Becky Burgum is only 26 and she has already achieved so much. She is the features assistant at ELLE, founder of Galchester and one of PPA’s 30 under 30. Hollie Gwinnett talks to her about imposter syndrome, women in journalism and her hopes for the future.
Have you always wanted to be a journalist?
I’ve always liked creative writing, but I never considered journalism. Then during my Foundation Arts degree at CSM, I wrote articles to go with my designs. I think my tutors saw my potential, so they suggested fashion journalism. It was quite a natural progression.
‘I hunt for stories by stalking Facebook groups’
What’s your favourite thing about the magazine industry?
I love being able to profile great people. As a writer, you get to lift their voices. I also write about what I’m interested in. It’s kind of a dream really.
What is an average day for the feature’s assistant?
In print I look after the culture section, so I write about movies, TV, and books. I have to email PRs to find out what’s happening six months in advance. So, at the moment we’re working on July’s issue. It’s hard during COVID because everything changes constantly. I’ll write all this stuff, and then it gets cancelled, and we have to change it. I also look after the contributor’s sections. We also have monthly feature meetings that I run where everyone comes with feature ideas and I decide who’s going to write what. I do a lot online as well. At the moment I’m doing a series called the Secret Lives of Women. So, I have to reach out to people for their secrets and then I edit that. I hunt for stories by stalking Facebook groups!
What is one day during your career that’s stood out to you?
We do something called ‘The ELLE List’ where we show 50 rising stars. I look after that and help choose who to feature, then I interview 5 of them. We do a big photo shoot, and everyone gets together. I love being a part of that and being surrounded by celebrities that I watch on the TV!
What has been the most challenging time of your career?
The first few months were hard as I had no confidence and I had to learn how to believe in myself, it was the classic imposter syndrome when I started at ELLE. But also getting used to doing interviews has been challenging. I used to hate picking up the phone to book an appointment, and now I’m on the phone with Michael Ward from Top Boy. Although I have cried at the end of an interview before because it went so wrong – it was embarrassing. I was interviewing a very famous actress and she was being so mean. It was awful. I was shaking and probably asking questions badly, but she had no time for me.
‘People want to listen to marginalised voices and that includes women’
You started getting Galchester as a way to celebrate creative women. Can you tell me more about the catalyst behind it? And why you thought a magazine would be an appropriate way to achieve that goal.
I wanted to make something that could be kept and that would create conversations. Galchester celebrates creative women in Manchester, and it shows different jobs in the creative industry. I’m from Manchester and the cities got such a male energy. When you think of Manchester you think of football or male artists and Hacienda. And that just annoyed me. There are so many women doing great things and I wanted to showcase that.
Do you think women face challenges in the world of journalism?
I think that being a woman is a benefit right now. I don’t think that the white male voice is something that people are wanting to listen to. People want to listen to marginalised voices and that includes women.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I like to hope that Galchester would have taken off a bit more because someday I want to be focusing on that full time. But I still want to be writing and maybe being more of an editor at ELLE. I want to keep going up to director status because I love all aspects of the magazine world.