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Me and the Media: Writer and editor Alex Frew McMillan

Journalist and editor Alex Frew McMillan. Photo CC Kei.

Journalist and editor Alex Frew McMillan. Photo CC Kei.

Alex Frew McMillan is a feature writer and editor, the last 13 years specialising in real-estate coverage and business reporting.

Previously: CNN, as a business reporter, and Reuters, as the Asia real-estate correspondent.

Now: Regular contributor to TheStreet.com, and is also the Asia editor of Modus, the magazine of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. As a free-lancer, he has written for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Forbes, the Economist Intelligence Unit and CNBC.

What made you want to work in the media?

I didn’t want to work in the media at all. I want(ed) to be a novelist! But I have one problem, in that I never write any fiction at all. I have finally accepted that I am a non-fiction writer.

I love the news. I have always had a great and broad general interest. I find many topics interesting and love exploring ideas. And I am not great with routine – I love that news is always different, always changing. Most of all, though, I love taking complex topics and breaking them down in ways that are (with any luck) interesting, understandable and entertaining.

Being a freelancer is hard, and unstable. But I hate working in someone else’s office. I feel I am wasting my life away that way.

What has been a career high point?

Alex Frew McMillan.

Alex Frew McMillan.

That is difficult to say. To be honest, the high points are whenever a reader approaches me and asks me a question about a story. I always say that a writer only needs one reader.

There is one strange thing about writing for me. Whenever I finish and file a story, I am sick of it and don’t think it’s any good. Then, later, when I come across an old piece, I realise it’s actually pretty well-written.

And a career low point?

There are so many! I would say that I did not make the most of my time at Reuters. I thought that the job was telling me what to do. I didn’t realise that I needed to tell the job what I wanted to do, and do it.

What career advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to take risks. In fact, seek them out. If there’s a question that you are afraid to ask, that is exactly the question you have to ask. And of course, spell everyone’s name right.