The Ticket: how we usu­ally do it, and how we did it this week

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - News -

“Great idea. Week off for me,” I thought when my boss sug­gested bring­ing in a guest ed­i­tor for an edi­tion of The Ticket.

How do you choose a guest ed­i­tor? Some folks in the of­fice wanted a su­per­star. Oth­ers said it just had to be some­one hot. I wanted some­one who knew some­thing about mu­sic and/or film, the prin­ci­pal sub­jects cov­ered by The Ticket. They would have to be keen to take this on as a creative project (cos there’s not a lot of cash slosh­ing around th­ese days), and to be comfortable work­ing out­side of their own dis­ci­pline.

There were lots of sug­ges­tions: a dishy ac­tor, a cere­bral film-maker, an icon­o­clas­tic co­me­dian, a down-with-the-kids nov­el­ist.

We even­tu­ally whit­tled a longlist of 20 or 30 names down to four pos­si­bles, and the first one we ap­proached was the lead singer of Snow Pa­trol, Gary Light­body – or his pub­li­cist – who ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion pretty much straight­away.

There was just one prob­lem: Snow Pa­trol were bang in the mid­dle of a world tour, and he’d have to do the job re­motely: by phone and e-mail. Gary had some ex­pe­ri­ence of blog­ging and in­ter­view­ing mu­si­cians, but had never edited a mass-cir­cu­la­tion pub­li­ca­tion be­fore. So much for my week off.

It was de­cided that I would do the nuts-and-bolts stuff of putting the is­sue to­gether, but Gary and I would work to­gether on choos­ing con­tent. The hope was that, with his ex­ter­nal per­spec­tive, we would cre­ate some­thing vis­i­bly dif­fer­ent from the av­er­age weekly Ticket.

With the in­put from two fine film jour­nal­ists and a hand­ful of ex­pe­ri­enced mu­sic writ­ers, The Ticket is usu­ally a smooth-run­ning, shiny Luas of an op­er­a­tion; would our rock­star ed­i­tor knock it off the rails? Hope­fully, was my view. There’s not much point invit­ing an out­sider in to do the job if they just do what I do.

All the same, I didn’t want some­one to come in and wreck the damn thing. I spoke to a jour­nal­ist in Film Ire­land mag­a­zine, which has had sev­eral guest ed­i­tors, and read up on how this ex­pe­ri­ence has gone else­where. I learned that Nick Hornby had been a hand­son guest ed­i­tor of Time Out, and that El­ton John never saw the in­side of the of­fice when he did the same job. A New States­man con­trib­u­tor quit af­ter Alas­tair Camp­bell’s stint as guest ed­i­tor. For all our sakes, I laid down a cou­ple of pre­con­di­tions. First: that The Ticket has a com­mit­ment to re­view ev­ery new film re­leased and to pub­lish a com­pre­hen­sive list­ings ser­vice each week. And sec­ond: that the pa­per has an ed­i­to­rial pol­icy and ethics code that tran­scend any one per­son, in case he tried to ram through any out­landish, of­fen­sive – or rub­bish – ideas.

The ideas came, and they were re­fresh­ing without be­ing out­landish, and I cer­tainly didn’t have to nuke ’em. Gary wanted to send a child to re­view a chil­dren’s film, so on page 12, Orla Fa­hey has re­viewed the lat­est Ice Age movie. He chose which mu­si­cians should be high­lighted from the com­ing week’s gigs: pan­els on Lisa Han­ni­gan and Josh Rit­ter ap­pear on pages 17 and 20.

At Jim Car­roll’s sug­ges­tion, Gary chose the bands that Jim would write about in his weekly New Mu­sic col­umn on page 7.

We also agreed that Gary would write a fes­ti­val sur­vival guide, based on his and the band’s ex­pe­ri­ences (pages 8-9). And that they would give their per­sonal rec­om­men­da­tions on which acts to see at Ox­e­gen (page 9), which they head­line next week.

The only stick­ing point was the idea that that Gary might in­ter­view a mu­sic jour­nal­ist, to turn the ta­bles on the rock­star-journo re­la­tion­ship that de­fines so much mu­sic cov­er­age in the me­dia to­day. Gary showed ini­tial en­thu­si­asm, but when I sug­gested Brian Boyd, who had writ­ten some neg­a­tive ar­ti­cles about Snow Pa­trol in the past, he baulked.

He was even­tu­ally per­suaded that it was a rare op­por­tu­nity for a rock­star to ques­tion a mu­sic jour­nal­ist – on be­half of all mu­si­cians – about why they write the things they do about bands. The in­ter­view was sched­uled and resched­uled sev­eral times, but never ma­te­ri­alised, though the two met briefly in Barcelona on Tues­day af­ter the open­ing night of the U2 tour. Maybe he didn’t like the idea of sit­ting down with some­one who had writ­ten neg­a­tively about his work.

In the end, we treated this as a nor­mal jour­nal­is­tic job, and I con­ducted the in­ter­view with Brian Boyd my­self, us­ing some of the ques­tions I had ini­tially sug­gested to Gary. It ap­pears on pages 6-7.

At the time of writ­ing I have just e-mailed PDFs of near-com­plete pages to our guest ed­i­tor, who is on a day off be­tween U2 sup­port dates. Hope he doesn’t have too many changes. Now I re­ally do need a week off.

Gary Light­body: not in The Ticket of­fice Pho­to­graph: Bradley Quinn

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