The style Editor for Heat magazine, Jo Hoare started as an assistant and through hard work, determination and the ability to massage delicate celebrity egos, is now at the top of her field. I spoke to her to find out the best ways to break into the magazine industry and to swap horror stories!
WMW – Did you always know that you wanted to get into journalism? What steps did you take as soon as you knew?
Jo – No not at all, I knew I wanted to do something with words as have always found writing came very naturally, and I’m quite lazy so anything that comes easily appeals, so I went to university to study English with no clue of really where it would lead. I still didn’t know once I’d finished my degree so went on to do an English Masters with the thought that maybe would stay in academia but found it isolating and dull and hard to feel much worth in writing something that probably only my lecturers and a handful of postgraduate students would ever read.
I was at a bit of a loss after my Masters, ended up working as a P.A in a clinic on Harley Street-which meant spending all day showing people where they could leave urine and semen samples – for best part of a year before deciding I wanted to try and get into magazines. I decided to get a qualification and did an NCTJ course whilst looking for work experience placements.
WMW – What was your first editorial job?
Jo – Style Assistant at heat
WMW – Do you think it’s possible to have a truly successful career in journalism if you don’t live in a major city?
Jo – Tricky one to answer. I know plenty of people who have moved outside of London once they have built their careers up to a certain level and have a reputation but it’s harder when you’re starting out. Because no one goes in instantly writing huge pieces it is easier in the early days to be around and easily reachable so if you need extra help or someone last minute to fill a shift/go and do an interview/go to a shoot you can call on someone who can come in with no hassle Saying that if you’ve built up a good writing portfolio through something like your own blog there’s nothing to say you couldn’t pitch pieces to national mags and papers and be very successful at doing this. I think in my area- fashion and beauty- it is difficult to be outside of London as it’s where all the shows/events/product launches happen.
WMW – Who was your ‘dream employer’ within publishing?
Jo – I honestly didn’t know that much about it when I started! I thought in terms of magazines rather than publishing houses.
WMW – Do you think that the snobbery within the editorial sector is unwarranted and that all journalism has equal value?
Jo – Occasionally when you’ve had a day of reading about awful things in the ‘real’ news it’s easy for it to feel a bit hard to go into another meeting about Kim Kardashian’s latest fashion faux pas BUT I always think that people need light and dark- mags like heat offer escapism, fun and frivolity in a world that feels increasingly tough and I’m proud to be able to offer people that and think we do a good job.
WMW – How did you come to work for Heat magazine?
Jo – I actually bumped into someone at a party who was working for the mag at the time and needed someone to come in and assist her on a project for a month – I loved it and ended up becoming their regular holiday cover for whenever junior writers or assistants went on holiday or were sick (hence me saying it can be important to be around and available) this eventually led to an assistant role.
WMW – Are you a celeb-fiend in your private life too? How important do you think it is to have a genuine interest for the field you report in, or should journalists be able to ‘fake it’?
Jo – Yes I still love celebrity – I think in this job you do have to as the world of celebrity is so fast moving now, if you didn’t enjoy finding out about it you’d drown. Of course you can’t keep up to date on everything, for example I never watch TOWIE, but I love Made in Chelsea…and of course there are times when you have to fake it. I can be sat in a meeting thinking I have NO idea who this person is everyone’s talking about…but that’s what iPhones are for.
WMW – At any point, did you begin to lose faith and consider other careers?
Jo – Not really as I’d saved up enough money during my year as a P.A to mean that I had a little breathing space to wait it out til my dream job came up.
WMW – What advice would you give to other women who are looking to get into journalism?
Jo – Start writing for yourself – get a blog, follow interesting writers on twitter, read everything you can get your hands on. I’m also pretty sceptical about expensive courses in things like fashion media or writing for magazines, even bona fide university ones, I think your money is better spent supporting yourself through work placements as most of the time the person with six months real experience will get the job over the person with the extra qualifications. All Bauer (my publishing house who also own Grazia, Closer, FHM among others) entry level jobs and work placements are onwww.gothingbig.org so it’s a good place to see what’s on offer.
WMW – Bonus nosey question – Have you ever had to deal with a celeb that was so unreasonable that you feared you would lose your job if you responded to them? If yes… can we get a small hint as to who it was? And how did you deal with it?
Jo – YES. A 90’s pop star who took four hours to have one hairstyle done then ripped it all out just as we were shooting her. I said we’d have to cut the piece right down from the two spreads she thought she was getting to a single page and as she was there on behalf of a beauty brand who were probably paying her a fortune she started behaving after that.
We also had a teen star who had a number one (and was never heard of again), shut my head in a door after I refused to let her wear a see through bra and no top. I told her we weren’t in the business of peddling underage porn and we would probably be arrested.
So there you have it. Get a cracking sense of humour, spend a year organising sperm and you too could have an incredible career in magazine publishing! I in return, offered up a story of a young ‘star’ who smelt distinctly of Mattessons garlic sausage…oh the glamour of it all…