October 28, 2007

A custom career

An interview with…


Executive Editor

Onboard Media

Kate McClare’s career began predictably enough. “I spent the first 20 years or so of my career as a reporter and editor at small daily newspapers in New England and South Florida,” she recalls. “I worked at the Boca Raton News as a reporter, editor, and feature writer for many years, from the days when it was a great little Knight Ridder newspaper.”

But then she answered a help-wanted ad for the entertainment tabloid Weekly World News, the trashy supermarket tabloid that went out of business in August.

“I was pretty much the copyeditor and mostly wrote a lot of short articles, such as ‘Working With Idiots Can Kill You!’ That was a typical WWN story: The idea is true, but the particular facts that support it were, uh, let's say they're taken liberties with. But you'd be surprised how much of the WWN was actually true – we took a lot of real news and just gave it a snappy, old-school tabloid voice.”

Common wisdom is: Once you go tabloid, there’s no going back. But McClare didn’t want to go back.

“Truthfully, after 20 years in daily newspapers, I came to feel newspapers had run their course for me and I just started bouncing around various publishing-related companies until I finally landed here,” she says. “I never planned to be executive editor of a custom publisher.”
But that’s what she is. And it’s a career few journalists even know exists.

What exactly do you do?

I work with our cruise partners – Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International – to produce “Port of Call” books for their ships in the Caribbean and in Alaska and Europe.

I do the same for the in-room books for Sandals Resorts.
I also oversee the editors who put out our two Las Vegas magazines and an annual luxury-goods magazine that we produce internally and distribute on Caribbean itineraries. All of our books are freelance-written, although the staff editors have to be able to jump in and write in a pinch.

Many college students and even media pros never consider a career like the one you have. Why do you think that is?

I think many people don’t realize how much editorial creativity there is in custom publishing – we don’t just print what clients tell us, and we’re closely involved in everything from the magazine’s conception to its final printing. We recommend the content, sell the ads, create the editorial, design the pages, and handle printing. There’s a lot more growth and opportunity than in the traditional magazine field.

How is your job different than working at, say, a mainstream newspaper or magazine?

Our mission is broader than just publishing things that we think are interesting or that our readers would like to know about. We do that, but we also have to consider what our publishing partners want readers to know about. We are essentially part of their organization and have to realize we are representing them as well.

Biggest pleasure and the biggest frustration of your job?

My biggest pleasure is working with good writers and helping them to produce great writing. The biggest frustration is lack of time for real give-and-take with the writers.

Advice for someone who wants to get into your line of work?

Get familiar with the publication you want to write for, including requesting a set of writer’s guidelines that should give you a sense of what topics are needed and when assignments are made. Send a few story ideas – not full stories, but ideas – that conform to the guidelines. And, as with all writing, read as much as you can of other good writers’ work.

One piece of advice you wish you could surgically implant into the skulls of new grads and young pros?

Stop relying on spell-check – witch doesn’t fix awl spelling airs – and start proofing your own copy the old-fashioned way. Sit down and read it. Read it aloud and really listen to see if it’s making any sense. Then cut it by 10 percent.