Fake it ’til you make it… as a features editor

Kate LeaverCosmo’s Kate Leaver tells us how to bluff it in her job in a feature that first appeared in Encore.

What do you do, as a features editor?

Really, play with words and ideas all day. At any one time, we’re working across three issues of the mag – getting one on its way to the printers, pooling all the words together for another, and planning the issue after that. It’s busy but it’s a pretty magnificent process. For me, it’s like working on a few really awesome jigsaw puzzles at once – piecing together the best mix of stories and subjects and writers and voices. That’s the esoteric job description. It’s all about the detail – every sentence has to be awesome, every headline, every image. And the features editor is really the gatekeeper of ideas; they ferry ideas back and forth between freelancers, in-house writers and the senior editorial team.

What skills do you need to be good at the job?

Sometimes I joke that you need to be a fortune teller as a magazine editor. We work three months in advance, so predicting what people will be talking about that far in advance is a real skill. You’ve got to be able to write, to care about every sentence, and to see every story both phrase-by-phrase and the big picture. Time management skills to set and meet deadlines; clarity and conviction when you communicate to a writer what you want from a story; quick decision making; the humility to scrap your own work when you need to; a way of getting the best from your team. An infinite ream of story ideas is helpful. Passion is a prerequisite.

Who are the people you work closest with?

Our editor and deputy editor – we’re a little ideas team and it’s such a joy to work with women you admire every day. Cringe, I know. But it’s true. Then there are the writers, sub-editors and the art department.

Is there any lingo we need to know to do the job?

At Cosmo? Definitely. Or should I say “defs”? We’re big on abbreviations – you’ve got your “totes” (totally) and your “obvs” (obviously). If we commission an “illo”, we’re getting an illustration done for a page. If we talk about “job bags” that’s just the folders our stories travel in between departments. I sometimes kid with my friends that “totes Kardashian” is the secret password to getting things done in the office.

What does a typical day on the job entail?

Coffee, meetings, brainstorming ideas, researching articles, commissioning stories, writing, writing, writing.

What’s the best part of the job?

My new favourite thing is to go through our Cosmo website feedback inbox, which is full of both delightful and scathing feedback. I love to feel connected to our readers, and I start to feel so protective of their interests, that it’s just awesome to hear from them. That, and the utter joy of being in a job that allows me to write about how much I love Jennifer Lawrence in the morning, politics in the early arvo, and how to help a friend through grief – all in the same day. There’s beauty in the mix of celebrity gossip, beauty advice, mental health and safety stories, news articles and first-person stuff we publish.

Kate Leaver is the features editor for Cosmo magazine.

Encore issue 13

This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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