Sue Douglas: My Life In Media

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What inspired you to start a career in the media?

Pure luck, chance and opportunism. I started as a management consultant and after a couple of months in Chicago with a lot of very keen MBAs I thought: "Oh my god, I've made a terrible mistake." I fell backwards into a job in science journalism and realised that I just loved it.

Cast your mind back to when you were 15. What was the family newspaper and did you read it?

We had the Surrey Comet, The Observer and The Times or The Telegraph. I don't think I read them any more avidly than any of my contemporaries.

And what were your favourite radio and television programmes?

Jacques Cousteau's Undersea World and Peyton Place, a ghastly US soap in the 60s.

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

Because I live at the back of beyond, have to get up so early and am married to a academic the first thing is Radio 4. I have to have my newspaper fix and if I've got enough time I will read The Guardian first.

Do you consult any media sources during the day?

I'll quickly check out all of the papers. It's a habit you can't get out of after years and years as a features editor. I'll also quickly check the New York Times online. I'll still pick up the Standard if there's a copy there. On a big-running story I'll always look at Sky or CNBC.

What's the best thing about your job?

Because I'm now in magazines, what I love is that it's very visual. You talk about pictures first and the visual impact is critical. As we live in a more and more visual age I really enjoy the fact that you have to think image first.

And the worst?

I miss not being plugged into the whole current affairs agenda.

And your most embarrassing moment?

The infamous "Bunch of Shits" front page headline I ran as editor of the Sunday Express, referring to John Major's outburst over our European 'partners', was either the most inspirational thing I did (circulation rocketed with so much outrage) or it was the most embarrassing and ill-judged (I got fired not long after).

Now you're back home, what will you tune into?

Because I live in Oxford and don't get back until very late, I tune into three dogs and three children.

At the weekends, what is your Sunday paper and do you have any favourite magazines?

Old habits die hard. Having spent so much of my career on The Sunday Times, it's still the main one. My favourite magazines are a very odd mix. I always look at Country Life and World of Interiors, foreign news magazines like Focus, youth magazines like Dazed, Another Magazine and Frieze. The British Medical Journal is a great source of stories and paranoia.

Name the one career ambition you want to achieve before you retire.

I think to start a news magazine in the UK would be wonderful, not just something like Now which died a death in the 1970s. There's a legacy of "that didn't work so we're not interested." But I do think as a nation if you look at what's happened with our media habits - year on year newspaper consumption declines and magazine consumption increases - it's a very vibrant market. On that basis there is room for a picture driven news magazine and I'd love to see that happen.

If you didn't work in the media what would you do?

I've always flirted with a career in medicine. Something really quite deep like psychiatry or neurophysiology. Or completely off the other end of the scale, vacuous interior design.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Rupert Murdoch for his power and tenacity. Andrew Neil for intelligence and being a great friend and mentor. Dawn Airey for being a fantastically normal person and yet making it to the top. Marie Colvin and Christiane Amanpour for being adventurous foreign correspondents.

The CV

1978: Works for Andersen Consulting before being taken on as a medical journalist at Haymarket Publishing

1980: Writes for Rand in South Africa as well as the Daily Mail and Sunday Express

1982: Joins the Mail on Sunday as a correspondent ascending to associate editor, then assistant editor of the Daily Mail

1991: Spends four years as the Sunday Times deputy editor, before becoming Sunday Express editor in 1995

1996: Moves into magazines at Gear, and then on the launch of Glamour, before becoming director of new business at Condé Nast UK

2001: Appointed Condé Nast's president of new business

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