Features

The year in publishing: Editors on President Trump; End of Brangelina; Dreamworld tragedy; Baird’s back-flip

As 2016 winds down, Mumbrella asked newspaper and magazine editors to reflect on the big stories for their publications, and to predict what’s next. Will 2017 be the year ‘real news’ fights back? Will we see a shift back to print? Will 2017 be the year of the female-focused masthead?

Christopher Dore

Christopher Dore, editor, The Daily Telegraph

Best front page of the year:

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The cover that definitely had the biggest impact, went all around the world, was being sold at a premium to collectors on Ebay, and certainly captured a sense of amazement in Australia, and I guess around the world, was the day after Trump was elected president.

Best story of 2016/Most impactful story of 2016

We had great success with a couple of long term investigations at The Telegraph this year. Nick Tabakoff won the scoop of the year at the Walkleys for uncovering the Parramatta Eels salary cap scandal, which had an incredible impact on the NRL season, and has really changed the course of the game.

As an editor, what story are you most proud of?

We decided to campaign against the decision by the Baird Government to, without consultation, shut down the greyhound industry. Most Australians were pretty appalled and disgusted by evidence of animal cruelty, however clearly the Australian fair-go gene is as strong as ever, because everyday people couldn’t cop the unfairness of killing off an industry without even trying to properly clean it up. The Tele took a very measured approach to the coverage, telling lots of stories about ordinary families with greyhounds over several weeks, before eventually editorialising strongly in favour of overturning the ban.

In that sense I am proud of the way we went about it. We weren’t hysterical about it, our coverage was methodical and real, and ultimately effective.

Your own publication aside, what was the best story of the year?

Well, interestingly, the Walkleys board didn’t think there was a best story of the year, awarding the gold to a photograph, so who could question them?

We had two stories, the Eels investigation, and an investigation into the treatment of children in foster care in the scoop of the year category, so I find it hard to go past them … However in terms of incredible yarns, the year was dominated by two elections, that seemed to go on forever, both producing remarkable results and incredible stories.

What’s been the biggest industry change this year?

Despite a continuing proliferation of plagiarism and content-stealing, Australians are clearly showing they are prepared to pay for quality journalism in all its guises – on digital platforms and in print.

What’s your prediction for the industry next year?

Real news fights back.

Messenger

Lisa Messenger, founder and editor-in-chief Collective Hub

Best Cover:

Iris Apfel – We’d had some fantastic covers over the past year, but the planets aligned for issue 32 when we featured fashion icon Iris Apfel. We had been speaking with her for some time and was able to not only able to catch up with her in person in Paris, but was able to work together to create a fun, vibrant and somewhat cheeky cover. To me she represents who we are – she’s a woman of enthusiasm, wisdom, character, humour and substance whose story is about standing out and standing up for whatever it is she believes in. I found it so cool that in a society obsessed with youth, that this 94-year-old with her over-sized glasses and gigantic bangles had become such hot property globally, showing everyone that it’s never too late to be amazing or to have influence. Cover photography was by New York based photographer Alique.

Best story of 2016:

We ventured into curating lists this year, our first was entitled ‘awake and unafraid’ which grouped courageous, clever, disruptive and innovative minds from all over the world. But then, our second was something I’m personally really passionate about – it was a list of our ‘Top 20 Talent’ which was all about emerging talent in Australia. While we are a global magazine, we champion our Australian roots and more than anything else, always want to encourage and inspire people to have audacious goals and to them chase them wildly. The world needs more people like those on this list – who are picking up the tools in their hand and fearlessly making something remarkable of their lives. Kudos to them! In a similar vein and if I can be as bold to list a second, we also did a feature entitled ‘Aussies in New York’ where we interviewed and shot a new breed of trailblazers taking on the Big Apple across media, tech, fashion and more.

Most impactful story of 2016:

Being deeply embedded in the entrepreneurial space, I can’t go past our article with the new CEO of Survey Monkey, Zander Luri. After interviewing the much loved and globally recognised former CEO Dave Goldberg, in 2014 before his tragic and unexpected death, we were honoured to be chosen to talk with their new company head at such a crucial time in their corporate history. Zander was candid and raw as he discussed the realities and difficulties of leading a company that was grieving, when he himself was also grieving. It was brave and insightful for our audience.

As an editor, what story are you most proud of?

Hands down, our article and cover with Richard Branson. It was a lifetime in the making for me – being an editor but also an entrepreneur. We were given unrestricted access meaning we crafted an entertaining, open and inspiring piece for our readers. It also marked a smart shift in the way we use content over multiple touch points.

Your own publication aside, what was the best story of the year?

The US election dominated all of our news feeds and left us all perplexed and concerned, but I did also love the in-depth retrospection off the back of Making a Murderer, The Guardian’s Naru Files and to get really specific, a phenomenal long from piece by US Marie Claire on women and gun violence which I thought made everyone rethink static, long-form content.

What’s been the biggest industry change this year?

Perhaps the continued battle between social media channels (Snapchat/Instagram) which makes publishers radically rethink out-hosting content.

What’s your prediction for the industry next year?

That we’ll see a shift towards print; that great print content will actually remain just as strong and just as popular with readers than ever and that it might prove it can still be the most important brand recognition arm of a multi-platform brand.

That those who purely focus on one business vertical will struggle. But rather it’s important to hold with precision focus “why we do what we do and what we stand for” and be able to morph across several verticals. For a brand to remain relevant the vision should be impenetrable but the delivery mechanism should largely become irrelevant. Just be where people need you, at a time they need you, on a platform they need you. This should be integrating and leveraging print, digital and events verticals.

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Lachlan Heywood, editor, The Courier-Mail

Best front page:

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I chose one of several we did on the Gable Tostee trial, which captivated not only Queensland but the whole country. I like this front because the final words of Warriena Wright before her fall from the balcony – recorded by Tostee on his mobile phone – are just so powerful when put down in print.

Best story of 2016:

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It is hard to go past the Dreamworld tragedy. It really had a deep impact on our readers, who found it difficult to comprehend how four people could be killed on this seemingly innocuous ride – especially as many had travelled on the ride themselves. The parent company’s response in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy was an absolute public relations disaster.

Most impactful story of 2016:

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The Courier-Mail printed a powerful front page story of a 17-year-old wearing a spit mask and handcuffed to a body belt in an adult prison cell. A few days later, the Queensland Government announced all 17-year-olds would be removed from adult jails.

As an editor, what story are you most proud of?

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The campaign we ran on the perils of teenage sexting. Not only did it raise public awareness of the issue, it provided expert advice for worried parents. Furthermore, it resulted in real change with the state government moving to make sex ed mandatory in Queensland schools, and Queensland police introducing new protocols for the handling of sexting complaints.

Your own publication aside, what was the best story of the year?

Without doubt, the best and biggest story of the year was the US presidential victory by Donald Trump. The forces of discontent and alienation behind his win are playing out across the globe, especially in Queensland.

What’s been the biggest industry change this year?

New ways of storytelling such as the integration of print within podcasts. At The Courier-Mail, our searching for Rachel Antonio podcast series, listened to by tens of thousands of people, has been complemented by several front page stories.

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Nicky Briger, editor, Marie Claire Australia

Best Cover:

Our April, September and December issues featuring Australian stars were our best performers.

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April is our special International Women’s Day issue and Nicole Kidman spoke of her 10-year work with UN Women.

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For our September edition, we photographed Jennifer Hawkins and Megan Gale together for the first time on a cover. Sales were great and both models opened up about their secret friendship and the media’s obsession with their so-called rivalry. Visually, it was fresh, pretty and playful, perfect for our bumper spring fashion issue.

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In December, we featured Lara Bingle – her first cover after the birth of her second son. It was a fun, festive delivery which worked well for the time of year and nicely captured the cheeky spirit of Lara.

Best story of 2016:

In our February issue, we featured the plight of Syrian refugee Aysha Mierri who fled to Germany with her two young children while pregnant. Writer Corinne Redfern followed her harrowing three-week journey from Aleppo to Munich by boat, train and foot and ghostwrote Aysha’s diary along the way. Their joint story planted the reader firmly in the war zone and was an incredibly insightful, emotional account of this global crisis.

Most impactful story of 2016:

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We produced two powerful campaigns in 2016 and both helped raise an impressive amount for their respective charities.
In April, our collaboration with Mimco for the reportage ‘Child’s Play’ raised over $250,000 for the anti-domestic violence group Our Watch. Also, our special portfolio in the October issue titled ‘Join The Fight’ was a partnership with Georg Jensen and made $120,000 for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

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As an editor, what story are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the above mentioned stories as they’ll actually make a significant difference to the work being done to battle domestic violence and aid ovarian cancer research.

Your own publication aside, what was the best story of the year?

Four Corner’s story on children in detention was shocking, horrific and spurred the government into action. This is journalism at its best.

What’s been the biggest industry change this year?

Digital continues to impact every facet of the media industry. For Marie Claire especially, it’s been an exciting year as we gained back control of our website from Yahoo in June, which completely shifted the way we work with every team member now contributing to every digital asset all day, every day. Monthlies are operating more like mini news rooms now, and that’s been a seismic shift in the way we operate.

What’s your prediction for the industry next year?

Next year will see an increase in competition in the digital space as everyone competes for female readers and the online dollar. We’ll see the launch of more female-focused websites and existing power brands will amplify their digital presence.

Crerar

Simon Crerar, Australia editor, BuzzFeed

Best story of 2016:

BuzzFeed’s brilliant young LGBT beat reporter Lane Sainty filed more than 70 articles on the same-sex marriage plebiscite, shaping the national agenda. Her definitive take on the day the legislation died is a must-read.

Most impactful story of 2016:

We sent our reporters on the road during the long Federal Election campaign, with political editor Mark Di Stefano and Canberra reporter Alice Workman doing stellar work covering Turnbull and Shorten. Off the buses, Mark went to Mackay to speak with LGBT teens living in George Christensen’s electorate: a story that had a huge impact on young gay Aussies voting in remote conservative seats.

As an editor, what story are you most proud of?

Our ‘Aboriginal People Respond To Australia Day’ video, which did 4m views on Facebook and Youtube, and won a Publish Award.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8czHlPYXew

Your own publication aside, what was the best story of the year?
Hard to beat Caro Meldrum-Hanna’s Don Dale report on Four Corners for impact.

What’s been the biggest industry change this year?

Live video, hitherto something for nerds on Periscope or Meerkat (remember them?) went mainstream when Facebook leaned in. BuzzFeed’s exploding watermelon was a big moment, and just the start of an exciting new frontier for internet news and entertainment 🍉💥

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Louisa Hatfield, Pacific Magazines general manager of entertainment & family

Best cover:

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Girlfriend’s annual Fashion Issue fronted by Ariana Grande, featuring an exclusive interview, in which she announced her Australian Tour was hugely successful and, for me, it underpins how you can still reach vast numbers of Gen Z who, let’s face it, were using mobile phones while still in nappies, by giving them that more immersive relationship with a magazine.

Best story of 2016:

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Perhaps best is not the right word, but the biggest story for celebrity magazines was, of course, the Brad and Ange breakup. Although we had heard murmurings about the problems in the relationship it still took all of us by surprise. It is so rare to have breaking news that our guys in the US consider worthy of waking us up in the middle of the night. The teams were up straight away getting all the details on our various digital platforms and then Who magazine, who had already gone to press, raced into the office and managed to stop the presses and get a new magazine out within a couple of hours. New Idea took a more emotional angle choosing to cover the story through the prism of Jennifer Aniston and her feelings, which proved to be a savvy choice in terms of circulation with huge market share against their nearest rivals. I think a lot of our audience felt Jen deserved a bit of a smirk over the whole split.

Most impactful story of 2016:

After Brexit we thought the world couldn’t get any more insane and then Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the US. I felt there was a lot of rhetoric before, during and after this from the media industry worldwide, but the truth was the media – even in the US – really had no real clue about their audiences and what the majority of ordinary Americans were thinking and feeling, which is a lesson for us all. The coverage showed a lack of depth of analysis and too often veered into hysterical outrage. I felt there was much commentary and not enough fact and reportage from the ‘quality’ press.

As an editor, what story are you most proud of?

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New Idea started the We Care campaign with Anglicare to give emergency packs to women fleeing domestic violence. Some incredible women, who were survivors of domestic violence, told their stories in the magazine, and online in powerfully emotive videos. They talked about how the packs that showed people do care could help women take that important step of walking away.

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The most compelling story was that of Kim Gentle, whose partner resorted to throwing her dog off a cliff to try and control her. Her candid story of how she finally had the courage to leave was heartbreaking, but uplifting. If just one woman has fled a violent partner because of our campaign I am happy.

Your own publication aside, what was the best story of the year?

I think the biggest scoop in the celebrity world was by the Sunday Express. Royal correspondent Phil Dampier, who also writes for New Idea, when he broke the story of Prince Harry dating Meghan Markle, the actress from Suits. For celebrity magazines this couple are heaven!

What’s been the biggest industry change this year?

I think the biggest change is still our progress from print to digital and how we (and our clients) are cleverly diversifying and switching resources appropriately to meet the necessary challenges. The transition of Girlfriend to a digital first product is a classic example of how you can transform the bottom line of a product but still more than meet the needs of the audience (and clients) with rich and diversified content opportunities in both print (with a quarterly magazine) and digital. I think the success of the transition of traditional brands like New Idea and That’s Life to digital has been astonishing. In the mid year Australian FB Performance Report for 2016, for example, New Idea and That’s Life took two of the top three spots, beating digital only brands easily.

What’s your prediction for the industry next year?

I think the toughest thing for us to handle will be the loss of advertising dollars from print, but companies like Pacific are now so forward focused and achieving so much on our digital platforms – not just in reach, but in the type of content we produce, that we are more than ready to take on that challenge. I think the winners will be the content producers who listen to their audiences and not only understand in great detail how to talk to them differently depending on the media platform they are using, but also to understand how you can communicate with so many people, who are all so different and increasingly niche in their needs, through understanding key emotional triggers. Whatever happens, the key for business owners in the media industry will be to remember that it is always going to be about who is best at producing exceptional content.

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Mark Brandon, editor, NW

Best Cover:

IT’S OVER! Brad leaves Ange for his hot new co-star (cover date May 30, 2016)
This issue was monumental for NW as one of our highest-selling issues of the year and it also marked the first time in about two years (since their 2014 wedding) that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt had featured full-cover on an Aussie weekly magazine. At this time, no one covered Brad and Ange, and we were the first to report on the troubles in their marriage.

Best story of 2016:

BRANGELINA! While we’d been hearing and reporting on the troubles in their marriage, the divorce still took us all by surprise – especially the way Angelina announced the news and the troubling claims that came out about what apparently occurred on the family’s private jet. This wasn’t just an “amicable separation” for Hollywood’s biggest celebrity couple – it was all-out war.

Most impactful story of 2016:

BRANGELINA! Sorry Kim Kardashian and Hiddleswift – readers have responded to the ongoing Brange story like nothing else this year. Since the divorce announcement, NW has had nine successful Brangelina covers, including some of our biggest sales since 2014. And there have been loads more in the weekly market.

As an editor, what story are you most proud of?

BRANGELINA! I’m so proud of the coverage the NW team has delivered over the past 3-4 months. We have been leading the world with our coverage of the Brangelina split – with the world’s biggest tabloids like the National Enquirer and Star magazines in the US regularly following our leads and getting covers from NW.

What’s the best biggest industry change this year?

So much changes every day – welcome to the world of weekly magazines. But while there was lots of doom and gloom surrounding the closure of FAMOUS mag this year, there’s actually been a real renaissance in the weekly celebrity market – certainly for NW, but also our stablemates at OK!. We’re regularly seeing supermarket sales that are 10, 20 and even 30% up year-on-year, despite a very challenging retail market. And this is just for the print product. The mags that will flourish are those that have an audience across several platforms – and our social media reach and Facebook engagement is amongst the highest in the business. Little old NW certainly punches above its weight when it comes to digital reach, and we’re looking forward to the launch of our new Now To Love network in the new year.

What’s your predication for the industry next year?

I think Bauer’s move away from copy sales data is a very positive one. Obviously we will continue to be conscious of our paid sales, but to readers and advertisers our presence and the way we reach an audience across all platforms is much more important. Yes, there will be challenges in the coming 12 months, but if 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that there’s as strong a need as ever for the kind of experience that print magazines offer.

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Emily Taylor, editor, InStyle Australia

Best Cover:

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My favourite InStyle Australia cover for 2016 was our August issue, starring Asher Keddie. It was the first time our magazine has ever used a dark background on a cover, and it really made a statement. The organic uplift we saw in sales for that issue was astounding, so it was wonderful that it really resonated with our readers.

Best and most impactful story of 2016:

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In our July issue, Lara Worthington shared with InStyle Australia that she was expecting a second child and was five months pregnant. This confirmed many global rumours that had been circulating and we were honoured that she had trusted our title with her story.

As an editor, what story are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of our redesign, which launched in our June. The magazine received a completely new look and feel which was long overdue. It boasts new sections, sophisticated layouts, and renewed focus on photography and content which, combined, has breathed new life into the brand.

Your own publication aside, what was the best story of the year?

The story of the year has to be the US election, and its subsequent result that shocked so many of us. The recent Time Magazine cover, picturing their chosen Person of the Year, Donald Trump, against the cover line, “Divided States Of America”, really summed things up (and of course we’re all dying to know whether the art director really meant the peaks of that red ‘M’ to look quite so devilish!)

What’s been the biggest industry change this year?

It’s no secret that the industry continues to change with increasing velocity. This year has certainly been all about video content both from an editorial and advertising perspective and it has been exciting to develop this channel. To this end, we have also launched Facebook Live, which has performed exceptionally for our brand.

What’s your prediction for the industry next year?

I have a real sense of optimism for the new year. If 2016 was the year of consolidation and transformation, 2017 will, I hope, afford media brands the opportunity to move forward with less traditional constraints and a new agility – in times of change, anything can be possible.

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Paul Whittaker, editor-in-chief, The Australian

Best front page:

Donald Trump’s shock US Presidential election victory was my favourite front page of the year.

Along with the British Brexit poll result editon, it showed how Australians trust us when they want to know the story behind the biggest stories in the world and in our region.

We had record print and digital audience increases as people turned to us to make sense of what was happening in Britain and the US.

Trump’s win was the biggest news story in the world, and it will be for years to come, which is why I recently took the decision to re-open our Washington Bureau in early 2017 after appointing one of our most experienced senior journalists, Cameron Stewart, as The Australian’s Washington Correspondent.

The Thursday, November 10 edition of The Australian recording Trump’s triumph also delivered The Australian a +15.9% lift in net sales to 110,483, delivering volume growth of +15.1k copies over the base, well ahead of our estimated +6.5k increase and Brexit uplift of +10k copies.

The sales growth for the Trump election victory edition was bigger than the 2016 Federal Budget, Brexit, last year’s Liberal Leadership Spill or any other story or promotion for the past two years.

The sales in the two days after Trump’s election also saw strong sales uplifts of +5.9% on Friday (103,797) and +3.1% on Saturday (228,214).

What was the biggest story of the 2016?

One of the biggest stories of the year was the rise of the independent, maverick politician, fuelled by protest votes against the establishment in Britain, the US, and in Australia with the return of Pauline Hanson and the rise of other crossbench senators with their disproportionate power.

As an editor, what story are you most proud of?

There are two stories I am especially proud of. The first is The Australian’s Bowraville investigation and podcast series, which unearthed fresh information and led to a breakthrough in a triple murder case with a new judicial review ordered by the NSW Attorney-General and a suspect this week issued with a notice to appear in the Court of Criminal Appeal in February after 25 years of frustration and inaction for the families of three murdered Aboriginal children

It was also a landmark moment as newspapers branch out into the broadcast medium. As well as winning two well-deserved Walkley Awards for Dan Box and Eric George (and also for Stephen Fitzpatrick in one of the categories), it was the first Walkley win for a podcast.

The other defining story of the year for The Australian was our freedom of speech campaign in relation to the 18c Racial Discrimination Act case against the QUT students in Brisbane and the defence of our cartoonist Bill Leak and his right to freedom of expression.

Your own publication aside, what was the best story of the year?

The best story of the year was the overturning of the NSW government’s greyhound racing ban and the campaign that gave back jobs and hobbies to many decent, salt of the earth Australians who love their dogs.

What’s been the biggest industry change this year?

One of the biggest industry changes is the rise in fake news and the ensuing lack of trust for the tech titans.

Also another significant trend is newspapers now carving out content areas that traditionally have been the preserve of broadcasters, with the rise of podcasts, which in addition to adding a new spoke of engaging content for readers also have the potential to provide new revenue streams through geo-targeted advertising in competition with traditional radio.

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