC, who I met as a summer student a thousand years ago, gave me my first writing gig and introduced me to Matthew. And if you’ve never worked with Veronica Maddocks, try to. She is the most thorough researcher I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and an amazing teacher.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Oh, I don’t know. Who has their own personal mantra they repeat in front of the mirror every morning? I guess just be nice to the people who serve you food and drive you places.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Learn people’s names. Everyone on Twitter seems to hate that and I can’t even count how many people think my first name is Abe. Follow up with a personalized email if you (for some strange reason) actually want me somewhere or want me to pitch a story to some outlet. It’s hard to care when your email is so obviously a form letter (unless you’re sending emails about free wings – keep those coming).
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins. 
All of my best experiences with PR people have been because they’ve taken the time to try and know me and know what I actually write about. A less formal approach is always appreciated, I like when we can joke about other stuff while still getting work done. I also am always appreciative of PR people who realize most of us don’t have time to respond to every email we get.
I hate?
Lots and lots and lots of things. Read my Twitter, I’ve probably written about something that irked me within the last 24 hours.
I love?
Walks on the beach, dinner by candlelight, macarons with my New York Times Sunday crossword and a Starbucks Venti half-caf moccachino, being facetious.
Reading?
I just came back from a vacation where I read American Pastoral by Philip Roth (Dawn Dwyer reminded me so much of Betty Draper I feel like Matthew Weiner must have stolen her from Roth) and Bossypants by Tina Fey. Right now I’m reading Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. And I love to read this little indie drawn art series about these kooky teenagers from a fictitious town called Riverdale.
Best place on earth?
Well I just returned from Turks and Caicos, where I ate lobster and swam in turquoise water every day so let’s say there. And of course I love Saturdays at Fly. Look for me next time you’re there, I’m the one with his shirt off drinking Rev.

Dinner guest?

Ina Garten, but she has to cook us a roast chicken and bring her cadre of fabulous gays.
Hero?
Gambit from the X-Men. Maybe Wolverine.
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Instagram is fun, but let’s be real. Scruff.
Pool or ocean?
Pool, provided there are no screaming children.
Voicemail or email?
The only person that leaves me voicemails is my dad. And Kevin Naulls (but he prefers to be called Big Kev), when he tells me “we need to talk about last night”. He tricks me every time – I guess I should stop getting black-out drunk.

Media, Darling: Christopher Frey

Christopher Frey grew up in Toronto, and got a degree in Religious Studies from U of T. After graduating and earning money through medical experiments to finance short films, he lived in Osaka, Japan for almost two years; then came back to Toronto to co-found and edit Outpost Magazine (for more years than he cares to mention). 


Frey is a two-time National Magazine Award winner. Since 2006, he’s been freelancing for the likes of The Walrus, Azure, Canadian Geographic, the Globe and Mail, CBC Radio and Monocle. All this was done while being mostly itinerant, traveling abroad and researching his non-fiction book Broken Atlas, which will be published next year by Random House. Frey is currently the Editorial Director of the Toronto Standard and Toronto correspondent for Monocle. Toronto Standard has earned 5 nominations and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards, more than any other online-only publication. Winners will be announced in late October.



Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
First, I wanted to be a writer. Then I realized what really appealed to me more broadly was telling stories and sharing concepts or ideas or other peoples’ experiences. Which also meant figuring out that writing isn’t always the best way to tell a story or idea, that depending on the particularity of the subject matter, another medium might be more suitable — say, a photo, film, a song, a poem instead of prose, an illustration or graphic.

I got into magazines and became an editor because I felt it was the best way to combine most of these things. And I loved collaborating with other people in creating the package it all comes in. Now because of hypertextuality, and the ability to embed sound, video and animation, it’s the web, minus the tactility and portability. I guess the next thing is to see where tablets take us… But I still do love print magazines dearly.


Where would you like to be five years from now?
Writing and making documentaries, dividing my time between Toronto and Brazil — probably Rio, but Sao Paulo has better food and my friends there are comparatively more sane. Or Istanbul.


Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Write something every day, develop a routine. Read as broadly as possible. Learn another language or two. Travel. Or at least walk a lot, and learn to observe.


What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
The New Yorker, The Economist, Monocle, BLDGBlog, Design Observer, Foreign Policy magazine, Q and Ideas on CBC Radio.


Best interview you’ve ever had?
Tie: David Byrne and artist Vik Muniz.


Worst?
Henry Rollins for The Varsity at U of T. This was twenty years ago, long before Rollins became a talk show host. I was a huge Black Flag fan as a teenager but figured he’d be difficult. His best friend had just been killed when the two of them were ambushed outside their home. When the phone interview started I was getting nothing but angry, monosyllabic answers. 

Then I noticed a handbook to depression on the desk I was using and it contained a depression questionnaire — a checklist to determine how clinically serious one’s depression. I asked Henry if I could give him the questionnaire and he agreed. So I still got single word yes or no answers, but at least I was able to shape the article into something revealing based on what he gave me. It turned out that he was moderately optimistic after all.



Best advice you’ve ever been given?
As for something someone said to me personally, nothing comes to mind. But there’s this bit from a George Saunders essay: “Fuck concepts. Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.”

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Oy vey, I could use some rules.


What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Think like a journalist.


Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
I’ve been mostly focused on international reporting for the past four years, so I hadn’t had much recent experience with PR pros until we started the Standard. I can say honesty goes far — both in terms of being up-front about whether an interview request can be accommodated, or when asked to describe off-the-cuff what it is they’re promoting. 

It’s not about decoding whether they themselves like something or not, just whether it’s a right fit for us. Having said that, I’ve liked working with Virginia Kelly, Debra Goldblatt and Rebecca Webster all of whom are not just charming but very knowledgeable about what it is they’re representing.

I hate?

A lack of generosity and openness.



I love?
Haruki Murakami, being in a canoe, playing hockey, the movie Reds, mountain biking with my friend Lorne Bridgman, Japan and Brazil, JG Ballard, William Eggleston, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Caetano Veloso. Improvising in the kitchen. The core writers who have bought into the vision we have for the
Toronto Standard. The last few pages of the James Joyce short story The Dead which pretty much says everything that will ever need to be said. I should probably add my parents and friends because I don’t see any of them nearly enough. I am a bad man.

Reading?
Simon Reynolds’
Retromania, Luc Sante’s Low Life (for the third time), Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.


Best place on earth?
I haven’t found it yet. But right now I’m missing this record store-cum-live performance space in Rio’s Lapa neighbourhood called Plano B.


Dinner guest?
Filmmaker and video artist Chris Marker.


Hero?
Ryszard Kupisinski.


Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I use apps, but I can’t think in terms of one being my ‘favourite’.

Pool or ocean?
Lake.


Voicemail or email?
Normally, when I think of people communicating with me, I’d say email. But these days, as an editor and journalist with deadlines, I often find myself hectoring writers to just pick up the damn phone and call somebody already.