Myths about the media industry in Singapore
The magazine industry has always been portrayed as a glamorous-as-heck one. After all, shows like Sex and the City make it seem like magazine writers only work on that one grand story, while wearing fancy dresses and dining at Michelin-starred restaurants.
Needless to say, as our editorial team has revealed, there’s more to it than most people know. Here are eight myths verified by fellow TSL colleagues and acquaintances at local magazines that we’d like to debunk and lay to rest.
1. All we do is write, and write, and write
Writing for a magazine is not like writing a secondary school composition at all
Myth: Writers only write articles.
Reality: There’s a lot more to a writer’s job scope than just typing away on a computer. For example, we have to pitch stories, conduct a ton of research, plan photoshoots, liaise with clients, conduct personality interviews, and work with different departments all to get a story out.
Also, writing isn’t as easy as stringing together some words for an IG caption. It’s a constant process of learning that even magazine veterans sometimes struggle with.
2. Wining & dining at fancy restaurants is the norm
Myth: People working in the industry are always eating out at Michelin-starred and atas restaurants.
Reality: This is only somewhat true. Most of us are only eating at these fancy restaurants because we were:
- Invited by the restaurant;
- Covering the menu for an article;
- Treating ourselves once in a blue moon.
Personally, I don’t know anyone who wines and dines at Les Amis or Waku Ghin every week and works in the media industry. If you’re someone who does that, please HMU.
3. We are always wearing expensive clothes with branded bags
It’s Prada or nada for some folks
Myth: Fashion writers can afford branded bags from YSL and LV.
Reality: There are many truths to this myth, but also many misconceptions – no thanks to you, The Devil Wears Prada.
The hallowed Friends & Family sale – an exclusive event where luxury bags and clothes are massively discounted – is something I used to look forward to and where we get our new drip. But it usually ends up being just last season’s merch in a size that doesn’t fit me or things that no one with taste would buy. So I end up not getting anything, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
Image credit: GIPHY
I’ve also been asked by some friends if there’s a magical closet full of clothes we can “borrow” from anytime we want. Sorry to dash your hopes, but that’s something you only see in movies. At most, there’s a poor intern who has to go back and forth between stores borrowing and returning samples for a one-day shoot. And if you break it, you pay for it.
Fun fact: You can confirm-plus-chop find a “How to pronounce this French/Italian fashion brand” in our Google/YouTube search history.
4. Free gifts all day, every day
While we’d have loved to keep this laptop, we had to return it after the photoshoot.
Myth: Brands and their public relations agencies are always sending us free goodies like makeup, gadgets, and other knick-knacks.
Reality: Partially true. But like my dad used to tell me, “There’s no free lunch in this world.” There’s always a tradeoff, so these brands might expect an appearance in your publication.
If you see any of us out and about with more expensive gadgets like smartphones or headphones, there’s a high chance that it’s “on loan” from a brand. So yes, we’ll have to eventually return those sweet noise-cancelling headphones after a certain period of time. More generous companies let you keep them for two years or more!
5. We write columns about our personal lives like Carrie Bradshaw
Image for illustration purposes only – Renae most absolutely writes more articles compared to Carrie Bradshaw.
Myth: We write personal columns in a bid to become the next Carrie Bradshaw or Sunday Times mainstay.
Reality: Most magazine writers don’t just have one column to write per week. Depending on which “beat” you’re assigned to, chances are you’d be writing everything from personality interviews and reviews, to advertorials and compilations of things to do.
When you’re just starting out as an Editorial Assistant or a fresh grad Writer, chances are you’ll be tasked with byline-less write ups and ad hoc duties. Move up the ranks and you’ll get to take on more coveted stories such as artiste interviews, media trips, and fancy by-invite-only events.
Fun fact: The closest we here at TSL get to writing about our personal lives is at our Perspective section.
6. We travel for free all the time
Myth: Just take a look at TSL’s travel section and you’ll see how many places we’ve been to. “Wah you get to travel for a living, so good sia!”
Reality: I mean, Covid happened. But in the past, going on press trips took time away from doing our day-to-day tasks. On press trips, chances are that each day is packed to the brim with a pre-planned itinerary.
The photo you saw of us lounging by the beach is probably 99% staged, and after that shot is taken we’re probably rushing somewhere else.
Another fun fact: Some travel articles you read are written from an office cubicle, not from a hotel lounge – unless you’re a freelancer living the beach life in Bali or are reviewing the latest resort opening in the Maldives.
7. Horoscope pages are based on professional readings
Myth: Magazines were the original Co.star.
Reality: I have it on good authority from two independent sources that the horoscope pages published in their magazines were all made up. “The writers write whatever comes to their mind,” an editor friend confided in me.
While I was never privy to these shenanigans, I can’t say I was surprised by this revelation. The horoscope section always felt as though it could fit anyone’s feelings whether you’re a Taurus or Libra.
With that out of the way, we’ll also like to clarify that “Dear X” letter pages are almost always a work of fiction. The odd letter looking for genuine advice does come occasionally, but some of the stories that made your teenage jaws drop might have just been a writer flexing their writing skills.
8. All editors are like Miranda Priestly
Myth: Magazine editors are feared by all and are ruthless like Miranda Priestly in the quintessential magazine-themed movie.
Reality: I credit Meryl Streep’s iconic “Everybody wants to be us” whisper at the end of The Devil Wears Prada to why there’s the impression that editors and wannabes have that stuck-up attitude.
In any workplace, there are cutthroat people and nice angels. Notoriously bitchy personalities exist, but odds are they don’t actually have the power to destroy your career if you’ve wronged them.
And for every “devil” editor out there, there’s a mentor sent from the heavens who will take the time to nurture your writing and develop your skills while giving you the space and agency to excel. Both breeds are rare, but to say all editors are bitchy is a far-flung claim that I, and many others, wouldn’t agree with.
Debunking secrets and myths of the media industry
It’s a pity that fewer people are taking the time to slowly flip through the pages of a magazine or read an entire feature article with a year’s worth of investigation behind it. Those of us who remember the days of a print magazine also dearly miss the golden years of big front cover reveals, fancy events, and the many other perks that came with the job.
Also, on behalf of all writers and other creators in the media industry, if you’re our boss and you’re reading this, please give us a raise so we can buy the latest Prada bag.
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