Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Lady - tonight, 9pm, C4

Sorry to overseas visitors who probably can't get Channel 4.

Tonight, on Cutting Edge at 9pm, is a programme entitled The Lady and the Revamp. It's about how the new editor of the Lady, who happens to be London Mayor Boris Johnson's sister, is trying to turn around the fortunes of Britain's oldest weekly women's magazine.

Could be interesting to watch? Even though they aren't taking fiction at the moment.

Edited 10.05pm - see here for an interview with The Lady's editor about the programme.


Old Kitty said...


Yes, I saw this as Pick of the Day in the Metro paper. From the write up it looks like a classic battle between "the old guard" vs the new!

So will definitely watch!

Take care

Jenzarina said...

Hello, even though I can't get Channel 4 out in AbroadLand, thank you anyway for the information that Boris Johnson's sister is the new editor the The Lady!
I will happily imagine hoe the program will go.

Sally Zigmond said...

Thanks for that, womag. I shall definitely watch or record it. Great title for the programme, too. I've glanced through a copy of the revamped mag, though and it does look a lot better. I just wish they still took fiction because occasionally I would get it right. I've managed it once or twice.

Patsy said...

Is this the sort of programme that has somewhere for viewers to e-mail in comments after they've watched? If it is, maybe we can suggest that bringing back fiction would be a good plan.

Julie P said...

Thanks, Womag. I'll certainly watch this - might give us some pointers on the kind of features they're after now.

Julie xx

Jennifer J said...

"Is this the sort of programme that has somewhere for viewers to e-mail in comments after they've watched? If it is, maybe we can suggest that bringing back fiction would be a good plan."

If not, we could certainly find an editorial email address and send a note saying that we wished they would print fiction again.

womagwriter said...

I missed the first 10 minutes of the program but saw the rest. Sounds like the first thing the new editor did was to sack the 'literary' editor.

Entertaining programme. But from the point of view of short story writing, doesn't look like there's much hope for us at The Lady.

womagwriter said...

I've added a link to Rachel Johnson's website, on which there is a Contact Me form. Use that to plead for the return of fiction in the mag!

Anonymous said...

I didn't find it at all comfortable watching, quite apart from the immediate, public and humiliating sacking of the Literary Editor. I didn't like the atmosphere generated, I didn't like the way Rachel Johnson was so keen to exorcise the ghost of Arline Usden, though I suppose it's like having your mother-in-law in the bedroom on your wedding night.

I suspect magazines are worried about their older readership snuffing it, reducing circulation, but it seems to me that people morph from needing to read about the various ways to achieve orgasms into people quite contented to contemplate the origins of the cucumber.

I was under the impression The Lady would still refer to sex (if one had to refer to it at all, as 'Bed sports'.

One lady I know never used to read woman's magaznes but really enjoys People's Friend now. She grew into it.

I know television must make its little dramas out of documentaries, but I really didn't like what I saw. I am so sick of getting rejection after rejection, but I would hate to work in that sort of atmosphere. I'd have to learn to gush and kiss mine enemies, for a start.

Thanks, Womag, for pointing this programme out to us.


penandpaints said...

Thanks Womag, just watched it to see if there was any mention of the fiction element of the mag, but like you said, it was just the immediate sacking of the literary editor. I can understand that the magazine may need updating, but surely a gradual change would be better?
Might be worth inundating them with requests for the return of the short story though!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip Womag. That was hilarious - it was like Basil Fawlty deciding to run a magazine. The whole office atmosphere seemed extremely tense all the time, you were never quite clear who was making big decisions And I thought it very bizarre when the new editor slagged the magazine off saying it was rubbish and no-one cared about it anyway. P45 anyone? In another office you would get sacked for saying something like that but not at The Lady apparently. Very unladylike, if you ask me.

womagwriter said...

M - I had some sympathy with her re removing the previous editor's name from the masthead. Rachel was employed to be the new editor so either she is, or she isn't. It's hard to do any job when the post's previous encumbant is breathing down your neck.

Penandpaints - yes I would have thought a gradual change would have been a safer way to go. But then I know nothing about magazine editing!

Anonymous - no, not very ladylike, but very Johnson-like. I can just imagine Boris making that kind of gaffe himself.

Anonymous said...

The Lady was one of the first magazines to buy my work, so I have a kind of fondness for them - even though I never actually read any!

Maybe we all need to send an enquiry asking if they'll take short stories again - I'd have thought anything to make the magazine sellable would be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

womagwriter, I know what you mean about wanting to clearly be the editor, but I felt that the programme was very skewed in favour of making the whole thing rather brutal. It's as if these programmes just pick out the worst to weave an almost fictionalised story of stabbings and bloodshed, rather than giving a more positive appraisal of the situation. I don't think there was any need to put any emphasis on Arline Usden having her fingers stamped on until she let go... but of course it makes great TV.

They could have let her fade away gracefully.

And showing that startling transformation when Johnson was talking about the sub-editor being on the death list, then the gushing insincere greeting; that was horrible.

I don't think it showed Johnson in a very good light, and was probably unfair in picking all the negatives and none of the good points.

It's business and business is nasty and bloody.

But TV producers ought to consider people's feelings. It's not worth damaging people for an hour's programme.

The media is a tricky, biting beast, and though it is said "no publicity is bad publicity," that is just a sop for when things don't go to plan.

As for Johnson's denigration of the magazine, I felt that very revealing... how can anyone edit sympathetically for the established readership when she holds the magazine's established content in such distain? Let's hope that wasn't her Ratner's Moment.

I have to say I thought Johnson's choice of proposed Agony Aunt bizarre, too. Etiquette Aunt perhaps.

As for the short story, yes, I think they should bring it back, and not just because it provides another potential market. People need a bit of escapism and fantasy in their lives.

womagwriter said...

Anon - do watch the interview with Johnson linked at the end of the post. She too thought the programme was cut to show her at her 'ball-breaking worst'. I think she can take it, though. It'd be interesting to know what effect the programme has on circulation figures. Wonder if there's any way we can find out?

Helen said...

Interesting programme. I sold some 'general interest' articles to The Lady the year before last, doubt they would be interested now. I wonder how long Rachel Johnson will actually stay - not long I bet.

Paula Williams said...

I was quite upset at the way some of the people were treated. I think it is such a pity that programme makers only seem interested in confrontation these days and agree with anonymous - I too found it uncomfortable to watch, particularly as I sold stories to Janina (back in the good old days) and she was always a delight to work with. They paid, if I remember, on rather posh cheques!
Sadly, I don't see the Lady surviving, which was a pity as it had such character - a lovely, quirky magazine.

Teresa W said...

I’ve just watched it on catchup, as football was on last night.

Can I just say I actually thoroughly enjoyed watching the programme myself, as uncomfortable as it was in parts, especially with the sacking of the literary editor.

Yes it did show Rachel Johnson at her ‘ball-breaking worst’, but, that’s how it is in the industry, and this programme reminded me so much of my time at Archant here in Norwich.

Being in on the launch of a brand new weekly tabloid magazine, it was a very exciting time. We had two years to get it into profit, fast-tracking it in any way possible. With a lot of hard work and an awful lot more politics, such as those you saw in the programme, we managed to get it into profit at the end of the first year of publication. Then, myself, as supervisor and my line manager, were both very suddenly and very brutally made redundant. The excuse was ‘cost cutting to fast track the publication into higher profitability’ But the truth was, those who were against this particular publication immediately took over the management of it. The reality was, the real reason for getting rid of us was more like, ‘thanks you’ve done a great job, we’ll take over from here.’

It’s a harsh world out there, especially in the media, and there is no room for people who are resistant to change. The readership of The Lady spelt out the need for change for their future readers, the existing ones won’t live forever. Something needed to be done, and quickly.

Only time will tell if Rachel has made the right decisions, and I for one was very disappointed to see the short story, and Viewpoint, cut from the magazine so suddenly. But we can’t deny, the magazine did need modernising.

Anonymous said...

I loved the documentary and hope that The Lady survives. As for the sackings, that's business after all and would have looked silly if not shown on air. I couldn't quite see the point of them having a literary reviewer so his sacking was no worry to me - I would have sacked him myself as he had no regards for timekeeping and seemed to think himself above the editor.
Good luck to Rachel and long may she reign.

Elaine Everest
PS They always reply to pitches and write such nice rejections.

Bernadette said...

I thought it was a very interesting programme and I actually felt a bit sorry for Rachel Johnson. It was as though they wanted her to update the magazine and increase its circulation without actually wanting her to change very much. It seemed that a lot of what she was doing was actually standing up for herself and the job she had been recruited to perform and you can't blame her for that.

I've been in plenty of business meetings where people were much harsher, but fortunately the cameras weren't rolling!

As far as the short stories go, the website has an archive of the recent ones - it's a sort of 'come dine with me' series that's currently on episode 10. Whether they ever go back to non-commissioned individual stories from the likes of us remains to be seen though. But having fiction at all is a step (back) in the right direction.

Karen said...

I really enjoyed the programme. One of my first sales was a 'general interest' piece about April Fool's Day to The Lady, thought I never managed to sell them any fiction.

It seems such an old fashioned magazine it's hard to see how it can survive, but I hope it does and think if anyone can save it Rachel Johnson can :o)