The Lure of Journalism

Authors make a lot of choices when creating a novel. One of those choices is the career of your protagonist. For Andie Larson, the main character of That Was Then, my choice was journalism. Why? I can’t recall. Read on for some insights into this fascinating world.

In the early days of writing That Was Then, I visited the downtown offices of a magazine called Toronto Life located in an historic building not far from Lake Ontario – in fact, before land reclamation in that area of the city, it would have been steps away from the water. Then Editor, Sarah Fulford, graciously agreed to talk to me about the magazine world.

One topic Sarah touched on was the sudden flush of billionaire money into the media industry which was putting intense pressure on companies like Toronto Life that depended on advertising dollars. Other pressures she mentioned included the minute-by-minute media cycle brought about by social media, the disappearance of news stands, the significance of the ‘cover reveal’ to spark digital engagement, audience development teams replacing the circulation department, the ability to cross international boundaries.

I asked about the decision making process for feature articles. Sarah said that the process was not scientific. Instead it involved seeing something significant in the news, proposing a feature, and approaching a freelancer to write the piece. Note: freelancer, not permanent staff member. Timing is critical.

My visit was in June. Sarah said that they were currently ‘closing’ the August issue, working on September, and planning the remaining fall issues.

After speaking to Sarah, I chatted with Angie Gardos, Executive Editor. She spoke of teamwork between editorial staff and the artwork staff. “They need each other to make the story come to life.” Angie used terms like ‘big reveal’, ‘go live date’, ‘closing date’, ‘head tk’ which means headline to come. In contrast to Sarah, Angie’s responsibilities were more day-to-day.

  • supervise junior editors and ‘handling editors’ a term for those who handle big stories
  • cultivate new editors
  • bring the story out of the writer, what Angie called the spine of the story, the pivotal moments and unique aspects

Both Sarah and Angie spoke of ethics, the responsibility for truth, the importance of giving all parties an opportunity to be heard.

It was a fascinating peek at the industry. I hope I’ve represented that world effectively in That Was Then.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website

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Meet M.K.Tod

The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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6 Responses

  1. Since qualifying late as a freelance journalist, I would say journalism is one of my first loves too. I particularly love travel journalism – places are fascinating – and stories about people’s lives – they are also really interesting. I like the fact that the stories are short and to the point and you are often working to deadlines. A great motivator.

  2. Ah, takes me back. I was an editorial director and also art director for several international magazines for a decade back in the day. I’ll add another piece of old-time lingo to “TK” . . . “FPO” – For Position Only. Used in art departments to indicate a similar state of temporariness. Which I’ve now seamlessly worked it into my normal life, as in: “You like the couch over there? It’s just FPO.”

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