How I Made It: Trish Halpin, Editor Of Marie Claire

How I Made It: Trish Halpin, Editor Of Marie Claire

From Red to More! to New Woman, Trish Halpin has enjoyed an enduring and successful career in shaping women’s magazines, winning the prestigious Editor of the Year Award on no less than three occasions. Now, as she approaches her 10th year as editor of Marie Claire, we talk about her career trajectory, her proudest moments and her advice for aspiring editors.

What did you want to be when you were young?
I actually didn't have any particular ambitions as the Catholic comprehensive school I went to in North London didn’t encourage me to look beyond traditional (at the time) ‘female’ careers like nursing, teaching or administration. But I didn’t feel under pressure to know what I wanted to do, unlike many young people today. At that time, you didn't have to pay to do a degree, so it didn't matter if you changed your mind or discovered something else you wanted to pursue along the way.
Where did you go to university and what did you study?
I did an English and Media degree at Brighton Polytechnic (now University). I loved living in Brighton, coming from London it was great to be in a smaller town with everything on your doorstep. It was huge fun and I actually met my husband there, we’re still together 30 years on!
Do you think degrees matter to do the kind of job you do?
If you want to work in journalism you do need either a degree or an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualification. The future is all about digital, so make sure there is a strong element of that on the course, but I would advise trying to get experience on a newspaper or magazine because it is the best, most thorough training. There is quite a difference between the content you see in print and online, so it’s important to understand that difference, and why audiences expect to consume information in certain ways depending on what platform they’re engaging with it.

What made you want to go into journalism and magazines in particular?
When I finished my degree, I got a job working in the advertising production department for a trade newspaper. I then moved to a small independent contract publishing house where I had to do everything; writing, subbing, picture research – it was a brilliant training ground and I loved it. That’s when I realised this was the career for me. I didn't actually plan to work on women’s glossies, but got a job as a sub-editor on More! magazine and that was the start of my consumer magazine career. I worked my way up from there.

Digital and smartphones have changed everything about how we consume information and we have had to adapt to that.

What’s been the biggest obstacle in your career?
Probably me! A lack of self-belief stopped me from applying to be an editor sooner. But hard work and talent got me there in the end.

Starting as Editor of Marie Claire, did you feel pressure taking over and bringing new ideas to a magazine people already knew well?
It was such an honour to be appointed editor of this iconic glossy brand. I remember when it launched, thinking it was so different to any other glossy and the standard of journalism was so high. Marie Claire has such a strong DNA, combining thought-provoking features with aspirational fashion and beauty. The job as editor is to keep that DNA at the core through global reportage stories, investigative reports and features about empowering women the world over. The editorial delivery can change and evolve but we are still reporting on gender equality, the rights of women and girls, finding success and purpose in your career and life, all of which is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.
You’ve been at Marie Claire 10 years this year – what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry?
Without a doubt it's the impact of digital and smartphones – they have changed everything about how we consume information and we have had to adapt to that. Print is at the heart of our brand but our social platforms and website are crucial to success, and we’ve had to find other revenue streams, such as our retail fashion affiliate site The Edit and beauty partnership, Fabled by Marie Claire.

What’s your morning routine? Are you an early riser or a night owl?
I’m an early riser. I get up at 6.10am on Wednesday to do a hot yoga class at the gym and I’m in the pool at 6.30 am at least one morning a week. My kids leave for school by 7.15am so we have to be super organised.

You are always so well dressed - do you think the statement ‘dress for the job you want’ is true?
Well thank you! I have really grown to love fashion and have learned a lot about dressing from the fantastic fashion editors I’ve worked with over the years. I think my style is quite chic and classic. My fashion director says I’m ‘well put-together’ which I take as a compliment. I think you should reflect who you are through what you wear, and yes it does help to make an effort with clothes, hair and make-up.
What’s the proudest moment in your career?
Editing the 30th birthday edition of Marie Claire. We had Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor Who on the cover for her first glossy shoot. I did the interview with her and also got to travel to Ghana with my teenage daughter with the charity Plan International to meet girls who are facing huge challenges to stay in education. I rarely get to write, so both of these articles were special for me.
Who inspires you and why?
So many women – from my favourite authors such as Kate Atkinson and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to politicians like Jess Phillips who stand up for women day in, day out, and Michelle Obama, who showed such dignity and humanity in one of the most difficult roles in the world.
How do you switch off and unwind from a day at work?
Supper with my family, then it’s on the sofa for an hour of Netflix or a BBC drama. I watch the news headlines but switch off as soon as it gets to Brexit, then it’s into bed, read for 15 minutes and lights out. I’m good at compartmentalising work and I stopped checking emails at home in the evening a while back, as it was driving me nuts. Nothing is so important it can’t wait until the morning and if it is, someone can always phone me. Remember phone calls?! Nobody does that any more…
If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?
I’d like to be a presenter or producer on a news programme. If anyone at the BBC happens to be reading this…!
If you had advice for women wanting to follow in your footsteps what would it be?
Have an enquiring mind – read about people, politics, world events. Seek out your favourite writers and journalists and think about what it is you love about their work. And for goodness sake read a proper newspaper and magazines! Nothing annoys me more than young people applying for work experience who want to be journalists but have never read a newspaper (the sidebar of shame on the Daily Mail does not count!).
Follow Trish on Instagram @marieclairetrish

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