Yes, it’s none other than Vogue’s fabulous editor-in-chief Edwina McCann! The wonderfully fashionable fashion diva and amazing editor romped it home in the voting for this year’s media Powerlist. Here, she tells B&T she’s very humbled by the honour and happily concedes a great pair of heels never hurt anyone’s career…
Congratulations! You have topped B&T’s 30 Most Powerful Women in Australian Media for 2015…
I’m a bit overwhelmed to be honest. It’s a very impressive list of women who I have the utmost respect for and it’s all very unexpected and humbling.
I wasn’t privy to the final voting but by all reports you romped it home for the win…
Ha! Well, that just makes the whole thing even more extraordinary.
Was itTitanic that won all the Academy Awards that particular year? You’re the Titanic of the B&T Women In Media Powerlist…
My initial reaction was ‘you’re sure it wasn’t the list of who’s got the best shoes?’ Ha! It’s incredibly humbling and it is a huge acknowledgement of the transformation of the Vogue brand and the fact that’s been recognised by my peers and the industry generally is extraordinary and a real privilege
We’ve seen enormous change in media over the past decade or so, how do you think that has played out in changing the role of an editor?
I do describe myself as a businesswoman over an editor now. The diversification of Vogue’s revenue streams and the multiplication of our platforms has required me to learn new business skills, more so than a traditional journalist or editor role. Media is a very complex business now and you really need to have your hands on all the levers and be able to see the opportunities. It remains a disrupted business and it’s always evolving and that makes it very challenging to work in, but I find that challenge and the opportunities inspiring. I think it gives you an entrepreneurial attitude and I enjoy the business side of it, but I love the journalism side of it, too. These days you work as closely with your sales staff as you do the editorial team. And now you’ve got things like data and they weren’t even thought about when I got into media and I love that’s what digital does, it constantly challenges you.
We’ve always had this sort of ‘church and state’ thing with editorial and the sales teams; has that become old-hat and clichéd? Has it changed what’s required of journalists or what should be taught at journalism schools?
I’m actually on the University of Technology’s advisory board and they’re developing an entrepreneurial MBA and I think that does say to graduates ‘here are the business skills to at least give you the choice of where your career goes’. I wish I’d had more business schooling; I’ve had to very much learn it on the job. I’ve been very lucky in my career, I’ve had plenty of great people to explain a profit and loss sheet to me, ha, ha! But I still think we need independent, thinking journalists producing critical and important work.
Talking about women in media and your own experiences, how have things changed for women? How have things improved? What work still needs to be done?
It has changed. The CEO at NewsLifeMedia, Nicole Sheffield, is the first female CEO I’ve ever worked with. Sure, we’ve had female editors and female publishers, but never a female at the very top. Obviously Vogue employs a lot of young women and I do think it is very important that they have female role models in the top echelons of the business that can inspire them to be the best that they can be. When something becomes the norm it starts to shift attitudes. But you only need look at the calibre of talent coming through – we’ve just taken on one girl with a commerce-law degree; this new generation coming through are just very smart girls.
Your own future, how do you see that panning out?
Look, I truly do love my job and I do see it as a privilege to guide and edit a brand like Vogue. But I understand there will come a time when I’m no longer the right person to edit anymore and possibly my successor will need a whole new skillset like speaking Mandarin or all sorts of skills that I can’t even imagine. But I still feel I’m learning in the role, I’m building external networks and who knows where that ends up. But I still love Vogue and still feel I have a lot to offer. And that’s also about setting yourself challenging but gettable goals and I still believe there are enormous opportunities with the brand of Vogue.
I ask this in all sincerity, you’ve been voted the most powerful women in Australian media, how you do you think your rivals will take the news? After all, you do work in an industry that has a reputation for being a bit, for want of a better word, catty?
I think I have very good relationships with my immediate competitors and I have a huge amount of respect for them and I hope that feeling is mutual and I hope this award will be perceived as good for our industry overall. And I’m really over the argument that magazines are dead because we’re not just magazines we’re brands and we’ve been very nimble and clever and the work we’ve done in recent times is paying off and enabling us to reach much greater audiences and that’s really exciting. I think it’s also important to note that a lot of these editors make great personal sacrifices in their jobs, as I’m sure have all the women that are on the list, and I certainly hope no one thinks I’m a show-off (for winning), ha, ha.
You mentioned the importance of a good pair of shoes before. How important have they been to your success?
Very important, ha, ha! I have a very warped view of what shoes should cost and that is definitely due to my job and my career at Vogue. But yes, I definitely get dressed and I do get my hair done and I am very conscious of that and I am very conscious that there is a brand and there are expectations around that, yes. Maybe this an old hang-up from my school days when the headmistress used to say we were still representing the school even when we were standing at the bus stop, that we should be neat and tidy, and maybe I just think it should be the same thing to look the part.
In 1980 the great Cold Chisel released a song called Ita in honour of Australia’s greatest magazine doyen Ita Buttrose. Should Cold Chisel now do a song called Edwina or, if not the Chisels, another band or act?
Ha, ha! I really love Eves The Behavior at the moment so if they could write a song about me that would be seriously cool. Or if Lorde could right a song about me my nine-year-old daughter would just think I was the coolest thing on the planet. We’ve just done our music issue at Vogue, that’s how I know all this, ha, ha!
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