Alyx Gorman is the lifestyle editor of Guardian Australia. Previously, she lived in London and New York, working for Time Out Group as their global engagement and strategy lead. She has held other roles with Time Out including editorial director, Australia. You may know Alyx from her article on her own virtual wedding and the effect that COVID-19 is having on marriages. Alyx has worked across digital and print lifestyle journalism for 12 years, at The Saturday Paper (as fashion editor), Fairfax, Elle and other titles. In her spare time, she is the proud co-parent to a number of house plants. Alyx tweets at @AlyxG .
What story has been your favourite to work on so far during the pandemic?
The Covid-19 crisis has completely changed people’s lives on a day to day level, so while the damage it is doing is horrific, the ways people are adapting have been really fascinating to read about. I’ve really enjoyed commissioning and editing a lot of practical, service-focused features about how to get through this moment, like a very comprehensive family lockdown guide by Celina Rebeiro. On a very personal level, working on those kinds of stories has been very helpful for my own mental health at this time. We also recently ran two great features on sex and love in lockdown, Brigid Delaney’s piece on the quarantine sex toy boom; and Ellen Leabeater’s story on how Australians are dating at the moment. Finally, this moment has inspired some really beautiful, reflective first-person stories, like Que Minh Luu’s recent piece on grief and love.
For a press release to stand out to you, what should it contain?
If something has robust data, that’s always a big plus. I like hearing “sales of this thing are way up/way down” because it shows that it’s something that’s actually out there in the real world, happening, rather than a thing that was cooked up in a brainstorming session.
Things that align with our readers’ egalitarian, environmental values are also really helpful for me to know about. But, I think it’s important that I manage publicists’ expectations a bit – most of the stories Guardian lifestyle runs are not brand-led, beyond the occasional shopping gallery, and of course recipes from great Australian chefs. It is really helpful for me to be across what is going on, and to know about the interesting talent that might be available for comment, but the reality is most of the time, we’re probably not going to cover say, a product launch, in the way I would have done in previous roles. That’s good news for advertisers though, because it means that your advertisements will appear in a brand-friendly, positive environment, where you won’t be competing with the editorial for a share of voice.
What attracted you to working in journalism?
I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, and realised I wanted to be a journalist from the age of about 12. When I was 15 an exhibition of Vivienne Westwood designs arrived in my home town of Canberra, and going to that exhibition over and over again really focused my interests on fashion and music. A friend of my parents would give me old copies of the NME and Dazed, that I read obsessively. When I was 18, I got my first job working at a magazine, Oyster, and I’ve been writing and editing lifestyle, or doing work in similar fields, ever since. So I guess doing something different never really seemed like an option.
What are the keys to being a good lifestyle editor?
I think the most important thing is to take it seriously. Lifestyle subjects should read like a fun escape, but that doesn’t mean you should engage with them in a shallow way. It should still have the same standards of fact-checking, and there should be a sense of searching in anything you publish – not just “this is a thing” but “this is why it’s a thing”; “here’s who benefits from it being a thing”; “here’s a bit of the history of it being a thing”. Aside from that, a sense of playfulness and humour is really important and a deep curiosity about people, how they think and what they’re feeling. I think in the 2020s, an internet addiction is probably helpful too – a lot of really interesting lifestyle stories now bubble up from Reddit, Instagram, Twitter and even Pinterest. Especially at the moment as so much of our lives are online.
How do you gather research for your stories?
How people live is kind of a nebulous concept, so I find just talking with people, and being a massive internet lurker is often a great starting point. I use CrowdTangle and Google Trends to identify emergent trends quite often. I also just spend quite a bit of time on the phone with people to find out what’s going on and why it’s happening. Academic research and peer-reviewed journals can also be a really interesting bouncing-off point, and even conversations with friends and co-workers about what’s going on in their lives.
Media releases help too – it’s always useful to keep abreast of what’s going on in the world of marketing, but at The Guardian we tend to approach lifestyle from a very consumer, rather than industry-led angle, so it’s rare for us to do a “Here’s what this brand is doing” story as a stand-alone piece – it tends to be part of a bigger picture.