An exclusive with Ellie Henman: being a journalist

Posted by: on Aug 7, 2012 | No Comments

Hi Ellie! What have you been up to since winning ‘The Exclusives’?

When we finished filming the series, I went back to my bar job and pretty much had to carry on like nothing had happened. I spent a lot of time preparing to start working at Heat magazine to ensure that I was totally clued up on the brand.

Starting at Heat magazine has been fantastic, the team are so welcoming and friendly and I am learning so much. Lucie and the team have been so amazing with me – it really has been better than I could have ever envisioned.

Is working at Bauer everything that you expected?

Bauer is everything and more than I could have ever imagined. The company as a whole has taken such good care of me, from day one it has felt like I am part of the family. They set up an extensive training programme for me over the first month, meaning that I met with all the different departments that make up the company. From speaking to the lawyers to learning about how the advertising side of the company works – they had everything covered. This enabled me to feel really in tune with the business and to begin to understand processes that I have never encountered before.

Which magazine did you most enjoy working for during the programme and why?

This is always the hardest question to answer because I honestly enjoyed every title we worked on – just for different reasons. Working on More! was fantastic – learning about the brand as a whole and what sells was really interesting. It’s strange how quickly you feel like you’re becoming more in sync with a magazine and its audience. Closer was really good fun – the features interviews we completed was a real learning experience. After interviewing Jodie, it was a challenge to get that content written up into an interesting, emotive article but from working through the processes, I felt like I had learnt so much. Kerrang was amazing. It’s such a brilliant magazine and the content is really fresh and interesting. The same goes for Empire. Both of these titles are specialist so it took a while to really get into that frame of mind, but it taught us how to quickly pick up house style and understand what the readers wanted. Working on the features side of things on FHM was excellent. We spent a good deal of time learning about page appeal during that assignment – I had never focussed solely on this aspect before so I felt that that really pushed me. Luckily, I was gifted throughout by being given the opportunity to work with a variety of amazing designers – across many of the task – so I owe a lot to them! Heat was so much fun – getting the chance to think outside the box and be creative to the point of making yourself look like an idiot (me, that is), was a totally fresh challenge so it kept me on my toes.

I love them all! It really is impossible to pick which one I enjoyed the most.


"I believe that curiosity really is one of the best attributes a journalist can have"

In your opinion, what three key attributes are needed to be a journalist?

Curious, willing and versatile.

I believe that curiosity really is one of the best attributes a journalist can have. You should always be listening to what is going on around you – you never know what you’ll hear. If you are willing to do anything, get your hands dirty, make as much tea as possible and always be there with a smile on your face, I believe you would struggle not to go far. Being versatile and able to turn your hand to anything is another attribute I think you need. If you get asked to look into something, it could be the most insipid topic in the world but if you show some passion and produce the goods – you’re showing your worth. Then again, if I had to go and interview someone with a thousand spiders in their house, not enough gin could get me through that front door!

What’s in store for the future?

After my three months at Heat, I will move on to More! magazine for a further three months. After this, myself and the brilliant Julian Linley will see which title would best be suited to me and where I could carry on learning and experiencing as much as possible. I am picking up some great direction currently from my colleagues at Heat too, so I am hoping that they will be able to advise me on my strengths and weaknesses also. Looking further ahead into the future, when my contract ends at Bauer I am hoping that a job will come up within the company that I am then qualified for – so will be able to apply for that. I’ll go from there then! Fingers crossed!

"Get involved, as young as possible, in anything and everything you can"

Do all the things that I didn’t do – and then everything that I did! Get involved, as young as possible, in anything and everything you can. The school newspaper, newsletter – anything you can lay your hands on. If you go on to University, just join every club, writing related, broadcasting, debating – anything where you’ll get some great experiences and have an amazing time along the way. Also, blogging is such an important aspect in the industry it seems. It can showcase your writing skills and can highlight your ability to keep to deadlines that you set yourself. Sadly though, a lot of unpaid work experience I feel is necessary. It may not be right, but it’s what you have to do and honestly, it won’t be something you ever regret. Work in the evenings, at the weekends, beg lifts and a place to sleep – when you make it you’ll be able to pay everyone back. Without the kindness of my friends and the people I met during my time – I wouldn’t have been able to start my life in London, let alone pick up all the experience I gained before I moved. For four months I slept on a blow up mattress in a friend’s kitchen – cooking and cleaning to pay my keep.

And don’t give up. Even when all hope seems lost – stick it out.

Do you think print media will ever die out?

I love newspapers and magazines – holding them and having them there in your hands, as creepy as that sounds, is something I hope will never die. However, times are changing – news is becoming faster, more people are online, access is changing. I think the way the industry should be looking at the situation and is looking at it, is through adaptability. One day, you may only be able to access your copy of Heat online – like an e-magazine – but with the huge leaps in technology I wouldn’t be surprised if the pages came to life, just like they were before. I really hope it never does though – I’ll still be clinging to my tatty pieces of paper when everyone else is sat with a tablet!

"...don’t ever lose sight of why you do the job you do"

The stressful situation on the show was more induced by having to work to tight deadlines, whilst having to stick to filming requirements and knowing constantly, that the one thing I really wanted could have been ripped away from me at any time. I’m not normally that bad! However, the advice I took and what I stick with now is pretty simple. Don’t smoke a thousand cigarettes in a day! Take a step back from situations and if you can’t get past it, try and find another way to approach it. Never be afraid to ask for advice or help if you need a fresh pair of eyes. Smile and remember that you’re lucky to be there. And just don’t ever lose sight of why you do the job you do. I feel so blessed to have been given the chance that I have. I’d do it all over again, a million times if I was going to be allowed this opportunity once more.