Gorkana meets…The Telegraph’s music editor

Bernadette McNulty, music editor at The Telegraph, on her diverse readership, reviewer shenanigans and why PRs shouldn’t differentiate between print and online.

As well as being music editor at The Telegraph, you also write about film, art, TV and books across the paper’s culture pages. Tell us about your role.

I plan, commission and edit music reviews, comment and features as well as writing them, and I also write across culture page areas like TV, art and film.

There is also the growing area of online content production, managing homepages and promoting our stuff across social networks.

The Telegraph arts desk has always been run so that most editors write for me, it’s a good combination. Music can be a bit of an introverted world, but for readers, it’s just another part of their cultural life. Appreciating that as an editor and writer is important.

How big is the arts team and who covers what?

The culture desk covers arts and TV in print and online, news and features. We’re about 20 people I think. Most areas have somebody that looks after them in print and online but everyone knows what is going in most areas and is expected to edit and produce online across areas.

How much content do you produce each day?

It varies, depending on what reviews are coming in, if we have feature content in the paper the next day and whether there are breaking stories that we’re doing as news stories, or, as comment pieces. When print called the shots, you had a much clearer sense of how much you had to produce each day; it’s definitely more fluid now, particularly with so many different ways of covering stories.

How would we be able to spot one of your readers?

Good looking, cracking jokes, getting a round in at the bar. I actually like the fact that I know my readership is pretty diverse. They are people who are interested in music, even if they aren’t obsessively going to gigs or following the very latest trends. I like the breadth and intelligence and open-minded tastes of our readership.

What does a typical week look like for you?

Monday tends to be short term scheduling for the week ahead in terms of when we are publishing stuff, if there are stories we need to follow up from the weekend and if we need to do react to something else. Midweek is taken up with the weekend supplements and the end of the week is when we look more towards longer term commissioning.

How do you like to work with PRs?

Brief, honest, direct exchanges are the best. Emails are the best primary method. Understanding what/how much we cover saves so much time. Facts are good, when/how somebody is available etc.

Is there anything PRs should avoid doing when getting in touch?

Chasing every single CD release multiple times is not going to be that helpful when we don’t even review singles. Telling me something is really Telegraph is a bit of a turn off as are long press releases, even if they are fascinating.

But really, the biggest issue is online vs print. We work across them and don’t differentiate. PRs often seem split into print and online and there is a focus on when things are running in print and less interest in what original material we can run online or how we can present the story differently. Increasing online audiences at The Telegraph have come from thinking about digital formats differently and not letting print dictate commissioning. It’s good for everyone as there are more readers for any review or interview so it would be great if PRs came with that broader view.

Some other niggles are just trying to hear music for review any more or difficult-to-use online music platforms and sometimes the shenanigans getting reviewers into gigs.

What about online content? How much original content is created for the site?

More and more. And obviously the style of the content is different.

What are you top tips for PRs when pitching?

Being familiar with what we publish online and in print is essential.

And finally, (we have to ask) what’s the most memorable concert you ever attended?

The Smiths, Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 1988. It was meant to be Morrissey’s first solo gig, and you got in free if you were wearing a Smiths’ t-shirt. I queued all day with friends but there were so many people we didn’t get in. But the sense loving music brought with it excitement, drama, danger, high emotion, camaraderie and standing in the proximity of amazingly cool-looking kids really stayed with me.

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