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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.

Me and the Media: Former Reuters chief David Schlesinger

David Schlesinger when he was Reuters' editor-in-chief. Photo: David Schlesinger David Schlesinger when he was Reuters’ editor-in-chief. Photo: David Schlesinger

David Schlesinger is the founder of Tripod Advisors

Previously: Journalist with Reuters for 25 years, rising to Editor-in-Chief and then Chairman, Thomas Reuters China

Now: Writer and consultant, still active in journalism and the media business

What made you want to work in media?

I needed to support my China habit! And while I dabbled in academia, one wise professor in graduate school pointed out that I liked closure – that feeling of finding something out, making a judgment and moving on (and of course academic work moves at a comparatively glacial pace!). So I became a news service journalist, trying on a minute-by-minute basis to make a sensible narrative out of the world’s chaos. 

What has been a career high point?

An early highlight was being named Reuters China bureau chief — my academic interests and my new profession came together in an exciting and stimulating way. Then, when I became global Editor-in-Chief, it was an extraordinary high to lead an organisation of truly talented and brave people through difficult and challenging times.

And a career low point?

David Schlesinger during his tenure as China bureau chief for Reuters. Photo: David Schlesinger David Schlesinger during his tenure as China bureau chief for Reuters. Photo: David Schlesinger

My time in senior editorial roles coincided with an extremely bloody, deadly and terrifying time for journalism. Too many Reuters journalists died in Iraq, in Israel, in Thailand when I was responsible for the operation – their deaths were far too high a price to pay. The struggle to balance our need as reporters to bear witness and our vital need to stay safe is one we as a profession still haven’t solved.

What career advice would you give to your younger self?

You never can stop pushing – making that extra call, revising that one more time, asking that follow up question. I think that’s the kind of spirit that will survive all the technological and business challenges facing the profession and will always find a reward.

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