My Mentor: Louise Chunn on Dave Hepworth

'Dave turned me from being a reasonable writer to a much better editor'
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The Independent Online

Calling Dave Hepworth my mentor will probably make him cringe - but once I'd worked for him, I was never quite the same again. Thank God.

I'd arrived in London in 1982, fresh from my own music column on the (now defunct) evening paper in Auckland, New Zealand. Having interviewed everyone from The Ramones to Dolly Parton, it was a shock to my youthful ego to find the only place that would employ me here was a trade magazine, Fashion Weekly.

I hacked away for nearly a year as my applications for more glamorous jobs dropped in wastepaper baskets all over town. But one day I was called in to a pokey Soho office to be interviewed by a (then) chain-smoking sandy-haired Yorkshireman with a rubbery face and a big laugh. Dave Hepworth told me he was starting up a teenage girls magazine that was going to be entirely different to anything I'd read before. Great, said I, simply because I wanted any other job to the one I had. "Yeah, I'm sure you want the job, but why on earth should I employ a New Zealander as features editor when you don't even know what an O-Level is?"

This was classic Dave (who before Just Seventeen had already launched Smash Hits and went on to create Looks, More, Q, Mojo, Heat and Word). He didn't mince words. When I boil it down, I think Dave turned me from being a reasonable writer to a much better editor. I stopped thinking about pushing myself into the story, and started to learn from him how the magazine functioned.

Although he was suspicious of those who took themselves too seriously, he was always very good at getting the best out of writers, urging them to tell him the best of the interview as soon as they returned to the office - he claimed too many written pieces never had the immediacy of the first impression.

I left Just Seventeen in 1986, so this was all quite a while ago. But I'm surprised how often I invoke a Dave rule in my working day. He was a real stickler for spelling too.