The MailOnline's showbiz editor Donna McConnell talks schmoozing with celebs

Donna McConnell: MailOnline showbiz editor
Donna McConnell: MailOnline showbiz editor

How do you feel as you come into work?

I’m calm. I like to relax on my way in. I don’t use my journey to prepare for work because I know the 11-and-a-half-hour deluge of showbiz that’s waiting for me, so I read a paper.

Why do you do this job?

I have wanted to be a journalist ever since I was 12 and realised I was good at English and crap at maths.

As a child I wanted to be…

A dancer when I was very young.

What is the worst time to pitch to you?

Any time before 11am because I’m catching up with the LA office, prepping for conference and tidying up the overnight stories.

What is the best time to pitch to you?

Any time after 11am.

What makes a great story?

Something unexpected with a great picture. Simon Cowell having a baby with a married American woman was so unexpected – it was a great story for us.

What is your view of PR professionals?

They can be very helpful. A lot of our stuff comes from overnight parties and we can’t be at all of them so PRs often give us details and colour.

The one thing that gets in the way of doing my job is…

My phone.

Are there subjects that you just won’t give oxygen?

Really badly staged photo ops of celebs feebly holding a product. Mind you, Chantelle Houghton dressed as a lettuce was so bad we ran it.

The biggest non-story of the past month was…

It is my job to find the story in everything.

If I weren’t a news editor, I would be a…

Fashion designer.

What gives you the biggest satisfaction in your job?

Taking run-of-the-mill agency copy, spotting an angle and getting it up first. So our Tom Hanks diabetes story was great because we spotted that his diabetes might be related to yo-yo dieting for film roles. I especially enjoy rescuing stories that aren’t doing well by redressing them with a new headline and sell.

To write the sell you have to tell the story in a way that draws the reader in. We always try to keep the language fresh. We have a banned list of phrases writers aren’t allowed to use. "All smiles", "red alert", "lady in red", "flaunts her curves" are all on it now. I have tried to ban "adorable" but I’m having enormous difficulty stamping it out.

What is the greatest pressure on you?

To see everything, read everything, know everything.

Which outlet do you most admire for its news coverage and why? 

None in particular. I like bits of TMZ, NYT and Vulture for pop culture. Complex for interviews.

What is in your lunch box?

Pret Soup and a roll or Whole Foods salad.

What is the most memorable headline?

"There are worse jobs: Rihanna’s bodyguard forced to babysit scantily clad star from midnight till 6AM as she dutty wines at Carnival." It tickles me that "dutty wine" made it on to the MailOnline site.

What is your greatest career fear?

That whatever comes next won’t be as great as this job.

In five years’ time I will be…

Anna Wintour?

What is the best piece of journalistic advice?

Don’t take no for an answer – either in getting an interview or going for the job you want.

From whom have you learned the most?

My gran, a tough broad from Jamaica who made a life for herself here and then in the US. Miss Wilkins, my junior school teacher who gave me confidence in my abilities, and Danny Wheeler, the former MailOnline editor.

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