Clare Johnston is a journalist living in Edinburgh with her husband and two sons. She is commercial editor of the DC Thomson Media titles, and a former head of magazines and commercial editor with the Daily Record and Sunday Mail, a weekly newspaper columnist and editorial director of the Press Association in Scotland.
Clare is also a regular contributor on BBC Radio Scotland, including on the satirical comedy show, Breaking the News.
Her first novel, Polls Apart, was published by Thames River Press in October 2011.
A second novel, From the Outside, will be published by Urbane Publications in July 2019.
Clare writes the novels she loves to read with the essential ingredients of pace, emotion, twists and a number of fable-like elements to really get readers thinking about the characters and what can be learned from them.
Interview with Clare Johnston
We had a chat with Clare Johnston about how to make it in journalism, her most inspirational interviews and navigating the realms of digital media.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your roles at the Daily Record and at Media Scotland?
The Daily Record is part of the Media Scotland publishing group and that also includes the Sunday Mail, Scottish Business Insider, Glasgow Live and we’ve got seventeen local titles as well. My role within the group is Head of Content Services and I’m also a columnist for the women’s section in the Daily Record.
How long have you worked in Journalism and Media?
I have worked in Journalism for twenty-two years in total!
So what lead you to the roles you’re in today, what is your background?
I’m from Edinburgh, born and raised. I did an MA at Glasgow Uni and then I went to Cardiff University to do a Postgraduate diploma in Journalism. Like a lot of young people thinking seriously about career options, I had to look at my strengths. I remember sitting down with my dad and looking at what I was good at. My nose was never out of a newspaper and I loved to write. So my future was set out for me.
My first serious job in Journalism was with the Press Association, it was my big break. I had lots of different experiences from there, I worked in features for a while and then I was given a development role working with a commercial team. That was my first taste of something that wasn’t just strictly journalism. I then wrote a book and became a mum. Once I got a publishing deal, I left PA and was offered a role for maternity cover at the Daily Record as head of magazines, before working on the features desk. I was then asked to be Commercial Editor for the group, working between editorial and the advertising team.
In February this year my role changed and I became Head of Content Services at Media Scotland. In the last few months we launched a course for Communications professionals called Content Creation and Media Relations for a Digital Age. I also offer Content Marketing Services for businesses. For the first time in a long time I feel like I’m using all of my skills – I’m enjoying it.
Since you have such a varied role, do you have a favourite aspect or do you enjoy each challenge equally?
I’m a natural communicator, I like to talk! I like to write as well. So if I’m not doing one of the two I will miss the other. When I worked at PA for a while I was in a management role and I wasn’t writing so much, which is why I wrote the novel because I had to have that outlet. Similarly, if I’m doing a desk job and writing all the time and I don’t get to interact with people, I really miss that as well. Having that balance in this job is a happy experience for me.
How do you see the future of digital media developing?
I think it’s so dependent on technology, we never know what’s round the corner. For us in the media, it’s a case of adapting as quickly as possible and constantly being on the lookout for new technology, new trends. If you do that as a business you can only succeed. You can’t tell how far the decline in print will go, and where digital technology will lead us, but I believe there will always be a demand for professionally-produced and verified content.
From feature writing to working with businesses, what’s been your most memorable experience in the past five years?
My most treasured experience was my time as a Feature writer talking to some of the inspirational people that I interviewed. I always think that certain things in life are meant to be. There were a couple of interviews after my son had just been diagnosed with autism. At the time I remember speaking to people in really tough situations, one family had a child with a terminal illness, and their positivity and resilience hit home with me. They would try to make the best of life, and I don’t think I could top that for experiences, because they made their mark and changed my outlook.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in Journalism or Media?
Start creating content today. The great thing about the web is that you have this ready-made platform to publish at any time. Get out and about, film or write a blog, showcase what you can do, how you write and your understanding of the world. Let people see that you have passion.