Sam Hailes is deputy editor of Premier Christianity magazine. You can also hear him on Premier Christian Radio’s ‘The Profile’ where he interviews well-known Christian leaders about their life and faith and on ‘Your News’ where he and a guest discuss the week’s top news stories from a Christian perspective with Premier’s head of news Marcus Jones.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I can’t actually remember what made me want to study Journalism at university back in 2008. But it was definitely the right path for me. I quickly specialised in print and online, started freelancing during my degree and never looked back!
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I arrive at the Premier Christianity magazine offices with coffee (because I’m a walking cliché) and go straight to our editors’ meeting. We’ll look at the major news stories of the day and talk about how we can best cover them in the print magazine, on our blog (premierchristianity.com/blog) which I oversee and also on the radio as Premier Christian Radio is based out of the same offices as the mag.
After that I’m writing, editing and proofing features, interviewing people, recording audio for the radio/podcast, commissioning freelancers and other exciting tasks such as attending meetings and handling admin work. I’ve long believed the best writers are readers, so I’ll usually try and read a book on my lunch break (if my brain isn’t too frazzled by then!)
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE?
I’ll have Tweetdeck open in the background all day – not only because handling the magazine’s social media is part of my job description, but because I’ll often discover breaking news stories on Twitter before I see them anywhere else. I work on a PC in the office and a Mac at home. One of the great benefits of working in the same offices as a radio station is we get to record all our interviews in the studios here.
I recently turned off almost all notifications on my iPhone! This is especially useful if you’re stuck in a load of WhatsApp groups where people are constantly having banter. I know this makes me sound like a total kill-joy but I find it a distraction during the working day. With notifications off, I can choose when I want to check social media, rather than having stuff flashing at me all the time.
I have my work emails on my phone for when I’m out and about. I can remember a time where I used to worry about carrying a dictaphone around. This isn’t a concern anymore as I can use my iPhone for that (same principle when it comes to cameras and photos).
WHAT DO YOU DO OR GO TO GET INSPIRED?
Working in an open-plan office can have its challenges. But one of the benefits is the ability to bounce ideas off of colleagues. I’m someone who processes as I speak. So it’s hard for me to generate ideas in isolation. I need to talk them through.
It sounds flippant but the other thing I’d say is ‘take a holiday’. And if you can’t do that, at least switch your mobile phone off for a week. Because I work in journalism, my entire day revolves around either producing or consuming media. When you can step out of that cycle for a few
days, inspiration often strikes and you see things differently.
Finally, I always try to start the day right. For me, that means reading the Bible, praying and taking time to be still and quiet. I’d be lying if I said I managed it every single day, but I always try to make it the number one priority.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
“News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.” William Randolph Hearst
I might be a Christian working for a Christian magazine. But that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t run tough or controversial stories. On the contrary – I’m passionate about investigative journalism and getting to the bottom of stories, even if you upset a few people along the way. Obviously, I’m not setting out to get on people’s nerves. But journalism isn’t the industry to go into if all you’re interested in is winning friends. (Try PR instead…)
WHAT IS THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
It’s the same problem everyone else is grappling with – how can we harness all the of the opportunities the online and digital worlds bring us, while at the same time paying the bills and keeping the whole operation going. I always tell people the biggest way they can support what we’re doing is by paying the money and subscribing to the print mag. Good journalism costs money, but I think people are beginning to understand that. Across the pond, in America, we’ve seen Trump wage war on media outlets, and that seems to have resulted in some people taking out subscriptions and supporting the journalism which isn’t afraid to speak truth to power, challenge the government and report the truth. Whatever you think of Trump, I think it’s good that people appear more open than ever to supporting good quality journalism.
ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS JUST STARTING OUT?
You’re entering the media at an exciting time! There have never been more opportunities to get published. If you’re starting out in journalism and are not regularly blogging for your own platform or other people’s then you need to do that right now. It’s easy and free, so start! Also – it’s often easier to get published online than people think. That’s the good news. The bad news is there won’t be much (or any) money in it, at least to begin with. But first priority is getting your name out there and get articles written. After that, you can join the rest of us in figuring out how to make some money out of it! But you will get there…if you don’t give up.