Nathan Li explains what it’s like to be in charge of the entire Grapeshot publication.
What does a Grapeshot Editor-in-Chief do?
I direct and coordinate everything that needs to be done for the publication – from conception of ideas, to assigning work, to putting it all together and proofing the magazine, not to mention a lot of admin work behind the scene as well. Some people often ask why we are in the office all the time even it’s during the semester break or a new issue has just been released. What some of you don’t understand is the roughly four-week cycle of production for each issue of our magazine, from writing, to editing, to design and to proofing and printing. Similar to any other media work, especially with the website that you’re on now which we update daily (yes, everyday, seven days a week), our work never stops. And as the Editor-in-Chief, I am in charge of it all, including advertising and marketing which I need to ensure it’s managed properly with the right people.
How do you do it?
I boss other people around to do everything that needs to be done. Delegation is key. Mia said that I am pretty good at getting people to do stuff and I guess it’s just my bad direct manners and insensitiveness really. As I have written about the pride, persistence and the process of publication, how I do everything can sometimes be chaotic and unexplainable. But really, there’s a lot of correspondence going on for this job, through emailing, Facebook, phone calls and meetings. To organise other people, I have to make sure I can organise myself first. I need to list (sometimes mentally and sometimes written down) everything that needs to be done, step by step, with respective deadlines and responsible bodies. I try to be involved in as many things as possible, and sometimes I am really involved as I need to approve everything in the end (control freak much).
What do you love the most about your work at Grapeshot?
Though challenging, this is definitely the most rewarding work I’ve ever done because of the physical products I get to see at the end of each month when the magazines come out. Apart from that, staying at the forefront of all the happening around campus and Sydney – knowing many awesome activities and events that are going to take place – and thinking of ways to get the messages across to students is exciting. Also, exploring issues relevant to students is intellectually stimulating. And who would’ve thought having to edit other people’s works actually makes you more aware of your choice of words, expressions and writing succinctly, which actually helps when it comes to uni assignments.
How do you manage your time of being the Grapeshot Editor-in-Chief and a student with your other commitments?
It’s been tough. Last semester, on top of working at Grapeshot and studying, I had two other internships going on at the same time (not to mention other design freelance works I had too). People always ask how I do it all. Well, my secret is that I stay in the Grapeshot office at night and during weekends and public holidays – pretty much any time when I don’t have to be anywhere else, I am in the office trying to do as much done as possible. Some may think that I live in the office and never leave, but hey, the truth is I still haven’t stayed over night in the office – not even once – despite earlier in the year on occasions Mia and I did have to stay back to proof the magazine till 3am.
Sometimes (a lot of times actually as those around me would know) I would get grumpy and depressed and angry (and all sorts of other bad moods you can think of) because I am stressed about all my deadlines. But eventually I understand that I will have to get everything done, so I just pull myself together and get it done.
What challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
Having to constantly make decisions in an instant, negotiate with different parties, think on the feet, come up with alternate solutions to many things, deal with my frustration with almost everything, and learn about the art of communication: how to say yes when I mean yes, say yes when I mean no, say no when I mean NO!
A lot of times I do doubt the decisions I make – but if I don’t believe in myself who will believe in what I say. It’s about firm delivery and constant reflection and not being afraid to admit later: yes I screwed that up – big times!
And we often end up saying “oh well…”, and we will do better next time.
What are some of the expected and the unexpected this year?
While I have expected to gain a lot of professional experience and connections from this job, all the other unexpected relationships made with the people I have worked with, including the team members, contributors and interviewees are invaluable. My view of the world and myself has definitely broadened as well. Who knows what can happen from here? A lot of media professionals started their careers from their student publications right?
What advice would you have for those who are looking to apply for the Editor-in-Chief position?
Have a strong vision and keep asking yourself what makes a great magazine. Read tonnes of other magazines, books, newspapers and even other forms of media too such as TV and online stories, analyse what works and what doesn’t, and think of ways to apply what you learn to the context of Grapeshot. Also, editor-in-chief is a very demanding position – of time, of mental and even physical energy – so be prepared to compromise your social life, but do have a balance and do a lot of excercise to keep yourself refreshed and both mentally and physically strong and healthy. In the end, everything is worth the hard work.