MEDIA Profile: Born out of self belief - Ekow Eshun, editor, Arena

These days the phrase ’journalist and broadcaster’ seems to be trotted out by every hack to describe their three appearances reviewing the local rag on a little-known commercial radio station with a wig-wearing breakfast show DJ gazing at them through a hangover.

These days the phrase ’journalist and broadcaster’ seems to be

trotted out by every hack to describe their three appearances reviewing

the local rag on a little-known commercial radio station with a

wig-wearing breakfast show DJ gazing at them through a hangover.



This is a pity, because the phrase conjures up images of a type of

cultural polyglot, equally at ease debating the finer points of Ted

Hughes’ new poems on national TV or dashing off a powerful editorial on

the state of the nation. It could apply to Ekow Eshun.



Eshun is editor of Arena, and he’s just posted a 12.5 per cent ABC

increase for July to December 1997. He is also a regular on BBC2’s arts

show the Late Review where he crosses swords on a fortnightly basis with

the likes of Germaine Greer and Tom Paulin. It’s a long way from the

fledgling magazine show The Word which the student Eshun created for

London’s Kiss FM when it was still a pirate radio station.



’Kiss was a really inspirational time for me,’ he says. ’It was this

small group of intensely creative people and it taught me that if you

have enough belief in what you are doing you can make this fantastic

piece of media that really connects with people.



’After I graduated, I freelanced and worked on Just 17. Now, I’d

obviously never been a teenage girl, but I saw that the magazine

connected with its readers simply by the sheer volume of mail that

arrived every day.’



It’s that sort of connection with readers that Eshun strives to create

as editor of Arena. ’When I arrived at the magazine it was clear it

needed work,’ he said. ’The first thing I did was change the staff

around. I recruited a new art director and deputy - Greg Williams from

Esquire - and we set about changing the magazine.’



Eshun says he tried to introduce passion and heart into the title and

wanted it to reflect the lives of its readers with its tone and its

voice.



’There are a lot of slack men’s magazines out there which talk at their

readers,’ he says. ’I wanted this to be more personal, to have a

dialogue with its readers and I think we spent last year succeeding at

that.’



At the beginning of 1998 Eshun called his staff together and told them

it was time to have some fun with the magazine. They had worked so hard

on turning it round that the title simply needed an injection of

enjoyment to really make it hum. It was during the 1997 turn around

period that Eshun began appearing on the Late Review, an experience he

initially found overpowering.



’You get a screen test or a pilot run,’ he says. ’Then it’s just, bang,

40 minutes of live TV. I enjoyed it, though, and I’m glad they asked me

to become a regular. It’s important as a journalist to have your beliefs

clear in your mind. Then it doesn’t matter where you discuss ideas,

whether it’s in the magazine, on TV or, as I hope to do someday, in a

book. As long as your beliefs are in place you can apply them

anywhere.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1990

Freelance, including features editor, J17

1993

Staff writer, The Face

1994

Associate editor, The Face

1995

Assistant editor, The Face

1995

Editor, Arena



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