William Sitwell: My Life in Media

Monday 10 September 2007 00:00 BST
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William Sitwell, 37, is the editor of Waitrose Food Illustrated, which celebrates its 100th issue this week and has a readership of 1.5 million. Sitwell makes frequent appearances on TV shows such as Market Kitchen and Kitchen Criminals and has been named Editor of the Year in awards from both the British Society of Magazine Editors and the Association of Publishing Agencies (APA). He lives in Northamptonshire with his wife Laura, who sells bespoke furniture for Linley, and their two children.

What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I always liked the idea of writing and bashed out the odd piece for school magazines and then wrote a stupid kind of gossip column for the newspaper at Kent University. It was called "The Sitwell Slot". I dropped it round at the office one day and the next thing I knew they'd printed it. I was amazed at what rubbish I could get published. I was always keen to get into telly and radio and had a morning show on the university station.

When you were 15 years old which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

My parents had the Sunday Express at the weekend and I then got the Daily Express at school. My brother told me it wasn't a proper newspaper, but it's taken me until about now to realise.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

Top of the Pops and the Top 40 on Sunday nights. I loved it when Tommy Vance used to do it. I remember how exciting it was when you could get Radio 1 on FM.

Describe your job?

Varied and manic right now. I was up at 5am this morning to drive to London to talk about why we should buy British produce on BBC Breakfast. Breakfast was at Daylesford Organics in Pimlico. Next were meetings about a food magazine we are launching into South Africa. Then I had a sneak look around Princess Margaret's apartments at Kensington Palace and saw her kitchen with its enormous extractor fan designed by Lord Snowdon. Then I had a meeting about Thirst, a Waitrose drinks magazine which I consult on, wrote my " Food Spy" column for ES magazine and then ran our weekly conference on Waitrose Food Illustrated.

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

The Today programme. I never stop admiring Jim Naughtie's knowledge.

Do you consult any media sources during the day?

I read very few newspapers. But I always check the front pages on the Sky News website, and then look at The Daily Telegraph online before flitting between the BBC and Facebook.

What is the best thing about your job?

The variety and being manic. Getting to eat in amazing restaurants for free. Going back and forwards to Cape Town, being able to work a bit from home. Running the world's best food magazine for an incredible client.

And the worst?

I'm having too many meetings right now and not enough time to write.

How do you feel you influence the media?

We have the power to set the news agenda in the food world. We've had loads of stories in WFI that get picked up in the press.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

There are a few things that I'm really proud of: winning an Editor of the Year trophy at the BSMEs in 2005. Helping recently to win the account for Pick '*' Pay (our South African venture) and getting the first interview with Lord Lucan's son for the Daily Mail in 1999.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

Being forced to dress as Barbara Cartland and doorstepping Paul Dacre to get a picture of him in his pyjamas – both for The Express. Don't ask.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

We get The Sunday Times and I subscribe to The Spectator and The Week.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire?

I've got this secret ambition to have my own TV show. I'd like a show where I do some stand-up comedy.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

I really can't think of one particular person, although I do love Michelle Lavery's Saturday Telegraph magazine.

The cv

1990: Does work experience on The Daily Telegraph's "Peterborough" column

1993: PA to Bill Cash, the Tory Eurosceptic MP

1994: Joins the Periodical Publishers' Association as a lobbyist

1994: Feature writer for the Sunday Express

1998: Appointed features editor of Woman's Journal

1999: Deputy editor of Waitrose Food Illustrated

2002: Becomes editor of WFI

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