April 23, 2019 (Updated )
It was just four years ago that gal-dem was born in Bristol. Fast-forward to now and the magazine is hiring for its first interns (paid of course), they now have a staff team of nine, and recently ran a takeover of The Guardian Weekend. It’s undeniably one of the most exciting new platforms for writing in today’s industry.
Now Head of Editorial, it’s fair to say Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff has been on one hell of a journey. As well as working on gal-dem, she was also the winner of the 2017 Georgina Henry Award for Digital Innovation at The Press Awards and has written for Dazed, Vice, the Guardian and more. Here’s how she does it…
My day starts at…
I wake up around seven and stay in bed for a solid hour. I get up at 8am, rush to get ready and then head off to the train station. Once I get into work, I read the news from the papers I pick up on the way. Then we’ll have a morning meeting at 10am.
This is all very new though, because we’ve only been going for four weeks in office. About three or four members of the team will usually be there and we’ll discuss the news and any upcoming features, and talk about things we think will be valuable.
My typical day involves…
So far I’ve been quite desk-based but hopefully that will change as we move forward. I thought especially for the first month, it was important for me to be a presence in the office; to make sure I’m getting in on time and I’m being a pseudo-role model. Not that any of the people we work with really need that, but for my own sanity in a managerial position. I want to live up to the position I’ve been put into.
My days mainly consist of emails and editing other people’s work, which I actually wasn’t expecting, I thought I’d have a bit more time to do some writing. We seem to be averaging around three pieces per day at the moment, but it can be as many as five, which are produced inhouse. We’re going to have commissioning budget from the end of April, so that will be fun.
The thing that surprises me most about my job is…
I’m a massive pessimist, and I’m always expecting things to go tits up, so I guess it surprises me that things haven’t gone tits up, yet. But apart from that I’m prepared for most things as we’ve been doing it for so long and we curated our own jobs.
I got the job because…
I did my undergrad at Goldsmiths and very quickly realised academia was not for me. I started doing a lot for my student magazine and newspaper, and then I got on to the Guardian Positive Action scheme. That was my first ever bit of work experience in the industry. After that, my dreams of becoming a journalist felt more viable, because until then I didn’t know anyone in the industry.
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I worked in a pub for six months and then did an NCTJ. After that I was working in local news for six months, doing property features randomly. I then got on to the Guardian Scott Trust Bursary scheme, and at the same time was offered an internship with ITV in Washington, so I had to choose between them. I chose the Guardian because I really wanted to work for them.
gal-dem kicked off at the same time I began my MA. But after I graduated, I did internships at the Financial Times and Vice, then I landed a three-month contract at Dazed & Confused magazine, which led to me becoming their weekend editor. I was working every Saturday and Sunday, and freelancing throughout the week, which really meant that I was working seven days. All throughout that time we were sorting out office space for gal-dem and professionalising what we were doing. Then we got investment and now we’re in the office!
I’m most proud of…
The Guardian Weekend takeover. The way that came together, and how the ideas formed, and who we were able to platform; I’m really proud of that.
Soooo happy with my @galdemzine @guardian magazine takeover! Fresh and engaging editorial, fabulous cover with the stunning @MichaelaCoel. @livlittle you and your team should be very proud. Wish @guardian mag was like this every weekend! pic.twitter.com/yh4LE98wEK
— June Sarpong MBE (@junesarpong) August 11, 2018
There are so many little things that most people probably wouldn’t have noticed, but it really was a magical piece of work to be involved with. I think we really did reach a huge range of people and we know that we upped their sales quite significantly for that week.
If I was starting again…
My life has been a series of coincidences. I’ve never viewed myself as being particularly ambitious, even though for a long time I’ve known I wanted to be a journalist. The only real intention I had was once I realised how undiverse the media landscape was, I wanted to bring people up with me. I guess that’s what I’m doing now, so I’m really pleased and proud about that.
If people wanted to follow in my footsteps, I’d say…
Go with your gut. I’m very keen on journalists knowing their ethics and choosing very carefully who they decide to write for and why. I see too many very good journalists who are young ending up working at papers where they morally disagree with what they publish, and yet have decided to give their skills to them anyway. Because of how middle-class this industry is, those people did not need to take those jobs. To try and argue otherwise I think is really disingenuous.
We all get on really well and a lot of us have known each other for a long time. I work with my best friends really. I socialise with them naturally anyway, but we’re making conscious decisions to do fun things at lunchtimes and after work when we can.
We’re based in Bethnal Green so there’s not an obvious socialising area, but there’s a lot of really cool hipster places, that I kind of hate but they’re quite nice to go to. There are loads of Bangladeshi and Indian restaurants on Whitechapel Road, so we’ve been to a few of them.
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