Media, Darling: Rebecca Tucker

Rebecca
Tucker is the online editor for arts and life at the
National Post. She
graduated from Ryerson’s four-year journalism program in 2009, before which
time she was a
Hillside Festival-attending, hemp purse-carrying resident of
Guelph, Ontario. She is an obsessive Anglophile and culinary enthusiast, with a
collection of cookbooks and kitchen gadgets to rival the best of ’em – and
a tattoo of
Pete Doherty (no foolin’).

She is
awful at Twitter, can play exactly two chords on the guitar and will ride a
bike anywhere so long as she doesn’t have to go uphill.


Twitter: @RebeccaTee @nparts 
Did you always want to be in the
media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
Not
always. When I was really little until about halfway through high school I was
sure I was destined for the sciences. But as it turns out I’m pretty crap at
math, which precluded me from all the important chemistry and physics
prerequisites. So here I am!
Where would you like to be five years
from now?
At a point
in my life where I don’t labour for any amount of time over tweeting the
perfect tweet. #twitterfail
Any advice for people getting started
in your industry?
Keep on
your toes and work as hard as your body will allow you, but don’t be afraid to
take time off. If you don’t let your ideas rest, they’ll never get stronger.
What are your favourite media outlets,
not including your own? 
I am a
shameless Gawker reader. I love their snark and always fall so short of the
mark in emulating their witticisms. Vulture and AV Club, and I bounce around a
lot between the Toronto alt-press — The Grid, NOW, Exclaim! etc. I actually
just bought myself a subscription to Toronto Life — 99% of the reading I do is
online media, so I’m excited to give myself a regular reason to power down.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Actually,
I think it happened earlier this week – I got to talk to Anthony Bourdain
for the second time. He’s a personal hero for his uncompromising approach to,
well, everything. First time around I was disappointed with how starstruck I
was: I fumbled a lot of bad questions and chickened out of asking a lot of good
ones. This time, I swallowed the lump in my throat and approached it as a
conversation with someone whose writing I adore, opinions I value and passion
for food and travel I admire. It felt good.
Worst?
It was a
job interview. I’ll leave it at that.
  
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Spend
a lot once and you’ll spend less in the long run.” My nonna said it, and I
think it’s a useful thing to remember in a time when everything we buy can be
disposable: consider your purchases and make investments that will last, and
that you will love forever. Nobody owns heirlooms anymore! Besides, you’ll
spend a lot more time and money replacing that Ikea coffee table over and over
than you might on something that you could end up passing on.
That, and
“you can always add, but you can never take away.” Also from nonna,
but this time about salt.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
You get
what you give. Seriously — it’s not just a dumb cliché  From cooking to working
to maintaining relationships — the effort you put in will be reflected in what
you get out.
What’s the most important tip you can
give PR pros?
Make sure
you address your email to the right person. Too many times I receive pitches
addressed to, I’m guessing, the last person the pitch was copy-and-pasted to.
It’s an immediate dismissal.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR
pro? We love to hear about #wins
.
Anything
that ends in food or drink samples, I consider a win.
I hate?
Bad subway
etiquette. It always surprises me when someone uses a seat for their purse or
won’t give up their seat for someone obviously in need, but I see it almost
every day. We’re all in this together, straphangers. Come on.
I love?
British
humour and cheese.
Reading?
I’m
actually trying to get through Anna Karenina — I told my boyfriend we weren’t
going to see the film until I’d read the book. Time is running out, though, and
I’m not exactly a speed-reader.
Best place on earth?
London,
England. See: “I love.” I’m also a shamefully rabid BritRock fan and
I fare better in cold and grey than warm and sunny.
Dinner guest?
When I was
a kid, the whole family — there were nine of us in total — used to regularly
get together on Sundays for dinner. I’d like to do that again, only with all
the spouses, kids and pets that have shown up along the way; it’s quite a few
more than nine at this point.
Hero?
Everyone’s
parents are their heroes, and so are mine for their selflessness, steadfastness
and unflappable senses of humour in the face of all the adversity my sister and
I have dealt them.
Favourite app (or whatever you are
downloading these days)?
I’m
hanging on to a very old phone, so apps are kind of out of the question right
now. I just downloaded and marathoned all of Homeland, however — I feel exactly
the same about Season 2 as everyone.

Pool or ocean?
Ocean.
Just no fish, please.
Voicemail or email?
I
literally never check my voicemail. Honest to God. Do not leave me a voicemail.






Media, Darling: Jason Anderson

Jason Anderson is a film critic and columnist for The Grid (Eye Weekly before that). He also writes about movies regularly for the Toronto Star, Cinema Scope, Movie Entertainment and Artforum.com. He won a Western Magazine Award in 2006 for his music columns for Swerve Magazine in Calgary, and is the author of Showbiz, a novel.

He teaches film criticism at the University of Toronto, programs for the Kingston Canadian Film Festival and plays keyboards in the Toronto band The Two Koreas. You can read his blog at jandersonesque.com

@jandersonesque

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I always loved writing but discovered in my teen years that scribbling record reviews was a great way to get free music, too. I never really believed that there was a career in writing about whatever art works or cultural ephemera I was most (or least) enthusiastic about – after two decades or so, I still have a hard time believing it. If this all hadn’t transpired, I would have comfortably slid into a life in academia, which is why I’m happy the journalism has led to some opportunities to do some teaching at U of T.

Where would you like to be five years from now?

Hoping to continue to diversify my career with lots of other endeavours beyond journalism (e.g., teaching, programming for film festivals). I also hope to have found the time to crank out a second novel — hell, maybe a third, too.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?

Don’t put your eggs in any one basket, make sure to cover your bets and… damn, I can’t think of a third cliché. Anyway, my experience suggests that the wisest thing to do is have lots of projects on the go and not be precious about any of ‘em. You never know what’s going to pick up momentum – it could be your most seemingly practical idea or your looniest, most self-indulgent lark.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
Still loyal to lots of print magazines, especially about film and music (e.g., The Wire, Mojo, Entertainment Weekly, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema Scope). The New Yorker and the Sunday NY Times, too. Like a lot of folks (young ones, too), I can’t read anything but the shortest items online so my existence is still cluttered with paper.

Best interview you’ve ever had?

I’ve had so many good interviews but I’m proudest when I have pleasant, lively conversations with subjects generally deemed to be impossible or downright nasty (two words: Lou Reed).

Worst?
The worst of all time was an especially bored and sullen Jewel, who entertained herself in between her monosyllabic answers by lighting matches and flicking them into an ashtray in front of us. How charming!

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

Keep your head down and keep moving.

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

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Please don’t be mad at me if I make an otherwise reasonable request that may deviate from your plans. I don’t mean to be difficult.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Too many positive ones to mention. Always impressed with the professionalism and friendliness of 99 per cent of the PR people I deal with in Toronto.

I hate?
Rudeness, small-mindedness, Maroon 5.

I love?
My wife and daughter, heavy metal, Stevie Wonder, racquet sports, Scandinavian movie comedies, dessert.

Reading?
Lately: Simon Reynolds’ Retromania, Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, recent tomes on American horror movies in the ‘70s and Hollywood screenwriting.

Best place on earth?
Negril, Jamaica or my backyard.

Dinner guest?
Dr. John

Hero?
John Berger

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Mostly fresh music.

Pool or ocean?
Ocean.

Voicemail or email?
Email.

Media, Darling: Brian D. Johnson

Brian D. Johnson is best known as senior entertainment writer and film critic for Maclean’s, Canada’s weekly news magazine, where he has worked from 1985 to the present. He is also president of the Toronto Film Critics Association, and has worked professionally over the years as an author, musician and filmmaker.

Born in England and raised in Toronto, Johnson began his career as a staff reporter at the Toronto Telegram and the Montreal Gazette during the early 1970s. He has since written for publications such as the Globe and Mail, Saturday Night, Toronto Life, Chatelaine and Rolling Stone. Johnson is the author of three non-fiction books: Railway Country: Across Canada by Train, The XV Olympic Winter Games: The Official Commemorative Book and a history of the Toronto International Film Festival titled Brave Films, Wild Nights: 25 Years of Festival Fever.

Brian is married to author Marni Jackson and they have a son, Casey.

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
I always wanted to write, and the media turned out to be the fastest way to get into print.
Where would you like to be five years from now? 

On a northern lake or a southern beach, retired from working the media treadmill full-time, and doing my own creative work, as a writer and filmmaker.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry? 

Get an adventurous variety of experience in the world, traveling and working, before narrowing your horizons to a single specialty (such as film critic).

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
The New Yorker, the Sunday New York Times, CBC One, Real Time With Bill Maher, Steve Martin’s Twitter Feed.

Best interview you’ve ever had? 
The best would be any one of the various interviews I’ve done with Leonard Cohen over the years. 

Worst? 
The worst is a competitive category, but it would be a tie between Tommy Lee Jones and Melanie Griffith, neither of whom felt like playing ball.
Best advice you’ve ever been given? 

From documentary director Errol Morris, when asked what the key to conducting good interview is, he told me: “Shutting up”. His answer was met with a long silence.
What rule(s) do you live your life by? 

As few as possible. But trying to enjoy it is not a bad start.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros? 

If you want to build a trusting relationship with a journalist, think like one, and when asked off the record, be honest about the nature and quality of what you’re promoting.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.

Virginia Kelly is the best film publicist in town. She’s smart, funny, informed, responsive, candid and passionate about cinema. One of a kind.
I hate? 

Aspartame, freezing rain, and Rob Ford’s “vision” of Toronto.
I love? 

Swimming in a spring-fed Canadian lake with no motorboats and water that’s safe to drink.

Reading?
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varnasi by Jeff Dyer.

Best place on earth?
That lake, and its location is my secret.

Dinner guest?
Bob Dylan.

Hero
“We don’t need another hero”.
Favourite app? 
Flipboard for iPad.

Pool or ocean?
Lake.

Voicemail or email?
Email.

Media, Darling: Barry Hertz

Barry Hertz is the National Post’s Arts & Life editor. Prior to dreaming up pun-happy headlines and planning stories on summer blockbusters, he was conjuring straightlaced display and copy editing pieces on Middle East strife as a member of the Post’s night news desk. He is currently trying to co-ordinate TIFF coverage, and can be found breaking into panic sweats in the office foyer. 


Twitter: @HertzBarry, @nparts

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

I’ve always wanted to make a living writing, so journalism seemed a natural fit when deciding what to study in university. (This was about two years before everyone decided to collectively wring their hands over the future of print. Timing is everything.) While I always considered the media as a backup to my real plan (screenwriting, another easy-to-enter industry), it wasn’t until midway through my four years at Ryerson that I began to give journalism some serious, this-could-be-a-career consideration.

Where would you like to be five years from now?

On a beach in Thailand, flush with riches from the gutsiest Casino Rama heist of all time. Or, you know, editing while working on a book or TV show on the side.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Never burn any bridges and always, always, always be sure to spell people’s names correctly. Plus, it never hurts to be open to criticism and know your way around a press conference.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?

Every morning before heading up to the Far North (a.k.a. Don Mills), and throughout the day, I check out New York Magazine‘s Vulture website, New York TimesArts Beat blog, The AV Club, Hollywood Elsewhere (run by the cranky yet lovable Jeffrey Wells) and The Hollywood Reporter.

Best interview you’ve ever had?
Director Terry Gilliam is one of my idols, and getting the chance to speak with him for almost an hour (up from our scheduled 15 minutes) was one of those clichéd dream-come-true journalism moments. 

Worst?
Well, a certain sci-fi icon who shall go nameless once gave me one-word answers for the better part of 10 minutes. In short, I’ll never wear that franchise’s pajamas again.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Proofread your story twice before filing. Then proof it again.

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

Never check email after 10 p.m. But, it’s always 10 p.m. somewhere…

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

I think this point has been echoed by my Post colleagues, but please make sure you’ve actually read the publication you’re pitching to. I’ve yet to publish anything in the Post’s Arts & Life section on dog food, RV shows or how to pick up women at a chicken wing bar. It’s unlikely I ever will.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.

I’ve dealt with a large number of PR reps who go above and beyond — rushing to get last-minute photo requests filled, sneaking me in a few minutes early for extra interview time, etc. PR reps and the media are both here to make everyone’s lives easier, and for the most part, Toronto’s PR community gets that.

I hate?
15MB emails. And commuting. Two usually unrelated things.

I love?
Quiet nights filled with Breaking Bad and breakfast burritos.

Reading?

Too many magazines. Maybe I’ll get around to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, which is gathering dust on my nightstand. Or maybe not.

Best place on earth?

Trinity Bellwoods Park with a greasy bag of Chippy’s and mushy peas.

Dinner guest?
The New Yorker‘s David Grann.

Hero?
Batman. You meant comic book hero, right?

Favourite app?

Rdio.

Pool or ocean?
Pool. I like to see what’s lurking underneath.

Voicemail or email?

Email. Always.

Media, Darling: Laura Serra

We’re so excited to have Laura Serra On The Fourth Floor as our Media, Darling today.

I am the mother of the most beautiful tawny, green-eyed Chihuahua named Chloe. For work, I cover parties for the Globe and Mail (@GlobeParties) so be nice to me or I’ll put an unflattering photo of you in the paper or, God forbid, not feature your photo at all (just kidding :P). 

I’m also the Head Mistress, Whip-Cracker and Founder of Paws for the Cause (@pawsforthecause) – we dress up dogs and throw fun parties to raise money for sick animals. By “we” I mean the Paws committee, which is made up of my closest friends and respected colleagues, who also happen to be the smartest, prettiest, coolest people on the planet. This year, WE established a Paws for the Cause scholarship at the University of Guelph for a vet student and this is my most prized life accomplishment to date. 

Twitter: @lauraserra


What was your favourite class in high school? Why?

English Literature. Everyone in my family is an English major and my mom is even a high school English teacher so I probably didn’t have a choice. I like words more than numbers. I’m also excellent at bullshitting so essay writing came naturally.

How did you get your start?
A few years ago, an extremely wise woman named Sue Grimbly let me cover a party for The Globe and Mail. Pretty soon my uncanny ability to drink mediocre red wine and generate small talk was undeniable.

If you weren’t a Media, Darling, what would you be doing right now?
Crying, obviously. Or, probably having inappropriate relations with a bearded 20-something student as a professor of modernist literature at a B-class university.

Pitching or follow up: Phone or email?
I don’t even know the password to my work voicemail.

We know irrelevant pitches, calling you the wrong name and eight follow-ups are no-no’s; what else should publicists avoid doing?

Writing emails more than one paragraph long.

Hiding the time and date of an event at the bottom of the email.


Sending emails more than 1MB in size.

Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset – I usually fall asleep just before sunrise.

Scent?
I wear Chanel Bleu for men but my favourite scent to smell on a man is Gucci Pour Homme.

Cookie?
I’m savoury over sweet but if I have to, I choose regular ol’ chocolate chip.

Flower?
Pale pink peonies.

Ticklish?
Only on my right hip bone.

Shower or bath?

Usually bath then shower – relax, then wash hair. I know, I know, water usage, blah blah blah.

Film?
Les Invasions Barbares is my go-to answer for the favourite film question and yes, of course, I’m a cliché and love Wes Anderson stuff. What you don’t know is that my guilty pleasure movie is Fever Pitch because I love Jimmy Fallon and I love the Boston Red Sox stories about the curse of the bambino and the bloody sock. But mostly, I love it when Jimmy Fallon’s character says to Drew Barrymore’s, “You do this thing… it’s so cute, I wanna kill myself.”

Crush?
This guy on Twitter who I’ve never met, one of my ex-boyfriends, Ryan Gosling and Fabrizio Moretti.

First job?
Cashier at Shoppers Drug Mart when I was in Grade 9. God, I loved being a cashier and I was so good at it! I still remember the code for an in-store bottled water special – 1042876493.

Inspiration?
The usual suspects: art, photography and fashion. But also: my parents, a good conversation, surprises, and love. I had trouble answering this question so I asked my friend Maggie, who knows me better than I do, and she said, “Fashion, Chloe and your friends.” So, I guess I’m on the right track.

Media, Darling: Karon Liu

Karon Liu is The Grid‘s (formerly Eye Weekly) resident food writer and he considers himself to be the luckiest guy in the world since his main task is to eat. Prior to The Grid, he has written for Toronto Life, National Post, Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun, and his photos have appeared in More, Zoomer, National Geographic Traveler and on TorontoLife.com.


Can you spot Karon’s hand?
In addition to backpacking, stargazing and trying new foods, Karon also enjoys writing about himself in the third person.


What was your favourite class in high school? Why?
Photography class was my favourite because it broke up the monotony of staring at a textbook all day. It was the one class where I didn’t fall asleep. I learned how to develop my own film, manipulate photos without Photoshop and find my way around the darkroom when the red lightbulb would break. I also have many fond memories of hallucinating in an unventilated darkroom full of chemicals at 4 a.m.

How did you get your start as a writer?
After graduating with a journalism degree from Ryerson, I did a few internships and freelance gigs before becoming an editorial intern at Toronto Life magazine. They had just started a food blog called The Dish and I was pitching stories and taking every assignment that was handed to me. I didn’t know much about the restaurant industry at the time, so I had to do a lot of cramming. I continued to write for Toronto Life’s site for the next two years and then I moved on to The Grid, where I’m currently a staff writer.

If you weren’t a Media, Darling, what would you be doing right now?
Hiking in the Himalayas and avoiding work of any kind.

Pitching or follow up: Phone or email?
E-mail.

We know irrelevant pitches, calling you the wrong name and eight follow-ups are no-no’s; what else should publicists avoid doing?
Sending folders and packages full of press releases, CDs and USB keys. Writers and editors usually throw them out immediately, or keep the USB key and delete all the files in it. If I need additional information, I’ll ask.

Sunrise or sunset?
Sunrise when I’m on vacation, sunset for the rest of the year.

Scent?
Unscented.

Cookie?
My sister’s chocolate chip recipe.

Flower?
Chamomile. Add hot water, some honey and you’ve got a party.

Ticklish?
Yes. It’s why I broke up with Oprah.

Shower or bath?
Moist towelette.
Film?
Tie between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park.

Crush?
I prefer C-plus.

First job?
Working in the stockroom at The Gap in the Toronto Eaton Centre. I believe every teenager should work at least two years in the retail or food service industry to appreciate the value of a dollar and learn how to deal with jerks.

Inspiration?
Books, coworkers, friends, newspapers, an afternoon stroll, pretty much anything can spark an idea for an article, photo spread or what I’m going to have for lunch.

Media, Darling: Sarah Nicole Prickett

I’m 25, I was born in London, Ontario (ew), and I’m an unbalanced Libra. Also, I’m the style columnist for Eye Weekly, a regular contributor to FASHION Magazine and DazedDigital, and I’ve written for The Toronto Star, The National Post, Torontoist, Dossier Journal, Nico Magazine, and probably more.


Twitter: @xoxSNP

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
Say my name, first of all, and say it right. “Sara Nichole” is on vacation with limited access to email and will get back to you when she returns, in two-thousand-and-never. Little jokes go a long way; I’m a sucker for puns, especially in the subject line. Try asking how I’m doing. Above all, know what it is I write/blog/tweet about. It’s not difficult; I’m on the internet like red on M&Ms. I’m really rather “out there”. And yet! I get all these emails about vegan baby toys and ugly tech gadgetry and gross “VIP lounges” on King. Still, those are easy to ignore, so whatevs. 

It’s the pitches that are completely antithetical to my personal philosophies that make me want to throw things. Once, a beer company’s rep emailed me with a guide comparing the shapes of beer glasses to the shapes of womens’ bodies, then offered tips on how men should “help” women shop for bathing suits, with tips like “go for the most expensive one” and “don’t say anything, just grunt and whistle.” Would this be something I’d consider for Eye Weekly‘s (non-existent) swimsuit issue? My reply was the most sarcastic I’ve ever sent to a PR, and I’m not sorry.

What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?

Their obsessive communicative disorder. It never stops amazing me. Good PRs will always reply right away, even if they don’t have the answer. They’re always “working on it” and “getting images from the photographer this afternoon” and “thinking about which of our clients’ products would best fit your gift guide” and so on. They send reminder emails (without insinuating that I’ve forgotten, which… I usually have). They follow up. PRs are everything I’m not: organized, cheerful, on time, “with it.” I guess I could do my job without them, but I’d probably want to quit or throw myself under a streetcar.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?

Not having a personality. I get that fashion publicists have to wear all black, all the time, but do they have to be so colourless? It kills me to see them, and so many of them, always smiling and never laughing. I know you know when the product or client you’re repping is ridiculous; just wink and admit it. I won’t tell on you. I won’t quote you. But I will like you. Just give me anything at all to like. My favourite PRs are the ones who say, listen, you won’t be into this thing/place/person; don’t waste your time. Then, when they say I’ll be totally into something, I’m a thousand times more likely to believe it.
 
Your pet peeve:
PITCHES, EMAILS OR SUBJECT LINES IN ALL-CAPS TO DEMONSTRATE URGENCY. ARE YOU KANYE WEST? NO? THEN STOP IT.