Skip to content
Back to blog

Journalist Spotlight | Interview with James Croot, Deputy Editor of TV Guide at Stuff

10 July, 2024
Screenshot 2024-07-10 152540Hi James! Thanks again for participating! Firstly I want to ask how you got your start as a Journalist. Have you always wanted to work in the media and/or write about the arts and entertainment industries?

I actually started by writing about junior football (soccer) in Dunedin, New Zealand. Going to games and doing match reports on age groups from under-13s to under-9s. 


Then when I started working at Hoyts, one of my managers noted that there were no film reviews published in the papers in Dunedin so he approached the bi-weekly free paper and I started writing for them. 


Approaching the end of my Law and BA (Geography) degrees, I had plans to study the Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism at Canterbury University but failed to make the cut. Five months later an opportunity arose as a “cadet” at a community newspaper in Mosgiel. I worked at the Taieri Herald for three years, before a year with a printing company looking after publications like the NZ Medical Journal. I then got a job with The Christchurch Press company’s free weekly paper, The Christchurch Mail, in 2001 and I’ve been with the company in various roles—local and national—ever since, with my film reviews appearing in the weekend edition of The Press since April 2002.


I had always had an interest in movies and pop-culture, but I think I was more convinced about being a lawyer as a teenager.


As Editor and Reviewer at Stuff, what does your typical day/media cycle look like? And are there any dates that you plan and look out for content?

My role has been constantly evolving over the last few years, most notably beginning with the creation of Stuff to Watch (a place for movie and TV coverage that has also included, at various points, a podcast and an EDM) during the first lockdown of COVID in early 2020. 


As the deputy editor for NZ’s largest magazine, TV Guide, I have a major role in the planning and production of the weekly 104-page mini-tabloid, as well as writing reviews and interviews. I also look after the weekly TV Week pages that appear in eight daily papers around the country (everywhere from The Southland Times to The Waikato Times), writing a mix of review, preview and interview content. Besides this, I file a review and preview guide for the national Sunday Star Times, share the film reviewing duties with the wonderful Graeme Tuckett for our weekly broadsheet film page in the weekend edition of the aforementioned eight papers, and compile weekly online guides to streaming and new movies in cinemas for


In terms of planning, I’m always looking for what’s coming up next, but specifically towards the end of each month, I’m looking to see what new shows/movies are heading our way in the following month. This helps me create monthly preview guides, one for film and one for TV shows, which run online and in print. 


Christmas/New Year is another busy time when people are wanting round-ups as to what they can watch over the festive period, what things they may have missed, what we considered the best of the year and what’s coming in the 12 months ahead.


You’ve previously worked as a Reporter before. Is the transition from Journalist to Editor a natural progression in the industry? What have been the biggest challenges in changing roles?

Really it’s been the ability to adapt, whether it’s new technology or new ways of doing things. It feels like that has been constant for the past decade. In the past four years I’ve essentially had a hybrid role between editing and writing. I’ve had periods where I was doing a lot of Entertainment reporting, then a period when I was exclusively doing reviews. Now, in this latest mix, I’m doing some reviewing and some interviews, as well as a little bit of physical production in terms of TV Guide. 


Have you received any memorable pitches lately? What made them stand out? What should people pitching you or Stuff avoid?

Really the pitches I respond to are mainly to do with upcoming shows. Anything else is now outside of my ambit. I’m not involved in the main website’s ( Entertainment coverage other than as a contributor of content.


How has the advent of social media, and particularly influencer culture, impacted your role as a film and television Reviewer? I feel that most young(er) people nowadays take their media recommendations from personalities that they feel an affinity to.

Having done a little TV, quite a bit of radio and having had a regular spot in print for so long, I’d like to think I’d created some kind of “fanbase” around people who follow my reviews. 


While I’ve dabbled in Twitter, I’ve tended to leave that world to itself. In recent years, it’s probably been the rise of people who contact you directly to express their displeasure that you’ve “dissed” the movie of one of their favourite people. But I’ve kind of accepted that my audience tends to be Gen X and older.


Lastly, what makes a good review? And what advice would you give to young/emerging writers who want to engage and write more critically about film, television and media?

I think it’s something that informs the reader, gives them an idea of story, critically looks at all the elements that make up a movie (sound, cinematography, editing, acting, plotting) and tries and gives people a sense of whether they might like it or not, whether that’s by comparison with something else or whether who is in it. Don’t just parrot the plot, try to open with an interesting hook, don’t give away too much, but do express an opinion. 


Advice? Read. Find out who’s style and structure (for me it was Roger Ebert and the UK’s Empire magazine) you like and adapt it to a version of your own, and just write. My inspirations and skills came from doing drama as a teenager (where we learned from theatre critics about what they were looking for), a law degree and my only journalism qualification, a Post-Graduate Diploma from the British Film Institute.

Medianet is the ultimate PR platform connecting you with media contacts and outlets to get your story told.

white arorw pointing upwards Top