Grilled: The Ecologist editor Oliver Tickell

Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist editor, on conspiracy theories, email overload and making an impact.

What are your feelings as you come into work?

Here we go again...

Why do you do this job?

When I saw the job advertised, I just had this powerful sense that it had my name on it. And so it proved to be.

As a child I wanted to be...

An architect. But my brother got there first. I eventually came to journalism as most people come to most things – by accident. I started as an environmentalist and journalism grew out of that interest.

What is the worst time to pitch to you?

Late on a Friday afternoon because I am trying to wrap up two days’ worth of stories for the weekend.

What is the best time to pitch to you?

I’m not telling. Actually, I’m not sure there is a ‘best time’.

What makes a great story for you?

One that speaks to the hearts and minds of our readers.

What is your view of PR professionals?

They have a job to do... and many do it well. We have run a number of stories that have come to us via PRs.

What one thing gets in the way of you doing your job?

Too much email.

Is there any subject that you find so boring or offensive you just won’t give it oxygen?

Contrail conspiracies. The idea that there is a conspiracy to squirt planet-destroying particles from aeroplanes is nonsense. It’s a plot with no obvious motive and no protagonist.

What gives you the biggest job satisfaction?

When a really important story goes big, makes an impact and opens a lot of people’s eyes to the important stuff that is going on in the world. The most recent example is our story entitled ‘Gaza: Israel’s $4bn gas grab’, which within a few days of publication received more than 8,000 Facebook likes – a record for my period as editor. 

The greatest pressure on me is…

The endless floods of emails. If I was to keep up with them all, that alone would take up 100 per cent of my time.

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

Just get on with it!

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

[Russian TV channel] RT – although obviously operating on a shoestring budget, it succeeds in producing a compelling counter-narrative to that of the mainstream media. It may not tell us much, or indeed anything, about Russia, but if there’s a big protest in London, the only place you will see it on TV is RT. The lie of the mainstream British media is generally not in what they do tell you, but in what they keep quiet about. A case in point is the massive scale of civilian death and destruction of property and infrastructure being inflicted by the Kiev government in eastern Ukraine. RT is an important part of filling that information void and balancing the often partisan and blinkered perspective of our mainstream media. The frequent denouncement of RT on the BBC and by top American politicians as ‘propaganda’ shows it is doing a good job – in that they can no longer just ignore it.

What’s in your lunch box?

Nothing – I don’t eat lunch.

My greatest career fear is…

Getting key facts wrong in a really important attacking article – laying The Ecologist open to legal action at worst, and at best just looking really stupid. I’m happy to say it has not happened so far – and I intend to make sure it never does.

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