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Andy Cooper – Editor To Editor

Andy Cooper – Editor To Editor

Written by Joff Alexander-Frye

Photography by Pip Andersen


Andy Cooper, Editor of Devon Life magazine, is a very funny man. He always has a twinkle in his eye and never seems far away from a satirical remark or edgy comment. There is something really endearing about that, but it also keeps you on your toes if you spend any amount of time around him.

Since the age of thirteen, Andy had dreamed of being a journalist and, to that end, attended Harlow College which, at the time, was one of only six places that aspiring journalists could get their National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) qualifications. It was here that his love for writing really came alive. Reminiscing on his time at Harlow, Andy quipped,

“I had a lovely colleague there called Piers Morgan. I don’t know if he ever went on to do anything with his life but I certainly enjoyed studying and socialising with him.”

Once qualified, in 1985 Andy started as a ‘cub reporter’ (industry slang for a young or inexperienced journalist) at a local newspaper in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, working on a typewriter and with a pen and pad always on his person. In stark contrast to today’s media landscape where 250 newly-qualified journalists could be vying for one job, when Andy qualified, he was offered six jobs straight away; almost spoilt for choice.

Commenting on the wholesale changes within local news media, Andy sombrely stated,

“We were never explicit about this as an industry, but the Property, Motors and Recruitment sections of local newspapers funded good journalism. As each of those niche areas of advertising have transitioned out of newspapers and in to magazines and online, this has left a gaping hole in what was once a well-funded workforce.”

If anyone is well-positioned to make that sort of statement, Andy is. With a career in newspapers between 1985 – 2012, he mainly worked for Northcliffe (what was the regional arm of the Daily Mail group). He commented,

“Most people have a sharp, involuntary intake of breath when I say that I worked for the Daily Mail group but, at the time, they held the ‘gold standard’ for journalism. They had the right resource, the right support and were fiercely independent of commercial influence (sometimes to the detriment of the company)”.

 

Andy Cooper

 

During that successful two decades in newspapers, Andy had started to move up through the ranks and, one day, was called into his boss’ office to discuss a possible promotion and relocation to either Grimsby or Barnstaple. Andy, with a trademark twinkle in his eyes, stopped, smiled and told me,

“Joff, I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t know where either of those places were. I left that meeting a little confused and was travelling down the grand escalators in the middle of the atrium of the Daily Mail building when I saw a colleague of mine who I knew well. I asked him to stop, ran around and joined his escalator, caught up with him and said, “Malcolm, I’ve just been offered a job in either Grimsby or Barnstaple. What should I do?”. He replied, “Let me give you a bit of advice. You should never work somewhere that you can smell before you can see it.”. That pretty much ruled out Grimsby, so I moved down to Barnstaple in 1997, when my sons were five and two years old.”

That move from Essex to North Devon turned out to be a much-needed life change for Andy; raising a family near the beach and enjoying all of the amazing things that North Devon has to offer.

Andy has experienced his fair share of difficulty in life too though. After all, life isn’t always idyllic beaches is it? Andy was open about having to navigate the stormy waters of divorce, bereavement and redundancy. Listening to him talk about these tough experiences, I sensed that, despite the pressure, sadness and disappointment of each of them, Andy had held firm, digging deep into the reserves of his character and personality to make it out the other side intact.

When describing his eventual move from newspapers into lifestyle magazines, Andy hilariously stated,

“The news is like sausages. Everyone likes it but no-one wants to know how it’s made!”.

It seemed to me that he had grown weary of some of the sensationalism, negativity and brutality of that it really means to work in news media.

 

Andy Cooper

 

In what turned out to be the moment of our chat which lasted longest in my memory, Andy offered me some advice as a fellow Editor. He held my gaze and continued,

“People have all sorts of notions about what being an Editor is. However, our jobs are simply to know our audience well. To know what they like and what they don’t. Then, our jobs are to give them what they like 90% of the time and surprise them the other 10% of the time.”

There was something so simple and profound about the clarity of this statement and I have pondered back on it several times since…

Andy, thanks for being collaborative, for not perpetuating the territory wars that sometimes exist in modern media and for approaching life with a smile on your face, no matter what it throws at you.


For some nice photos of food & drink, the odd smattering of political satire and a few laughs, follow Andy @DevonLifeEd on Twitter.

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