Mitch Parker, features editor at Acclaim Magazine

Mitch Parker
"Every time someone tells me something there’s a little switch in the back of my head that’s like, ‘is that a story?’ and I don’t think that ever goes away. Well it hasn’t yet." Mitch Parker, features editor at the men's lifestyle Acclaim Magazine tells Adam Pereira about his commitment to the craft.  

What did you do when you left high school?

I went to university in Brisbane and I did a Bachelor of Journalism combined with a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Marketing. I did that at the University of Queensland and it took me four years. The business side of my degree was because of my parents. They were like, ‘you’re not going to get a job as a journalist, please do something else as well’. So I did a combo just to shut them up. Now I have all this HECS, because all of the journalism units were really cheap but all the business units were really expensive. And now I work in media and I’m like ‘f— you guys’. Now I have all this extra debt because of you (laughs).

Did you do an internship while at university? What did you learn from it?

I did at the Brisbane Times, which is like Fairfax’s Brisbane publication. They don’t have a print version in Brisbane like Sydney’s The Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age so everything was online. I interned there for about six weeks and I was reporting. I got there on the first day and they were like, ‘oh here’s a cab charge, can you go to the airport and cover these stories about these soldiers coming back from Iraq?’ and I was like, ‘f— I totally bluffed my way to get in there and came back with a story,’ but they didn’t run it (laughs). Then the next day I did a story about the Baltimore Ballet coming to Brisbane and they did a press announcement with all these journalists there. So I covered that for the arts section and they were like ‘that’s really good’ so then they just kept getting me to do arts things.

Did you go straight into a media job when you left university?

I applied at a cadetship at the ABC which they do every year, where they take in 10 junior people and pay you trash, but you get a good job at the ABC. I applied for that when I graduated from university and there’s like four rounds you have to go through to get into that. It’s hectic. Everyone that graduated with a journalism degree used to want to do that. And I thought that’s what I wanted to do as well. I got through the first three rounds and made it to the final round, which was a panel interview with all the senior editors from the ABC, across ABC news, ABC TV news, the director of the ABC and someone else. But because I was in Brisbane we had to do it through Skype, so I had to go into the ABC and do it and it was the worst interview I’ve ever done in my entire life. Sometimes I think about it and I break out (laughs). There was a guy from ABC Brisbane sitting next to me throughout the interview who was facilitating the whole thing and I turned to him when it was over and he looked at me and said ‘you never know’, and even he knew it was terrible. So I didn’t get that job, obviously.

Did writing for Vice and for the arts section of the Brisbane Times lead you to work with a lifestyle magazine?

I think so. I was always more interested in music, arts, pop culture and anything else kind of in my interests. I think that you tend to lean on your interests because of course you have more knowledge in them. But also when I realised that I wanted to write for a living, I was also starting to read a lot too. And everything that I was reading was by non-fiction writers that focus on pop culture, so I think that’s a big part of it too.

Is there a lot more creative freedom working on a magazine than in mainstream media?

Yeah, I mean the flexibilities are a big part. What mainstream media does is really important but if you don’t stick in that very direct channel of what they do, there’s not a lot of space. But I kind of like the ambiguity and the flexibility of being able to change things.

There’s definitely a lot that I learned from interning and writing at serious places. I think it made me a better reporter, so when I do speak to people or if I’m writing a story, I’m much more on the front foot about it. I just feel like you can be a little bit weird… with the non-mainstream stuff and I like that. It’s more personal. I think there’s a generational thing. Like I love reading the newspaper and watching the news, I love politics, but I know that’s not what everyone in my generation likes and to love it is quite a niche thing. So I even think from a business point of view if you’re trying to work in media now and you’re trying to talk to your generation, you’re more likely to do that through a lifestyle magazine compared to hard news. Because that’s how we engage with the world now and I think that’s a big part of it, because I know I can do the work well and I know that people will be interested.

Is there anywhere you’ve been or met through your job that you wouldn’t have met if you weren’t in this industry?

Yeah I mean especially with lifestyle, because you end up meeting all these musicians or actors or photographers, but there’s no reason for you to ever cross paths with them if you’re not doing this. You get to go to shows and places that you’ve never really gone before, because that’s where ‘they’ are and the work kind of tied to that. I mean that’s kind of the trade-off for the garbage pay (laughs) is the lifestyle. I’m pretty poor in terms of money but I’m pretty rich in terms of my lifestyle.

What did you learn quickly when you got into media?

You have to work your ass off. You have to work so hard. It really does set the difference between the people who really want it and who don’t. A lot of the people that I went to university with who were like, ‘I want to be a journalist, and do this and this and this’. They graduated and didn’t get a full-time job immediately, and they could only get freelance work so then they just quit and did something else. They would go back to university and do something completely different. It’s because it’s so hard, there are so few jobs and there are so many people that think they want to do it, that you really have to always be on. I think that’s the most important thing I learnt, you always have to be on and you always have to be asking questions as well, it never really turns off. Every time someone tells me something there’s a little switch in the back of my head that’s like, ‘is that a story?’ and I don’t think that ever goes away. Well it hasn’t yet.