Our ‘meet the journo’ feature allows you to meet the faces behind the names and get to know the journalists, editors and key influencers at some of Yorkshire’s leading publications!
We spoke to journalist Zoe Perrett this month about her love for food and travel, what she believes makes a great story and the challenges of time management in journalism. Have a read of the full interview below and catch her on Twitter here.
How did your career in journalism unfold?
Journalism was my career choice at primary school, although I went off track at college by picking random subjects to match my best mate’s timetable!
Ill-advised subject areas aside, at the time I was a longform diary-penner, experimental cook, and avid consumer of food magazines and cookbooks. Considering Uni, I hoped there was a degree that would allow me to combine my dual loves of writing and food. Food & Consumer Studies ticked the box and, three years later, I achieved First Class Honours doled out to me along with the department prize.
In common with many students, I don’t think I ever realised that I needed to consider what I’d do when I graduated – so when the final semester finished, a lot of panicked brown-nosing emails to all the major food magazines followed – and, thankfully, so did a solid series of internships.
But this was just before the last recession, so that plum job at the Editorial Assistant’s desk I dreamed of was not forthcoming. I ploughed on as a fledgling freelancer regardless; working for Foodtripper in its very early infancy, contributing to and editing pieces on Foodepedia, and providing holiday cover to titles like Olive and Good Food.
Finally, just when the struggle was becoming VERY real, I was headhunted (can you call it that if you’re only scraping by as a self-employed writer?!) by the publisher of a brand-new premium food and travel title called Good Things. In print, glossy and monthly, I’d have been a fool to turn it down.
From an initial role as features ed. I was promoted to editor – a position I held, travelling the world and visiting some blinding hotels, spas and restaurants in the process – until I moved to Leeds from Essex in early 2018 to start two streetfood businesses with my other half, and the magazine closed its pages for good.
What inspires you the most?
Stories – whether that’s the science behind flavour, the tale of how an artisan product came into being, the history of a destination or building, or learning why a chef cooks the way they do.
What kind of stories particularly interest you?
Anything to do with food or travel – if they combine the two things, so much the better. Like most of my peers, I like to be in the know first, so exclusive details, sneak previews, early access to a forthcoming venue, advance tastings of prototype products and all that jazz always pique curiosity.
What’s the best story you’ve ever received?
The news that the insanely talented executive chef of London’s Holborn Dining Room was opening a dedicated Pie Room. Calum Franklin is a self-confessed pastry geek who produces a vast array of pies and pastries any Tudor monarch would be proud to have gracing their banquet and is super-highly regarded in London, but he definitely deserves National Treasure status. As a story in the grand scheme of things it may seem of little consequence, but I was delighted that The Rosewood Hotel had decided to indulge his esoteric obsession.
What are some of your goals for the future?
In the immediate term, to build a great Leeds network comprising food/restaurant/hotel PRs and their clients! In London I knew everyone, who they were working with, and what projects they had in the pipeline, but up here I’m fairly clueless. With various platforms for covering premium food and travel topics available to me including my own site amuse-bouche.uk, it’d be great to meet up with people who think I should know them!
What are some common myths or challenges about a career in journalism?
In terms of lifestyle journalism, that it’s a life of nonstop glamour for little output! Yes, the perks are very much there and mean you have access to some incredible experiences, but if you don’t put in the graft to build your network, deliver consistent, high-quality coverage, and earn and engage a readership, those perks won’t be there for long.
Time management is a challenge – you can be all over the place for press trips, meetings and excursions to meet the people you’re writing about, so it’s important to be able to multitask and make maximum use of dead time like being on the train or hanging about in an airport. Also, you might make it your mission to rinse every last drop out of each glass at a seven-course wine dinner, but the next morning’s copy deadlines don’t shift because you’re nursing a hangover.
What do you believe makes a great story?
On the surface, a hook – whether it’s one masterminded by the PR sharing the information or the journalist disseminating the story to their audience. That hook could be a timely fit with a current trend/event/political scandal, the fact that something’s blazing a new trail or set to kick off a new trend, or simply a damn good reason for the journo or reader to get interested. But to sustain said interest, there needs to be substance to the story… to apply a popular proverb, basically you need the ‘wow’ factor fur coat, but also the knickers forming a solid foundation!
What kind of publications do you enjoy reading?
It very much depends on my mood – after all, I can enjoy reading my shampoo bottle label if it’s been written by a killer copywriter. As far as personal interests go, anything concerned with food, travel and women’s lifestyle; but as I’m already in receipt of much of the same information these types of title are featuring at the same time their editorial teams are, reading these are more to check out their angles and execution as to glean new knowledge. As I like to get into the nitty gritty of a subject, I do have a fondness for an industry- rather than consumer-focused title. Drinks mag Imbibe is one that treads that rare balance of presenting what-could-be-dusty trade info as engaging features that’d sit happily in a magazine aimed at the non-professional.
How do you cope with the stress of tight deadlines?
Just get it done. The only way to begin to break free of a crushing spiral of anxiety is by taking action. Once you do, your poor addled brain remembers you are a responsible, accountable adult, not a scared child, and that you do wield a degree of power in a scary situation, and it usually gets you there.
Outside of work, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Talk to people, a lot. Eat out anywhere from a tiny family-run BYO to a multi-Michelin-starred restaurant. I have a particular love for (and consequent blog on) Indian food. Travel, although with my boyfriend/biz partner and I facing a hectic summer, that’s looking like the armchair variety for now. Judge craft chocolate competitions – I’ve done both the Academy of Chocolate Awards and International Chocolate Awards and have a blog devoted to the topic. And go to music events; Billy Joel at Old Trafford was one of the best date nights ever, and we’re going back to the 90s for Tony Hadley in Millennium Square later this month!
Finally, what piece of advice would you give to people wanting to pitch their business to you?
Just tell me about it! If you think I’ll be interested, give me the information. Don’t fret over a glossy presentation or the slickest delivery. Ideas for angles and hooks are great if you have them, but don’t let a lack of them stop you getting in touch with me. It’s my job to figure out how to make your business resonate with my readers; it’s yours to make me aware you exist and educate me on what you’re all about.
Special thanks to Zoe for getting involved in our ‘Meet the journo’ feature! We’ll be back next month with another interview with a leading Yorkshire journalist.