Creative People

The Saturday Paper · Five Questions with Erik Jensen

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
27th of February 2014
Erik Jensen, editor of The Saturday Paper, at his Collingwood office last week.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Erik Jensen's desk, before we let him tidy it.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Erik and me having a somewhat staged discussion about The Saturday Paper interiors section.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
The Monthly / The Saturday Paper HQ in Collingwood, Melbourne.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
You may have heard the whispers.  There is a new Australian newspaper launching this weekend, and it's called The Saturday Paper. The Saturday Paper is, in part, a response to the steady decline in recent years of what many would probably call 'old fashioned journalism'.  Published by Morry Schwartz (of The Monthly and the Quarterly Essay) The Saturday Paper will champion a return to long form journalism - news and current affairs reported in a balanced, intelligent way, alongside thoughtful opinion pieces.  Of course, being an exclusively weekend paper, it's also peppered with a succinct edit of sport, fashion, arts and culture. A weekly food column will be edited by revered Melbourne chef and restauranteur Andrew McConnell, and a weekly interiors page will be edited by, ahhh - me!  I'll be contributing interiors stories from our archive of varied Australian homes.  It will be so nice to see our beautiful shots in PRINT for a change! In a career spanning 40 years, Morry Schwartz has built a solid reputation for publishing high quality journalism.  This new venture will be his first weekly publication, and has been developed in close collaboration with former Sydney Morning Herald reporter Erik Jensen.  Erik is The Saturday Paper's passionate founding editor, and it must be mentioned, he is just 25. (Sorry Erik!).  Nevertheless, despite this modest number of years on the planet, Erik has been working in the field since the tender age of 15, so to be honest, he's pretty much due for long service leave already. As you might imagine, Erik is an incredibly intelligent, articulate guy.  He's also overwhelmingly likeable.  There is no ego here.  Instead, there is something very 'proper' and kind of old fashioned about Erik, which I hope is conveyed in our brief Q&A with him below!  What is most apparent, really, is Erik's heartfelt and infectious enthusiasm for this project. As he says below - 'It's like I've been able to dream of my ideal newspaper, and then bring it to reality'. It's been an absolute delight working with Erik on my contribution to The Saturday Paper.  I am PUMPED for the launch issue to hit newstands this weekend! The Saturday Paper will be available every Saturday morning in most newsagents and for home delivery in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, from this Saturday.  Everywhere else, it can be accessed via an app and website.  It is priced at $3.00 per issue, however this month, there's a generous Foundation Subscriber offer - a year of home delivery (48 issues) for $99, which amounts to a saving of more than 30%. Foundation Subscribers also have the chance to win a $6500 weekend away to Bruny Island in Tasmania this month. This offer ends on March 31 - more details on that HERE! And now for a few questions with the charming Erik Jensen.  I think it's safe to say, the future of Australian journalism appears to be in very good hands.
Tell us a little bit about your background – what did you originally study, did you always want to be a journalist / editor, and what path led you to becoming the Editor of The Saturday Paper ?
I got into journalism at the age of 15, writing for music magazines, and when I was 16 The Sydney Morning Herald took me on as a critic. The film Almost Famous had just been released and I spent at least the first year of my career smiling politely at jokes about Cameron Crowe. When I finished high school, the Herald offered me a job as a news reporter and for the next five years I had the enormous pleasure of standing around while the country's best reporters taught me to be a journalist. At 23 I became summer editor at the Herald, and about the same time I met the publisher Morry Schwartz and we hatched the idea of launching a Saturday newspaper together.
Can you give us a little insight in The Saturday Paper – how does this offering differ from other Australian newspapers, and what can we expect to see in your launch issue/s?
The Saturday Paper is focused almost exclusively on long form journalism – on narrative writing that shares its aspirations with the New Journalism of the 1960's; journalism that gets behind a story, that opens doors which have not been opened and shines light on the true complexity of an issue, that gets deep inside politics and crime and business and social affairs and anything else that might benefit for deep storytelling. It is journalism that is a pleasure to read, not just for the news it breaks but the way it breaks it. Of course, we are a newspaper in the broad sense of that word, and so we also cover culture and lifestyle and sport and world and business news. But we don't want to be like any other paper, and so we try with every page to do things differently: instead of a standard profile, we might ask a novelist to meet a celebrity and sketch them on the page as if they were introducing a minor character in a book; instead of interviewing an athlete about the weekend's match, we might talk to them at length about their interest in classic cars. I hope The Saturday Paper will be the essential distillation of a week, and reading it every Saturday morning will make someone the most interesting person in the room.
You've rounded up a clever ensemble of local writers / editors for The Saturday Paper, who's involved?
I don't think it is an exaggeration to say we have some of the best writers in the country contributing to The Saturday Paper. To start with, you and The Design Files team will be doing our interiors content each week. Andrew McConnell from Cutler & Co. is our food editor. Patty Huntington is our fashion editor. Richard Cooke, who writes for the Chaser and others, is our sports editor. We have a brilliant clutch of critics: Tim Freedman and Dave Faulkner are writing on music for us, Christos Tsiolkas is our film critic, Helen Razer will write on television and the painter Patrick Hartigan is our art writer. David Marr joins us as a columnist. Mike Seccombe will write for us from Sydney and Martin McKenzie-Murray is our correspondent in Melbourne. Sophie Morris is our chief political correspondent in Canberra. Kirsty Simpson is our business editor and Hamish McDonald is our world editor. Geoff Pryor is our cartoonist. These are names I have admired my entire career and I am thrilled to have them all working together on the same paper.
How long has The Saturday Paper been in development for, and briefly what process has been involved in getting this project off the ground?
I moved to Melbourne 18 months ago to start work on The Saturday Paper. The process of getting something like this off the ground is extraordinary, working with various writers and designers and web developers and advertising people. Every element of the paper has been conceived as part of a bespoke product – it's like I've been able to dream of my ideal newspaper and then bring it to reality. We looked at something like 50 different paper stocks before we settled on the paper we are using. And that kind of hunting has gone into every part of the paper. Our designers, Studio Round, worked with great subtlety and flair on font combinations and layouts. Our story progressions are all about controlling the rhythm of the paper as a reading experience. I hope a person will pick up The Saturday Paper each week and realise every inch of it has been carefully considered, with the reader at the centre of everything we do. The Saturday Paper is out this weekend in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.   Do yourself a favour and check it OUT.
Erik Jensen's desk, before we let him tidy it.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Erik Jensen burning the candle at both ends in the lead up to The Saturday Paper's launch this week.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.

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