Media: CV - Pat Roberts Editor-in-chief, Good Housekeeping

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The Independent Online
I started out with no formal qualifications at all, but in my last year at school I decided I liked writing. I'd been to evening school to learn how to type and do shorthand, so I wrote to lots of local newspapers. Luckily for me, the one in the town where I was living - the Express and Independent in Essex - took on an intake of young reporters, and I was there for three years at the end of Sixties.

But this was the time when young magazines like Honey and Petticoat were the hot ticket, and that's where I longed to be. First, I joined the trade paper which is now Drapers' Record, because I was interested in fashion, and in 1970 I moved on to Woman's Realm as a feature writer. Then, in 1972, I got on to Petticoat, where I got to be deputy editor.

In 1974, three friends of mine in advertising, who had already been part of a recruitment newspaper called Miss London, decided they wanted to put it into a magazine format, and started Girl About Town. They asked me to join them on the editorial side, and I moon-lighted for a while until it really took off, when I became its full-time editor. Ultimately, it was sold to Associated Newspapers, and I went to work on the Daily Mail, on the Femail pages.

I was very iffy about going into Fleet Street, but I'm glad I did, though it was a very demanding time - I worked on news as well as Femail. You had to get a news angle on to everything: in those days, national newspapers didn't have the feature content they do now, and you got very strongly told off if you wrote anything that smacked of women's magazines.

But I missed women's magazines, and so when I got an offer from Family Circle in 1981, to be its deputy editor, I took it. I was eventually offered the editor's job, but while I was there the editorship of a younger magazine, Over 21, came up, and I thought that before I got too enmeshed in Family Circle's audience, I'd like to go into something with a strong fashion and beauty base. Over 21 was termed "the thinking woman's magazine" but it only had a circulation of 99,000. And, when David Stevens acquired its publishers, United, I don't think he recognised the need for women's magazines within that group, and he closed it in 1988.

But I still had a lot of ideas buzzing around in my head, and it occurred to me that there was mileage in the home magazine market. Then, if you didn't live in an old rectory or converted oast-house, no one wrote a magazine for you. I had a little scrapbook dummy of what I thought a new home magazine should be, and I took my idea to Terry Mansfield at National Magazines, whom I'd known for a long time. Though he didn't make his mind up straight away, he offered me a job as an editorial consultant at Nat Mags, and then, when the deputy editor of Good Housekeeping went into hospital for a long spell, I did a 12-week stint there standing in for her.

But all the while I was still working on my dummy, and eventually persuaded Terry to let me do it, in 1989. The magazine, House Beautiful, was intended as a quarterly, but the first issue sold so well it went monthly instantly, and went head to head against Ideal Home. It was a real turning point for me: I'd launched a market leader from a stand-still start, at the age of 40, which is quite something in this ageist business.

And then, two years ago, there was an opportunity to edit Good Housekeeping, and Terry asked me if I'd do it. I started in December 1995, and the exciting thing about being here now is that magazines have discovered the 30-plus woman. But we don't need to be introduced to her, and so Good Housekeeping should be very well-placed if this particular sector is going to be in the spotlight.

The three things that underpin Good Housekeeping are trust, authority and experience, and I'm sure on those alone we can sustain an audience. The readership spans three generations - we've got readers in their late twenties, thirties to forties, fifties and beyond - because it appeals to an attitude and not an age. Things change, but the epicentre of people's lives is still family, self, home and well-being, and it's our job to make it fit the Nineties and beyond. The magazine is 75 years old this month, but there's no point in having a heritage if you can't turn it into a futuren