Starting off as a reporter at Financial News, Nick Clark moved into arts journalism in 2011 and is now features editor of The Stage. He talks to Polly Harrison about his career, his editing style and the future.
First things first. How did you get into journalism?
Originally I wanted to be in film production but I realised at the end of university that I actually enjoyed writing about films more. I was going out with someone who was applying to journalism Masters courses, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I apply as well?’
You started off as a financial journalist – tell me more about that
I got a graduate trainee-ship on a financial paper, despite knowing nothing about finance at all. After that I moved to The Independent and it was there that the financial crash happened and I got my first front page. While it was obviously a hugely disruptive time globally, as a financial journalist it was incredibly exciting.
Then you moved into the arts?
In 2011 the arts correspondent left The Independent. I’d kept in with the arts by volunteering for reviews and pitching stories, so they knew I was interested and they asked if I wanted the job.
And finally you landed at The Stage. How did you find the move from reporter to editor?
It was a huge challenge but a really positive one. As a reporter you can be a lone wolf so I enjoyed the collaborative process of working with other journalists while still getting to write myself.
What do you look for when commissioning features and looking at pitches?
There’s no specific thing that I want, but essentially I need to know the writer can write. I get pitched multiple times a day and hundreds of emails, so I’ve got to see that spark.
The audience of The Stage is varied in terms of age, so do you ever struggle to bridge the gap between your different sets of readers?
We have some incredibly knowledgeable subscribers – and boy do they let you know if you’ve got a production they saw in the fifties wrong! I think people who have an interest in the theatre want to learn about the new trends and the younger theatre-makers trying to make it happen. Then our younger audience are fascinated by the history of the business they want to get into. This comes together in the content we create. I’m glad that we have that breadth of readership.
As a theatre publication do you ever struggle to find content outside London?
We see ourselves as a national paper, in that we cover the entire UK. I’m very conscious to try and get out of London – it would be a real disservice to not cover the major theatres outside it. This is not a London industry, it’s a UK industry.
You must get to meet a lot of quirky arts types – who’s the most interesting person you’ve interviewed?
I once spoke to a guy who made stage blood. It was one of those pieces that I hadn’t put a lot of thought into, but by the end I was absolutely fascinated by it. He even covered himself in blood for the photo.
Do you think it’s important for journalists to have an interest in what they’re writing about?
It’s easier to explore the subject in more interesting ways when you have the knowledge, so I think it is important, but not essential.
What do you think has been the biggest change in journalism since you started?
The internet. I’m not so old that the internet wasn’t there when I started, but things like Facebook weren’t really mainstream. Now the whole industry has shifted towards it and it still hasn’t settled down. Newspapers still haven’t quite worked out who they are or where they sit in the 21st century.
What’s the future for print journalism?
I’d be a lot richer than I am if I had an answer for that. We’re going to keep seeing print publications moving online exclusively. There will be some publications that make a virtue of print as objects and there’s a real cultural value to that for magazines.
Finally, any advice for budding journalists?
You need to get noticed at the end of the day. If people know who you are, know you can do the job and that you can provide interesting copy then you’re way ahead of everyone else.