Olivier Laurent is the News and Online Editor of British Journal of Photography. He tells us why being a journalist means having to annoy people sometimes…
What is your name, age and job title?
Olivier Laurent, 32. I’m the News and Online Editor of British Journal of Photography (BJP), the world’s longest-running photography magazine.
Please give us an overview of your average day.
Journalism isn’t always glamorous – a lot of it takes place behind a desk in an open space, answering emails and calling your sources. Every once in a while, there are press conferences you need to attend, private views and other photography events and festivals that play an important role in the industry. But in the end, a lot of my time is spent in front of a computer screen with Word open.
What’s the most common misconception about your job?
A lot of people, especially students, believe that we commission and even shoot photographs at BJP. I receive many requests for internships from photography students wanting to gain experience in photography. But we’re not photo editors – we’re writers. We talk to photographers but we don’t get involved in their photographic processes. We write about the end result.
What’s the hardest thing about your role?
I guess it’s accepting the fact that not everybody will like what you do, especially in a community as small as the photographic community. You can’t please everyone, and every once in a while you’ll have to write an article that’ll portray an organisation in a negative light. It’s part of the job and, if you don’t do it, you’ll lose the respect of the industry as a trusted source of news.
When did you decide what you wanted to do with your life and how did you set out to achieve it?
It’s a cliché, but it was when I read All The President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, around 15 years ago. As a result, I studied at the American University of Paris and looked for a job in Paris and London. At the time, the only way to get into journalism was by working for a financial magazine. My first job was for a title called Dealing With Technology, which covered the banking industry and how it uses technology in its operations. Within the same publishing house, Incisive Media, I then moved to Post Magazine, another financial magazine that dealt with the insurance industry, before finding my real home at British Journal of Photography.
The point is not to believe that you’ll achieve your dream job right out of university. Life is full of detours, and once in a while, you get the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. It can take years – but along the way, you learn valuable things. My first editor on Dealing With Technology, Eugene Grygo, thought me everything I know about journalism and my 16 months working with him still influence my work today.
What can you do to get a head start?
Work experience is probably the best way to get a head start. I studied journalism at university, but when you start working for a newspaper or a magazine, you realise that everything you’ve learned is mostly irrelevant. Theory is great, but practice is what it’s all about.
Could you describe the creative element to your job?
I guess writing the art of writing headlines is the most creative element to my job. It’s probably the hardest thing I have to do – and, to be honest, I have yet to master it.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known at the start of your career that you know now?
Not everyone is going to like what you do, as I said before, and you shouldn’t let this affect the way you write and report on people and organisations.
Which organisations/websites/resources do you think would be useful for people entering your industry?
Poynter.org is probably the one resource that helped me the most when I started in journalism – it’s full of insight and real-life case studies. It’s also a great resource to see what other news organisations are doing – how they are innovating, what works and what doesn’t, how they engage with their audiences. But probably the most important resources I use are other newspapers and magazines. I start my day by reading The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Libération, as well as other photography titles such as PDN and Amateur Photographer. If you’re not curious about what’s going on around you and in the world, you’ll struggle as a journalist.
Image: BJP iPad App - Making Of by Tina Remiz on a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.
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