Media Profile: Setting the rhythm of Life - Sheryl Garratt, editor, Observer Life

Sheryl Garratt isn’t feeling too hot. Last night she was at the Met bar for Meg Mathews’ regular Thursday night session and she’s understandably tender. ’You’re going to have to make me sound clever,’ she says, ’because I don’t feel very clever right now.’

Sheryl Garratt isn’t feeling too hot. Last night she was at the Met

bar for Meg Mathews’ regular Thursday night session and she’s

understandably tender. ’You’re going to have to make me sound clever,’

she says, ’because I don’t feel very clever right now.’



She may not be feeling clever, but it is one of the first words most of

her former colleagues use when asked to describe her. ’She’s very, very

clever at running magazines,’ says Chris Heath, contributing editor at

Rolling Stone, who wrote for Garratt when she was editor of the

Face.



’She’s far more analytical than she thinks she is. She is also the kind

of editor who can inspire you to do things you didn’t think you could

but will take no nonsense when she thinks you are not doing it.’



She is going to need all of these talents. She took over the editorship

of the Observer’s Life section in December as part of the new team

headed up by editor Roger Alton and deputy John Mulholland. This, some

media analysts argue, is the last chance team. If they can’t turn the

paper around, there is a real risk that the tidal wave of falling ad

revenue and falling circulation that is threatening the newspaper market

is going to take the Observer down first.



’I am aware of the way the newspaper market is going,’ Garratt says,

’but it doesn’t intimidate me. Newspaper circulations are falling but

magazine circulations are rising. I think people have been turning to

magazines because they are fun. If you look around at Sunday newspapers

you see pages of analysis and extremely worthy features, but you rarely

see any of the joy that magazines have to offer.’



As an example, Garratt talks about the peak years of Loaded, when the

magazine fizzed with the joy of working there and the staff oozed that

pleasure in every word they wrote. That is the kind of atmosphere that

she wants to recreate in the office and on the page. She has already

started working on the visuals in the magazine and she hopes to push

through a redesign in evolutionary stages.



’Most newspaper magazines are edited by newspaper journalists and I

don’t think the skills really transfer,’ she says. She is appalled by

the willingness of newspapers to take part in one-hour celebrity

interview line-ups.



She wants to start booking up the long term interviews which give

journalists days or weeks with the celebrity. It is a style of interview

that she championed as editor of The Face. She has now hired writers

Miranda Sawyer and Lynne Barber and she wants the celebrity publicists

to help her develop those interviews. She has got a warning, however.

’The two words that will instantly end my relationship with any PR

person are copy control,’ she says. ’I am in charge of my front page and

I am not in the business of working for the celebrity. I find that

culture of compliance incredibly annoying.’



Soon after she whirls back out to the office in a ball of editing energy

to see the first pages of next week’s magazine. I am left wondering what

Garratt is like when she is not hung over.



HIGHLIGHTS

1989

Editor, The Face

1996

Wrote Adventures in Wonderland, the definitive guide to ten years of

clubbing

1998

Editor, Life



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