George is a freelance journalist and also studies politics at the University of Sheffield. He writes for the student newspaper Forge Press, where his piece on the struggles of student parents earned him a nomination for ‘best feature’ at the Student Publication Association Awards in 2023. He’s a proud Brummie and a long-suffering supporter of Norwich City football club.
May 25, 2023 (Updated )
At the time we chat, Lucy Dunn has only been The Spectator’s social media editor for a year, but she’s already become integral to the publication’s coverage of Scotland and the NHS. And, as a qualified doctor, it should go without saying that Dunn does not come from a typical journalistic background.
Thanks to the various Covid lockdowns, she turned her talents to writing and is now making a name for herself at one of Westminster’s most influential publications. We catch up in her hometown of Glasgow.
My Day Starts At…
I tend to get up relatively early, around half 6, and start listening to ‘Good Morning Scotland’ because I do most of the Scottish coverage for [The Spectator]. Also, because I do the socials, I’ll get all the Twitter and Facebook stuff lined up for the day. I’ll listen to the news and start reading up on stuff — all very chilled.
Then we start work at 10 o’clock, which is quite nice. It’s very office-based for the most part, which means you can switch between projects throughout the day. Then we finish at six, and sometimes some of us will have a drink afterwards.
The Publication I Work At Is…
It’s a brilliant place to work. It’s also quite unconventional.
We are quite small, we don’t have that many in-house writers, and everyone’s quite young. Weirdly, I thought my colleagues would be a lot older, but almost everyone’s under 35 — and I’m 24, so I’m one of the youngest there. Because there’s an age range of 25 to 35, we all get on quite well — it’s a fairly close-knit group.
If you’ve ever watched the American The Office, it’s something like that. Crazy stuff happens at crazy times. It was one of the editor’s birthdays recently and he brought in 60 oysters and five bottles of champagne, which was an interesting Friday.
My Day-To-Day Responsibilities Are…
On the social media side of it, I’ve got my own routine that I work to and don’t really have a line manager. When it comes to the Scotland section of my job, which I’ve started doing more of the editing and commissioning for, it can vary quite a lot. It’s mostly seeing what writers are able to produce and what ideas they’ve got.
Sometimes you’ll have days where you’re editing or writing four or five different pieces, which can take a lot of time, and other days it’s very chill. There’s a lot of variation, I think.
[For set-piece events], it is different. I led our SNP contest coverage, and I was in Murrayfield for the announcement. So, for those kinds of events, it is really exciting because it’s new, very current affairs stuff — it’s all quite fast-paced.
Also, because we’re not a breaking news organisation, our coverage is a little bit different to the national papers. You’d line writers up in advance, wait an hour or two after the announcement, and get the analysis rolling in.
I Always Thought I’d Be…
I did a six-year degree doing medicine because my whole family are medics and I’m naturally quite competitive. It also guaranteed a job at the end of it.
I was always interested in writing and did my intercalated degree [an additional year of study within a medical degree to gain another qualification], in medical humanities, which is an English literature and philosophy course — and then lockdown happened.
I get very restless when there’s not a lot going on and just threw myself into everything. I started writing for the student paper and realised that journalism is a way that I can write as a job. After that, I knew that was what I wanted to do.
The Transition From Student Journalism To Professional Journalism Was…
Not too bad. What was daunting at first — because I wasn’t from a politics background — was that in meetings I felt like I was starting on the back foot. I didn’t read as much of the news as I do now, and at The Spectator they all consume news like nothing else.
In terms of the stuff I’m doing day-to-day [and] how everything works, student journalism prepared me really well for that.
I Got This Job Because…
The Spectator was looking for a social media editor and they were very conscious of the fact that it was a fairly important role for growing their audience.
It wasn’t a job I’d ever thought about doing before, but it was a way in. I applied, they invited me in for a week of work experience, and at the end of it they offered me a job.
My Previous Experience That Helped Was…
With the student paper, I was basically doing what The Spectator wanted me to do for them, although obviously in a different context, so I knew a lot of the role and didn’t have to be trained for it.
Immediately when I went there for the first week of experience, I was very organised and had a sort of system going, and they appreciated that. But I think they also found it interesting that I had a background outside of English literature or politics.
It certainly gives you your own niche to write about. In many ways, having a breadth of life experience is also helpful, because the more you’ve done, the more you can write about.
The Thing Which Surprises Me Most About My Job Is…
This isn’t necessarily surprising, but I found it really enjoyable. The office is just a hilarious place to be.
We don’t really work from home — although I have recently been posted up to Scotland — so you are in all the time. You go into the office, there’s so much chat and something new happening every day. It’s also a weekly so we’re not as fast-paced as a normal newsroom.
Also, just how interesting everyone is is a pleasant surprise. I love having conversations with people, sitting, and talking, getting really in-depth, about stupid stuff.
There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it, but at the same time it feels very easy and laid-back.
I Am Most Proud Of…
What I’m proud of most recently is the SNP coverage stuff. I was up in Aberdeen for the hustings, then down to Dundee, getting to interview all the candidates — which was really cool, and I hope that doesn’t stop.
If I Was Starting Again…
As a student journalist I would’ve read more news, I suppose.
Also, as a newly professional journalist, I would be more confident. It’s quite an intuitive profession, so you do pick things up as you go along, just by watching people doing things and trying to replicate them.
Even a couple of months ago, I look back and think I shouldn’t have doubted myself so much.
If People Wanted To Follow In My Footsteps, I’d Say…
If you want to go into journalism, you have to be very prepared to work outside of working hours. I start working as soon as I get up, and finish when I go to bed. I don’t have much of an issue with it, I enjoy it, but it’s not for everyone. If you want a nine-to-five job and have your weekends, then journalism is probably not the best career for you.
In terms of advice, I’d say don’t get put off by job titles. Go for any media company offering a job, because it’s so important to get that foot in the door — in terms of getting to know people, getting work experience.
The Thing I’d Most Like To Change About The Industry Is…
We’re in a sort of post-truth era and there are many outlets that have been set up in recent years, that are driving the culture wars.
I don’t like it because it increases polarisation and, as much as people talk about free speech and wanting to debate, it gets to a point where the debate gets so saturated by what’s essentially just people hating on the other side, that I don’t think it makes for good journalism.
But equally, it is good to talk about contentious issues, and I do think that’s what journalism should always be there for. Publishing hate speech is wrong, but if you don’t allow certain views into the mainstream debate, they’ll just be aired on their own little platform — which can make discourse quite volatile.
After Work, I…
At The Spectator, we’re very sociable — we have lots of Spectator events like monthly parties with politicians and journalists.
The one thing I found funny about going down south is that, where I’d drive all around Glasgow, you don’t really need a car in London so everyone’s free to go to the pub after work. In Glasgow, on the weekend we’d all have one massive night out, so I found it really weird when I first came to London and people would go home after one or two drinks. The whole drinking culture is just very different.
Finding that balance between social and work life is quite difficult. There’s always been a social aspect to journalism and a drinking aspect to journalism, but if you actually want to deliver good stuff, you can’t be out all the time.