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Inside the Temple

Helen McCabe

We regularly meet with the leading voices in communications in Australia. “Inside The Temple” is our way of sharing their career insights and views on the communications landscape.

Today, we ask Helen McCabe, head of lifestyle at Nine Entertainment about her career:

Temple:  You’ve just signed on at Nine after a long and successful stint as editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly. What drove that move?

McCabe: I felt it was the right time, after nearly 7 years, I didn’t feel like there was anything more to accomplish at AWW and I was looking for a new challenge.

Temple: What’s the biggest challenge in running a successful team of people in the media space?

McCabe: Allowing creative people the space to do what they do best. Its quite different from running regular businesses because creative people are forgetful, they get to work really late, they’re emotional, they’re really talented and you need to be able to say, that’s okay- do what you do, and give them the space to bring out the best in themselves. Having said that I only ever have the room as a manager to indulge a couple of the really serious creative types. You need a mix. You need the dependable, the reliable- the glue, alongside the madness of the super-talented.

Temple: What’s the secret to finding and keeping the best talent working for you?

McCabe: I have been lucky- I have always worked with talented people. If I have one strength it’s about building a great team around me and allowing people to be themselves. I often say I like round pegs in square holes. I identify the talent and I create roles to fit that skill set. I am also focused on pulling together a team, that has complementary skill sets and often that’s what builds a united team and excites people about working together. This seems trite but as a manager you’re there to serve your people, they’re not there to serve you.

Temple: What are the emerging trends in online publishing?

McCabe: It’s all about native content. Finding the sweet spot between the needs of a client and cash-strapped media businesses. In its best form, media can still create great outcomes but it’s hard. The trend is also in the start-up- the small, dynamic funky team that knows what it’s doing and what it wants and is outsmarting the big fish all the time. These are the people who are shaping media into the future.

Temple: You’re one of Australia’s leading journalists and editors. What advice would you have for young people starting out in journalism?

McCabe: Read as widely as possible. I doesn’t matter what- read all of it- fiction, non-fiction, all the websites you can access. Journalism is all about knowledge and finding a commonality with your subject.

I also say that the only real skill you have in your tool box is your integrity- getting people to trust you.

If you get those two things right you cannot fail.

Temple: Do you believe in the value of mentoring? Who do you count on for mentoring?

McCabe: I don’t think I had a lot of mentors in my early career- I am not sure why. I am a total loner in that regard. I go to a really wide circle of people for small slices of advice.