Twelve Questions with Sarah Stuart

Twelve Questions with Sarah Stuart

She was always going to be a journalist, she says. Sarah Stuart, editor of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, was six years old when her sister, Annie – 11 years her senior – started journalism school. Sarah left school at 16 and began a cadetship at 16 at the Central Leader. Formerly deputy editor of the Herald on Sunday, Sarah is married to David White, chief photographer for the NZ Listener. They live in Auckland with their two sons, MacPherson, 7, and Stirling, 4.

What’s the most ridiculous request you’ve ever had from a celebrity, on a shoot for a story?

The close relative of a local celebrity who we were shooting for a cover listed several dietary conditions for the photo shoot including sparkling mineral water and the fact she was currently “pescataran”. We just had a cheese scone in mind.

What’s the most you’ve ever paid a celebrity for coverage?


What’s the best deal/story you’ve done without money changing hands?

Most of our stories do not involve money but the best stories we get are usually the ones sent in to us by readers. Last week – a woman who married her father-in-law, much to her ex-husband’s horror.

Does the word “celebrity” have any currency or meaning, now that essentially anyone can be one. Do we need a new word?

Relebrity? Relentless celebrity? I think we need more celebrities in New Zealand, not less, and if reality TV can create a few more household names, then great. Celebrity that lasts – the Judy Baileys, Lorraine Downeses, Lucy Lawlesses, Kiri Te Kanawas – does require real talent. But I still miss Chloe of Wainuiomata.

Name your dream exclusive:

Kate and Wills’ secret Kiwi babymoon – what Paul Henry saw!

If you were one of your celebrity covers, who would you choose to be and why?

I wouldn’t mind having lost April Ieremia’s 30kg for her “April’s Triumph” cover but I’m more likely to be the first “April’s Bombshell – My 100kg Nightmare!”

Best piece of celebrity gossip from your past that went unreported?

As a young tabloid journalist in Sydney, I managed to lurk in the hotel corridor as police removed items from Michael Hutchence room just hours after he died. Macabre but true.

Are we the last generation of print journalists?

No – quality magazines that are as interesting an experience as iPad apps are still being launched (see Monocle for example), proving that as long as both the content and the experience is good, people will pay for it.

Social media – what do you make of it? Are you savvy to it?

Ahhhh, it’ll never last – just kidding! I just can’t feel social sitting alone in front of a computer screen. I’m hopelessly unsavvy myself. Thankfully we have a wonderful web editor at who makes me – and the Weekly – look good.

What is the hardest thing about your job?

Selling a weekly magazine in the most competitive and crowded media market in the country, while retaining the heart and soul of an 80-year-old magazine that is part of the fabric of our nation.

What’s the best biography you’ve ever read?

The most useful was Wendyl Nissen’s Bitch and Famous which I read the weekend before I started this job. It was a ‘how-to’ guide for green magazine editors.

What shocks you?

Racism, sexism, homophobia and people who cannot pronounce yoghurt.

The NZ Woman’s Weekly is a tried and true formula or format – but what, if anything, would you change about it if you could?

It’s not so much a formula as the perfect mix for a weekly dose of uniquely New Zealand escapism, entertainment and practical advice. But I would love the budget for Vanity Fair-style covershoots. Actually just a Vanity Fair budget would be nice.

What word would best describe you?

I wanted to say irrepressible but my husband, who cannot count, said “an approaching storm”.

What’s the best place in Auckland for a long lunch and why?

Prego – fun, sun, great food and a potential story on every table.

If you were your own magazine’s agony aunt – what advice would you give yourself?

Nothing personally printable. But perhaps ‘Stop lying awake at night worrying about your cover.’

Your latest magazine has advice from mothers. What’s the best advice your mother gave you?

To always put on a bit of lippy.

Your family and upbringing – how has it shaped who you are and why you’re where you are now?

Wow – four sisters, no brothers, a Dad who really believed girls can do anything and an all girls’ education with some formidable and fabulous nuns. Quite the female skew I believe.

By Sarah Daniell

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