Lisa Helmanis: My Life In Media
'I put on the iPod and try to forecast my day psychically. If it's Johnny Cash I know I'll be wading through invoices'
Monday 27 March 2006
Lisa Helmanis, 32, is editor of the new 'Sunday Times Inside Out' interiors magazine, the second launch by Rupert Murdoch's News Magazines publishing arm. She loves a good old ramble, verbal and on foot, riding her scooter round town trying not to get knocked off and losing at pool with her friends and infidels. She is single and lives in East Dulwich.
What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?
I studied fine art at Goldsmiths College thinking I would live on the Parisian Left Bank and brood attractively until my genius was lauded internationally. Then I woke up one morning and realised my post-college career was actually waitressing. Writing was my only other great passion so I combined that with my visual sensibilities by completing a postgraduate in periodical journalism at the London College of Printing.
When you were 15, which newspaper did your family get and did you read it?
I used to go to my nana's house (epicentre of the universe) with my cousins for my dinner and general lounging about, eating bacon sandwiches in shifts and squabbling. While we were there, we used to take turns to pass around my grandad's copy of the Daily Mirror; by the last cousin there was more newsprint on the family than the pages.
And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?
I liked to be earnest listening to John Peel on Radio 1 and later enjoyed him on Radio 4. And I think I was probably still watching Grange Hill in secret trying to work out my confused adolescent feelings.
Describe your job
Relentless and wonderful; rarely does anyone get the chance to launch something new, but to do it as part whole new magazine division, with the backing of a giant like News International means we do things differently on every front, yet still feel supported.
What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?
Radio 4, but if I'm feeling sluggish I put on the iPod and try to forecast my day psychically. If it's Johnny Cash I know I'll have to wade through a pile of invoices; if it's "Push It" by Salt-n-Pepa, I know it's going to be a good day.
Do you consult any media sources during the working day?
I constantly ask my deputy editor Clare how my hair looks and whose turn it is to make the tea.
What is the best thing about your job?
Having a fantastically talented team that is passionate about the magazine as consumers as well as creators, which lets you know you're getting it right. And working for a management team willing to take risks and commit to excellence. So many people play it safe or are derivative to the detriment of the end result.
And the worst?
Not living in Toronto. I moved back from Canada where I was hosting a show for Alliance Atlantis to work on Inside Out and even now I think I'll open my blinds and see the CN Tower.
What's the proudest achievement in your working life?
My first real pay cheque for writing; it still feels like a fantastic cheat to get to do what you want with your life and get paid for it.
And what's your most embarrassing moment?
Presenting my first issue of Inside Out to John Witherow, the editor of The Sunday Times, with a green head. I was knocked off my scooter on the way to work in our final press week so had to battle in regardless. When the right side of your head has doubled in size and is bruised like a rotten melon, there seems little point in putting on make-up.
At home, what do you tune in to?
I'm a big reader so I'm more likely to kick back with a book, but I adore the car-crash television that is Wife Swap. And I love Paramount Comedy reruns, especially when I've seen them before as I need to think even less. Finally I like to fall asleep to Newsnight, but it means I'm only half-informed.
What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?
The Sunday Times and The Observer. I'm also a magpie for information so I read Psychology Today, Business Week and Mental Floss from Canada. The features desk always pretends to be on the phone when I wander over looking as if I'm about to impart yet more "riveting" facts.
Name one career ambition you want to realise before your retire?
I have two ambitions. I'd love to help make all printed matter run on 100 per cent recycled paper, and get more books into the hands of kids. I can't stress how much books transformed my expectations and enriched my world.
If you didn't work in the media what would you do?
I like to think I'd be a potter or ceramist in a converted barn. In reality I'd probably go mad with the isolation of a studio and really make my living entering competitions full time. Seriously, I've done some scriptwriting so would probably end up there.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
Oprah Winfrey. She never let the word "no" stop her and despite operating in a wide range of media disciplines, each new venture is innovative and polished.
1992 Goldsmiths College and London College of Printing.
1997 PA to editor of Zest magazine.
1998Brides magazine lifestyle editor.
2000Living Etc lifestyle editor.
2001 lifestyle editor of She magazine.
2003 Freelance journalist and broadcaster, including creating the dummy for Inside Out.
2004 Presenter and scriptwriter at Alliance Atlantis, a production and distribution company based in Toronto.
2005 Returned to London to launch 'Inside Out' as Editor.
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