The Telegraph's women's editor Emma Barnett on exclusivity and switching off

Emma Barnett: also presents a Sunday radio show on LBC
Emma Barnett: also presents a Sunday radio show on LBC

Tell us about your job.

I launched Wonder Women, The Telegraph’s online section for women, in October 2012. I took the idea to the editor because we do loads of amazing stuff in the paper for women, but we have a different audience online. There was a space for something a bit naughtier and cheekier. That’s why I have the role I have, because I came up with the section, pitched it, and here we are.

You have obviously been a success there. Has it always gone smoothly?

Obviously, we had to make sure Wonder Women was viable as we are a commercial business and it was a bit like launching a start-up in The Telegraph, which was quite exciting. There was no backlash, but I would say that it is difficult to get things off the ground. Launching a digital-first and a digital-only product is a big deal.

What is the first thing you do when you get into work?

Cup of tea? There has to be tea. I’ll read feeds, wires, what’s hot on social platforms, and I’ll read all the reports from our teams here. At about 7am, before I’m in the office, I’ll be emailing some of our contributors about what they need to get onto right now, because I’ll need it by 10am or 11am to reach the sweet spot at lunchtime. At lunchtime we regroup and talk about the afternoon and the next day.

How important is the use of social media channels to your job?

Social now is just so second nature I don’t even see it as a separate thing. The minute an article goes out, you tweet it. After you’ve hit ‘publish’ on the Telegraph website you hit ‘publish’ on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

What is your management style: shouter, weeper or supportive friend?

Being a Northerner [from Manchester], I’ve been told – and I hope – I’m very down to earth and I like to be straight with people. I like challenging people, I like asking them difficult questions, I like pushing people as hard as they can be pushed – very much for their own development and for the quality of the content.

What makes a great story for you?

From a pitch point of view, if someone can offer you something exclusive, that’s the best thing possible, and if they can get your name right that’s a bonus. I like access rather than being served or told what the story is, and it’s still nice (if someone is representing a decent person) if you can get exclusive access to them. Plus, the story needs to be saying something really new, or a genuinely different take on an issue.

Are there any subjects that you find so tedious or offensive that you won’t give them coverage?

Loads. A good example is studies where the sample size is less than 500 people; you’re just never going to use them.

What gives you the biggest job satisfaction?

Breaking news is still my buzz and I love that, but I get real satisfaction from challenging the status quo and busting myths.

The greatest pressure on me is…

We have a lot of content and a lot of brilliant people writing who want to get something out as soon as possible. It’s having enough time and capacity to get out brilliant content within the confines of the day.

As a child I wanted to be…

An actress, hence I’m a radio presenter now [Barnett hosts Sunday Drive on LBC between 4pm and 7pm].

In five years’ time I will be…

I think it’s safe to say I will still be writing and challenging things.

What is the best piece of journalistic advice you have received?

Keep asking questions, and don’t be afraid of the silence.

Who was your mentor?

My husband’s uncle [former BBC producer] Peter Weil. He’s got more than 30 years’ experience in media and to have that kind of long career you’ve got to be quite entrepreneurial. He has taught me to think about the long game and how to work with people, but mainly he’s very innovative.

How successful are you at a work life/balance?

I don’t look at emails on a Friday night or a Saturday and if I didn’t have a Sunday radio show I wouldn’t look at them then either. But I think that even if I didn’t, by the end of the week I’d have a sneaky peek. It’s hard to turn off. Really hard.

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