Joanna Coles, Storytelling in the 21st Century

Published on27 NOV 2018

Media executive Joanna Coles shares her perspectives on the transformation of the media industry since she began her career more than three decades ago.

On transforming Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire for a modern audience: “I didn’t have a background in women’s magazines… which [was] invaluable for having an outsider come in and do something. I thought, well, women are interested in mascara and the Middle East, why can’t we have both in one place? And everybody thought this was the most extraordinary thing they’ve ever heard.… We referred to it as ‘feminism by stealth.’ This was back in 2006 – before the reawakening of feminism really began to start feeding stories. And we started covering a lot of stories about women in Afghanistan or in the Middle East who weren’t getting any coverage at all. And it’s hard to think this [was] only 12 years ago.”

On the impact of social media on journalism: “If you think about television, you know, [it was] wonderful except that it made people couch potatoes. It told great stories, but the flip side [was] you stopped getting out there and living your own life. You think about the car – a fantastic vehicle for journeys, but [it] pollutes the environment. And again [it] stops people walking and exercising. And then you think of social media, which again allows people to tell their stories, but there are no real checks and balances on it at the moment, which is one of the problems…. In many ways it’s been fantastic for journalism. It allows people to find sources…. It’s an extraordinary vehicle for surfacing real needs very quickly. It’s also a great vehicle for spreading false news, as we’ve seen recently.”

On bringing diversity to the workplace: “You have to embrace change and you have to feel comfortable talking to people that literally don’t sound like you and might be a bit threatening. And then you learn for the most part that actually this is really impactful to the bottom line – it creates a completely different working environment and it’s good for everybody.”

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