Grilled: London Evening Standard assistant editor, arts, Fiona Hughes

Fiona Hughes, assistant editor, arts, for London Evening Standard, never has enough hours in a day.

Grilled: London Evening Standard assistant editor, arts, Fiona Hughes

What are your feelings as you come into work?
Depending on where I am in the week, "What ­excitements will the day bring?" or "What fresh hell?"
Why do you do this job?
Because the arts are essential to our ­wellbeing as individuals and as a society, and trying to communicate the fun of it to readers is fun in itself.
As a child I wanted to be…
For a bit I wanted to be a lawyer because it seemed to be about looking into things thoroughly. I went off that idea when I ­realised it wasn’t about right or wrong, though. I got into acting for a while but was always too self-conscious. At university I was keen on film-making.
What is the worst time to pitch you?
I don’t really have time in the day to listen to pitches but I’ll always follow up a concise email suggesting something relevant. Every day PR people send ridiculously long emails that I can’t even read – 200 emails in one day is not ­unusual.
What is your view of PR professionals?
Some are brilliantly helpful and great to work with but others just shouldn’t be there. If they all came with integrity and respect for journalists, they would get that back. Too many PRs treat us as stupid, which has obvious consequences.
Do you have a favourite PR person? Why?
It wouldn’t do to name them but the in-house press officers are almost always best. It’s the free-floating companies that must have to spend their time pitching for new clients from which I get the least help and most bother.
What makes a great story for you?
Something new – it’s surprising how many PR people imagine I want to run the same story or ­interview as everyone else. That’s called ­advertising.

What one thing gets in the way of you doing your job?
Never having enough time to sift through all the incoming information. There is always ­something that I regret has slipped through my fingers.
Is there any subject you find so boring or offensive you just won’t give it oxygen?
Common decency aside, the business of the arts is to keep an open mind.
What gives you the biggest job satisfaction?
The head of a theatre company told me that our story helped save her company; when something on my pages gets picked up by other papers; when someone we tipped as a new talent makes it; when someone I’ve trained gets promoted.
The greatest pressure on me is…
Never having enough time. To read all the books, see all the films, visit all the exhibitions, get to all the theatres, talk to all the interesting people, ­answer all the emails. The art of selection is key.
What is your management style: shouter, weeper or supportive friend?
None of these. Surely we all work in a more ­professional environment in these busy times?
Which outlet do you most admire for its news coverage and why?
The competition is unequal. The news team of the Standard covers a particular beat extremely well but the BBC obviously has more resources than anybody else.
What’s in your lunch box?
Wholefoods’ sushi or salad, or something ­unsatisfactory from the canteen.
My greatest career fear is…
That newspapers will lose faith in the arts, ­failing to see that it’s the thing their readers choose to do in their free time, with their own money.
In five years’ time I will be…
Who knows?
What is the best piece of journalistic advice you have received?
A former editor, on a trade paper, said: "Don’t ­forget who the readers are."
From who have you learned the most?
That same editor.

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