April 27, 2021 (Updated )
Here’s a not-so-well-kept secret – lifestyle journalism is the best type of journalism (in my opinion). As I said previously, this wide-encompassing area is anything that falls under the spectrum of being alive.
And while many of these stories might not feel like traditional ‘news’, lifestyle journalism is about making people feel less lonely, entertaining them, educating them or even working out your own traumas on the page. I’ve been doing it for three years – I’ve also worked on news and showbiz briefly, but lifestyle has my heart. So how did I get here?
I didn’t have a set goal of becoming a lifestyle reporter but thankfully, the powers that be placed me in this category. For the last three years I was on the lifestyle desk at Metro.co.uk where I was placed after completion of the grad scheme. The recruiters felt the stories I’d published on my blog and for other free websites had a tone suitable to lifestyle.
So for anyone hoping to get into this arena – think about the kinds of stories you pitch and/or write for yourself. Are you making social commentary? Writing about lived experience? Or perhaps you’re taking a political concept and exploring how that affects people. These are things that are considered under the remit of lifestyle or living. If you tend to skew towards these topics, lifestyle journalism might be for you.
What Is Lifestyle Journalism – And Could It Work For You?
For me, I was writing about race, feminism, and culture – all of which often sit on lifestyle. It showed recruiters the areas I’m interested in while telling them which desk I would be most suited to.
But this might not be the traditional way of becoming a lifestyle reporter – not everyone does a grad scheme after all. So, I spoke to some others in the same field to find out how they got where they are.
Niellah Arboine, life editor at gal-dem, an award-winning publication by and for women and non-binary people of colour, got her role after starting as a contributor for the publication. She is also a founding member and worked her way up to become an editor in 2017.
She tells Journo Resources: “I’m really into crafts, hobbies and wellness so I translated my real-life passions into journalism. The best thing about lifestyle journalism is getting to write and edit about amazing food, travels, and what makes people who they are – I think it really transports you, it’s lovely looking into people’s lives. And I think especially for Black and brown people, wellbeing is so important, having that respite beyond our trauma in journalism is really needed.”
“Lifestyle journalism isn’t taken as seriously as other aspects of journalism, but in reality, I think it’s one of the most connecting aspects of journalism that really speaks to and cares about audiences.”
Despite the cultural significance of lifestyle journalism, there are some unfortunate cons too, says Niellah. She adds: “I think one of the cons is feeling like lifestyle journalism isn’t taken as seriously as another aspects of journalism, but in reality, I think it’s one of the most connecting aspects of journalism that really speaks to and cares about audiences and their wants and needs.”
What Experience Do You Need To Work In Lifestyle Journalism?
Natasha Preskey, an award-winning freelance journalist, knew she wanted to get into this area early on. She explains: “When I was a teenager, I contacted my local paper (The Isle of Wight County Press) asking for a work experience placement and spent a week writing local stories, shadowing court reporters and doing admin tasks. Learning some basics about reporting, interviewing and generally picking up the phone was really valuable, and the advice I was given has helped to shape all the work I’ve done since.”
Natasha also studied English and Creative Writing at uni and later did a journalism master’s course for which she received some funding from The Printing Charity.
She adds: “I began writing features as a freelancer (alongside a mix of online news shifts) after being made redundant from my first writing job at a now-defunct website. My first national feature commission came when I pitched a story about social issues in my hometown to the New Statesman. I was then able to reference that byline when pitching to other titles like Refinery29, Elle and Vice. I gradually built up a few specialist areas as I cut my teeth, and started writing on a broader remit as my confidence grew.”
“I gradually built up a few specialist areas as I cut my teeth, and started writing on a broader remit as my confidence grew.”
Since writing for major publications such as Stylist, Elle, Vice, Refinery29, and The Independent, as both an employee and freelancer, Natasha has experienced all the positives of lifestyle journalism.
“Lifestyle journalism encompasses so many different things,” she says. “Writing about the way we live our lives can mean anything from in-depth stories about biases in healthcare to fun pieces about new food trends.
“I’ve had the chance to interview people about some of their most important and moving life experiences, as well as the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading academic experts. You can be playful and curious, incisive and investigative, and cultivate broad-ranging interests.”
Lifestyle Journalism Is About Everyone – And It Can Be Political
But the one recurring downside, as Niellah explained, is that these topics are often looked down upon. Natasha continues: “Sadly, lifestyle journalism isn’t always taken seriously. Especially among older journalists, there is sometimes a perception that lifestyle is code for fluff or ‘things women are interested in’ and that, therefore, it isn’t of value.
“As well as observing the world around them in a fun and relatable way, lifestyle journalists’ work also involves examining inequalities and exploring areas which have a political dimension running through them, such as health, sex and science.”
Natasha’s sentiments are echoed by Sabrina Barr, who used to be a lifestyle reporter at The Independent but then pivoted to TV reporting at Metro.co.uk.
She explains how she got to where she is: “When I became a lifestyle writer, it was my first experience of working in a newsroom. I had previously worked at a fitness magazine and wanted to broaden the topics that I was writing about, which is why I felt that going into lifestyle would be a good fit. After being interviewed and doing a writing test for The Indy, I was offered the job, which I had for almost three years.”
“One of the best parts of working in lifestyle is the versatility – so many different subjects fall into the category. No two days are ever the same.”
Sabrina explains that while she enjoyed working in lifestyle, TV reporting was her dream hence why she made the change. But working in the lifestyle realm gave her plenty of transferable skills.
She adds: “One of the best parts of working in lifestyle journalism is the versatility – so many different subjects fall into the category, from fashion to relationships, food, fitness and mental health, so no two days are ever the same.
“One of the main pieces of advice I would give for someone hoping to get into lifestyle journalism – or any area of journalism for that matter – is to try to reach out to the person who is considering you as a candidate and make yourself known to them if you can, just to make an introduction that could make you stand out amongst your competitors.
“As a lifestyle journalist, you need to have the ability to write about a variety of topics, some that you might be more well-versed in than others, so you must ensure that you do thorough research. Be open-minded, have fun with your writing and trust your voice!” Good advice, if you ask us!
Four Tips To Getting Into And Working In Lifestyle Journalism
• Look at the kind of stories you like writing – are they about how things affect people, or do you prefer writing straight news stories. If it’s the former, you might be perfect for lifestyle journalism.
• Consume as many lifestyle stories as possible. Look across online and print publications, including both newspapers and magazines.
• Follow the work of publications and writers who you like closely. Ask yourself what it is about their style that attracts you to their work and think critically about how you could use it yourself. You can also reach out to journalists for tips and advice.
• Consider which perspectives or groups are being left out in mainstream news. Represent them if you can.