My Mentor: Barbara Ellen on Jocelyn Targett

'Jocelyn invented me - I was a parasite feeding off his energy; without him, I'd be nowhere'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

I've been serially mentored but the guy who taught me to really care about my work and to think outside of the box was Jocelyn Targett, when he was editor of Night & Day at the Mail on Sunday. He took me on as a television reviewer because he liked a column I'd written for Loaded about slapping men when I was drunk, and made an instant impression on me. He was clever, funny, hard working and beautifully turned out in these sharp suits and ties. Coming from music journalism, where people had crisp crumbs in their hair, this was a new world.

Jocelyn led by example; he worked so hard. We'd drop into work on the way back from the pub and he'd still be there at one in the morning, trying to make a sentence better. He made you care as much as he did and got me to think that, if I worked hard, I could have a bit more fun with actual journalism, rather than just writing rude things about pop stars.

Yet there was a light-hearted atmosphere in the office; unusual for that building. He was a perfectionist workaholic with an incredibly kind twist.

He hated "straight" articles, and wanted you to have your own voice and enjoy your work. Eight years ago, he joined The Observer as deputy editor and took a few of us with him. I landed there in this roar of indifference - it was a baptism of fire but the break I needed.

He was, in many ways, a bad man: always sacking me (six times, I think); tying me down to an awful contract at The Observer; getting me to dress up as a bush made of twigs for a photoshoot on body image. But Jocelyn invented me.

Before I met him, I was a nobody going nowhere. I was a parasite feeding off his energy: he put me in positions I didn't deserve at the time but had to soon start deserving. Without him, I'd be nowhere.

Barbara Ellen is a columnist for The Observer Magazine

Comments