Telum Talks To: Theo Chapman from The Australian Financial Review

Telum Talks To: Theo Chapman from The Australian Financial Review

By Cindy Paskalina Kweesar

Telum Media spoke to Theo Chapman, the Editor of Weekend Fin, about how to pitch to her editorial team and what types of stories perform well for the section.

What does a day as the Editor of Weekend Fin look like?
On Mondays and Tuesdays, I spend most of my time reading as I search for syndicated stories or book extracts to run in the section. During the weeks, I am also editing our Review section (which has a geopolitical focus), which is double the workload.
As well as looking for existing stories, I talk to staff and freelancers about stories I'd like written or stories they pitch to me.
Mid-week is spent producing stories for online publication. As an online-first newsroom, we like to roll out weekend feature content from Wednesday. Thursdays and Fridays are mostly focused on print production and planning future issues.
How does your team decide which stories are worth including in Weekend Fin?
We have a clear idea about the makeup of our audience, and I analyse what topics have done well on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis.
Generally, stories about topics in the news cycle do well. Also, stories featuring people working in corporate roles (lawyers, accountants, bankers, financiers, consultants) are always of interest, as are tales of the ultra-wealthy.
Topics that are a hard sell include visual arts, triumph over tragedy - unless the subject works in a corporate role or has been in the news - and architecture and interior design. Also, they aren't big readers of fiction.
Your editing / sub-editing career has spanned across different mastheads and sectors. What sets Weekend Fin apart from your previous roles?
I spent a lot of time as a Sub when I was raising my kids, since it was such a flexible job. By the time I joined The Australian Financial Review, they were adults, and I was able to move back into editing.
Weekend Fin is a real challenge since it's an arts and culture section for people who aren't diehard fans of the arts as a whole. I have to put myself into the head of a middle-aged man working for a large corporation. It's easy to find stories I am sure about, but part of the job is to surprise our readers and bring things to their attention that they might not have come across before.
A recent example was a book review I wrote myself about Clementine Ford's I Don't. It's a non-fiction title about why women shouldn't marry. Because it's not the type of book we typically write about, I had no expectations about its appeal to our audience, but it's one of Weekend Fin's best-read stories this year.
How do you think the Weekend Fin readers have changed over the years?
I don't think our audience has changed much. The weekend paper has a broader audience than our weekday editions, but it's not substantially different.
What are the most memorable stories you've covered?
Watching the most recent series of The Crown brought back memories of being in The Sydney Morning Herald newsroom in 1997 as reports of Diana's death started coming through. We all knew the whole paper would have to be remade, but we also knew how significant the event was.
Long before that, I was working at News Ltd in 1989 when the building shuddered. We all looked at each other mystified before somebody said, "That was an earthquake." The whole newsroom sprang into action, and so began our coverage of the Newcastle earthquake.
What does an ideal pitch look like to your team at Weekend Fin?
The perfect pitch is someone in the news cycle (or someone very high profile) who's happy to go to lunch with us for our Lunch with the AFR feature.

Books about companies, the ultra-wealthy, and corporate crimes are always of interest. I'm always open to pitches, but we never write about the existence of a company or product (that's an ad). 

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Theo Chapman


Weekend Fin (The Australian Financial Review)

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