Grilled: Andrei Harmsworth, showbiz editor, Metro

Longstanding Metro showbiz editor Andrei Harmsworth talks playing 'air tennis' and not being cut out to work in PR.

PRs who do their homework and tailor their pitch find favour with Andrei Harmsworth
PRs who do their homework and tailor their pitch find favour with Andrei Harmsworth

Did you always want to be a journalist?

I actually set out to manage art galleries when I moved to London. The journalism and showbiz thing happened by accident; I was trying my hand at styling but got diverted. I also have an illustrious past of toilet-cleaning, real estate and renting out windsurfers.

How long have you been at Metro?

This is my 12th year at Metro – which fills me with pride and terror in equal measure.

Do you get a lot of approaches from PR professionals?

All day, every day. PRs, particularly great ones, are the heartbeat of what we do. The best think "What do Guilty Pleasures do, who do they feature and how?", then tailor the pitch to make it a perfect fit. You know a pitch is great when you barely have to do anything to the story.

What is your view of PR professionals as a whole?

There are so many agencies and their approaches vary vastly. At their best, PRs present you with amazing opportunities, exclusive content, provide an equal give-and-take relationship of total trust and understand the way you work, your deadlines and timings. At worst, you may get a PR who spends a lot of money, time and effort to access you, without thinking whether their campaign matches the Metro brand or content.

Do you have a favourite PR?

I work closely with a range of lovely, helpful and fun PRs that I could never choose between. They are all lovelies.

Could you ever imagine working in PR?

You have to be super-patient, accommodating and thick-skinned, so I think that rules me out!

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

Time really is the biggest challenge. So if something takes your time or wastes it, that can be frustrating. The whole point of journalism is you are getting things done and finding stories yourself, so if it’s not happening for you, you are doing something wrong.

What gives you the biggest sense of job satisfaction?

Working in a positive, funny, energised newsroom and, at the end of the day, seeing a collection of stories you would read yourself. My biggest triumph is the LGBT work I have done in the paper. We have won several awards for this work and I like to think I represent gay people’s lives in the mainstream realistically. Over the years that contributes to a change in attitudes.

How has the nature of celebrity changed since you’ve been doing this job?

Social media [means] you get the stories direct from the horse’s mouth, [but it also makes it] hard to deliver exclusive material, and celebs no longer need to give so much access as they can promote themselves [via their own social-media accounts].

Do you ever get recognised in the street?

I used to a bit in gay bars, but now that I have gone grey and bald, not so much. The last time, someone said: "Woah man, they take a flattering photo!"

What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Being horizontal on a beach with beers, and hanging out with my family.

What’s in your lunch box?

Lots of sugar, salt and fats. Usually something you shouldn’t be eating. Terrible diet.

Outside of work, what are your guilty pleasures?

Me and my boyfriend listen to a lot of horrific 90s pop. I play a lot of ‘air tennis’ alone, too, which can be embarrassing if someone walks in.

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