“I have been here forever… it’s like I’m part of the furniture.”
13 years. That’s how long 8 Days Deputy Editor Celine Tan has been in the game. If there’s anyone qualified to help us navigate the rocky waters of the magazine industry, it’s her.
In a quiet sun-lit café by Lavender Street, Celine tells us what it takes to be a writer of today and on a more somber note, the death of good journalism. Of course, we also got her to dish on her all-time favourite interview (hint: it involves Hugh Jackman)!
On Her Role As A Deputy Editor
Tell us about what you do:
I’m the deputy Editor of 8 Days. I write and edit stories, post on our social media platforms and attend sales, marketing as well as administrative meetings to make sure that the website looks good, that our numbers look healthy and that the website is optimised for SEO.
Essentially, to make certain the whole operation runs smoothly.
How is a Deputy Editor different from a writer?
A deputy editor has more of an overseeing job. I have to go through Instagram, Facebook and our website. Every time a new story is posted, I try to read through to ensure there are no mistakes. When you’re a writer, you mostly just write.
What is your day to day routine like?
Sometimes there are events and interviews with celebrities or famous figures. Otherwise, it involves a lot of emailing, replying to emails, setting up appointments, scheduling interviews and a lot of writing and editing. These days, I try to comb through social media to see what people are up to, whether it could lead to a story. It’s much more multifaceted than it used to be. Last time, as a writer, I only wrote articles and did interviews. Now, the role has changed lot.
Speaking of change, how is the job scope of an editor different from the past?
There never used to be social media. Now a large part of our time is taken up for it— attending events and then posting IG stories, getting leads from social media, seeing what celebrities are up to and then calling them for interviews etc. Now I think there’s less of a need for them [celebrities] to depend on us. Before social media, they used to rely on our platform to break stories for them. Now, they can use their own platforms to give themselves that exclusive content. Our platform is now a space for us to take pictures for them or help them convey things they can’t say for themselves. People used to look to magazines for inspiration or influence—what to buy, where to go, what to see, what to watch etc. But with the rise of other forms of authorities, our roles as ‘influencers’ have unfortunately been diluted.
On Her Journey To Helming 8 Days Magazine
Have you always known you wanted to work in a magazine industry?
I always knew I wanted to write, whether it was in the context of a magazine or not. Working in a magazine is something I don’t think you’d consider early on; it’s usually wanting to become a teacher or an author. Then I discovered magazines, where you get to write about different things and lead such an interesting life. So, I endeavoured to get my first writing job. I was paid really little, a pittance…you wouldn’t believe it!
Below two thousand, which was considered a low pay even back in those days. But, this industry is not known to pay well compared to other professions like a banker or lawyer — a tradeoff that an aspiring writer needs to consider.
Tell us about your journey: How did you become a deputy editor?
My first job wasn’t even in writing! I was in media, with a video program company which sold programs from a distributor to broadcasting stations. My first writing job was with Asia City publications. After which, I joined fashion magazine Harper’s BAZAAR for a year, then went on to 8 Days and have been there ever since.
The journey has been great because every day is a different day — interviewing celebrities one day, attending a beauty event the next. I even get to travel for work! Yet, it’s quite rare for someone to stay in this job for so long; I have been there forever…about 13 over years.
Speaking of Harper’s BAZAAR, how was working for a fashion magazine different from a lifestyle/ entertainment magazine?
Whether it’s a fashion-centric or lifestyle magazine, the ability to write remains the same — you still need to be able to weave a story together and get your point across to the target audience. Pictures and headlines are very important: nowadays, people don’t have the patience to read anything long. It’s all about bigger pictures, less words. The only difference is the tone of the writing– a fashion magazine adopts a more luxe tone compared to a lifestyle magazine, where it’s more casual and accessible.
On What It Takes To Be A Good Writer Today
What degree did you take in school and do you think having a degree specific to journalism is necessary to be a writer?
I did Mass Communications in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and graduated with a degree in communications studies. Being in this line, I do not think a degree is essential. It’s really more about the experience these days. If you have a degree but no experience, I might not necessarily think you’re any better suited for the job than somebody with two years of experience but without a mass communications degree.
That being said, you don’t even need that degree! You can even have an engineering degree, but as long as you have a passion for writing (and provided you’re good at it), there’s no saying why you can’t be a journalist.
Do you feel like this new age of writers and editors need more than just writing abilities? What kind of skills are needed for a modern-day writer?
Previously for writers, knowing how to write and angle stories was all you needed to know. Now, you need to be tech savvy: taking pictures for socials, editing IG stories, uploading our own stories onto the publishing system and simple photoshop skills. All that, I only picked up fairly recently.
Of course, soft skills such as being able to get along with people, being a team player, listening to instructions, are all still necessary — it’s what you need in most jobs anyway.
Any career advice for aspiring writers, or people hoping to explore the publishing industry?
If you’re a fresh grad and looking to get into this industry, you have to build your portfolio. Getting your writing on perhaps lesser known platforms is a good place to start if you’re looking to apply to bigger companies. These days, the field is so open — you don’t have to work solely for a magazine or newspaper if you’re a writer, there are so many more options for you to choose from.
On The Relevance Of The Publishing Industry In This Digital Age
“A new challenge that has emerged over the past few years…and that is the death of good journalism.”
With everyone being their own content creator, there is less of a premium on well-crafted journalistic writing. With everyone being able to take their own photos and write their own captions, writing has become a lot more casual. Nobody wants to read things that are long anymore. There is a profound lack of appreciation for good writing; there is less of a focus on even good grammar. I feel people should still bother to read things that are well-written.
How did the complete move to digital play out for you and your magazine?
The complete move to digital has been interesting — a challenge I was determined to ride out. As print people, it was very difficult for us in the beginning. We had to learn how to use an online publishing system, upload and resize all our pictures etc. It was difficult to handle both print and digital, and not everyone managed to ride out this wave.
Do you feel like our magazine industry has been adapting well to this change?
Most print magazines have an online faculty anyways. That’s something you have to do — care about the digital side of things. Print has almost become like a premium, a luxury of sorts: it’s a luxury to feature someone on print, because it’s so rare these days.
On Her Favourite Interview and The Importance Of Being Well Read
Tell us about your favourite interview over the years.
An interview that stood out for me was Hugh Jackman, when he came for X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Before we went in, his managers told us strictly, “No photos, so don’t ask for photos!” But when I went in, the first thing he asked was, “Do you want a photo?” He proceeded to take my phone and took a selfie of us. He’s so nice and genuine!
What are some of your favourite reads?
Nowadays I don’t have much time to read, but when I was younger I would read everything from Enid Blyton to Greek tragedies. If you want to be a good writer, having a good foundation is important: you need to know everything from the bible to your nursery rhymes if you want to draw strong references. While pop culture is relevant, it’s not enough to create depth in your article.
Whether you’re a fresh graduate straight out of university, or someone who has been in the workforce for years now, navigating career paths can be scary and overwhelming.
The DC Edit seeks out passionate women from various industries to offer their two cents to the curious. Look out for more career features here.