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Interview: Katharine Wootton

Katharine Wootton crop

Our Alumni & Public Relations Officer, Jack Harvey, spoke with Katharine Wootton, the first Magazine Editor of The Yorker, to find out what she has been up to since graduating from the University of York.

Katharine was a student at the University of York between 2011 and 2014. She held the roles of Performing Arts Editor, Arts Editor and eventually Magazine Editor while she was involved with The Yorker.

Tell me about your involvement with The Yorker.

I joined The Yorker almost as soon as I began Uni as I was itching to get into student journalism. I started writing mainly for the Arts section. At the end of that first year, I became Performing Arts Editor, heading up and editing lovely theatre reviews and working closely with the local theatres and performing arts companies. Then at the end of my second year I became Arts Editor, co-ordinating all the arts and culture content. Shortly after that I became the first Magazine Editor and balanced those two roles throughout my third year.

I had some great experiences with The Yorker from interviewing famous faces to live-blogging Eurovision from my living room! I also got to see some amazing things, from the best theatre and events in the North to going behind the scenes of some fascinating buildings in York. Learning all about the York Theatre Royal ghost – a nun buried in the walls after she became pregnant – has always stayed with me.

Best of all, though, The Yorker was the place where I met some of my best friends at university including editor at the time, Chloe Farand, Robin Nieryck, Lifestyle Editor Oliver McKinley and Marketing Director, Harriet Myzak Douglas, the latter two of which became my third year housemates!

I understand you held the position of Magazine Editor – what was it like to be in charge of The Yorker making its print debut?

I was so honoured to be made the first ever Magazine Editor and this position was definitely what made me discover my passion for print and lead me to the career I’m in now. Working from a totally blank canvas, it was a rare and truly special opportunity to work with the incredible team to come up with a whole brand, look and feel for a totally new magazine. It also gave me the amazing chance to get an overview of the whole process of magazine production, from flatplanning to designing to securing advertising to doing those nerve-wracking final subs before you press the big print button.

Seeing that first ever issue hit campus was definitely a real highlight of my time with The Yorker and a testament to everyone who gave up late nights and small amounts of their sanity to help put together what I thought was a beautiful-looking, really fascinating read that was quite different to anything else on campus at the time.

What was life like at the University of York when you were a student there? 

I was at York from 2011-2014.  At the time Hes East had not long been built and still felt a bit like the Wild West with its strange quietness and peculiar landscape. I’m sure it’s changed a lot now.

What was the student journalism community like while you were involved with The Yorker?

I had no idea about the amount of student journalism available at York when I picked it as my university, but I was over the moon when I saw so many options for eager writers like myself at Freshers’ Fair. I always felt York was incredibly lucky to have so many different outlets for student journalism, including independent media like The Yorker. In my industry I’ve met many people from other universities who never had the same opportunities and experiences in student journalism as we had in York so I think we were hugely lucky.

What did you do when you were neither doing your degree nor contributing to The Yorker?

Throughout uni I was a member of Dance Soc and did lots of shows, competitions and classes with them. I also choreographed routines for a couple of shows, including the fashion and dance extravaganza, Fusion, which was great fun.

In my second year, I also joined York Theatre Royal’s TakeOver Festival, where a group of 16-25 year-olds put on a programme over performing arts over three weeks scattered over the year. As Press Officer for TakeOver, I helped co-ordinate press coverage, review nights, interviews and managed to set up the theatre’s first ever young critic’s scheme for young people, featuring a workshop with one of the Guardian‘s top theatre critics, Lyn Gardner.

In my third year I also did work experience placements with Aesthetica magazine in York,The York PressOne & Other magazine (for which I remained a freelance writer for some time) and Three Weeks, with whom I went to review the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

What happened to you after you graduated? Did you start working straightaway?

Shortly after I graduated, I got a six-month paid internship with Yours magazine, a national women’s magazine. Not really knowing my future, I packed up my life to Peterborough where the magazine offices were based, sadly leaving behind my native Yorkshire. Luckily, though, I was given the opportunity to stay on and four and a bit years later, I’m still there!

Could you tell me about your career history and what you do today?

Having been kept on at Yours as an editorial assistant, I then moved onto be a News Writer for the magazine and then Senior News Writer and finally Deputy News Editor. AtYours I’m very lucky to cover a massive range of topics which means I can be doing anything from interviewing celebrities – Jane Fonda, The Osmonds and the wonderful Bernard Cribbins (Perks from The Railway Children and the voice of ALL The Wombles) have been my favourites – to banging on the doors of politicians to talk about issues that matter to our readers.

I do a lot of charity stories, shining a light on truly amazing people who’ve made a difference to others as well as covering many animal stories, which has led to a fair few funny moments from interviewing a parrot to being swooped on by bats in Jersey. My work has also let me travel around a lot, both on press trips abroad and for interviews all round the UK. Recently, as well as writing, I’ve recently been project managing a number of specials in the magazine, including a fiction supplement, which I love.

This interview was taken from our monthly Alumni Newsletter. If you are an alumnus of The Yorker and would like to be added to the mailing list please contact Jack at publicrelations@theyorker.co.uk.