MEDIA: HEADLINER - No 10’s choice of editor brings steely resolve to GH challenge/Lindsay Nicholson knows all about facing fear and winning

By ANNA GRIFFITHS, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 21 May 1999 12:00AM

The new editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping was, once upon a time, thinking of becoming a rocket scientist. It’s not an occupation which sits comfortably next to the ’good fayre’ cosiness of GH, but then Lindsay Nicholson does not fit the image of a motherly, GH editor. Several glasses of champagne and a few cigarettes are more likely to be her bedfellows. Her black Ghost outfit finished off with a pair of silver and black trainers says it all.

The new editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping was, once upon a time,

thinking of becoming a rocket scientist. It’s not an occupation which

sits comfortably next to the ’good fayre’ cosiness of GH, but then

Lindsay Nicholson does not fit the image of a motherly, GH editor.

Several glasses of champagne and a few cigarettes are more likely to be

her bedfellows. Her black Ghost outfit finished off with a pair of

silver and black trainers says it all.



Sitting in her kitchen in the leafy suburbs of Crouch End, 42-year-old

Nicholson is evidently excited by the prospect of working on one of the

best-known and oldest brands in magazine publishing. ’It’s very scary

because this is the job that I always wanted. My mother used to read GH

and so did I.’ But Nicholson doesn’t look like the kind of person who

could be scared - she’s one of the most self-confident people I’ve ever

met.



For the last four years she has been editor of Prima, the top-selling

monthly women’s magazine. Nicholson, industry insiders say, will inject

much needed new life into GH. ’It doesn’t have the joie de vivre it

should have, and I imagine she will inject that emotion. She is

extremely schooled in her writing and anybody who has that level of

craftsmanship can’t fail to improve things,’ one observer says.



Nicholson is very clear about her achievements at Prima. ’In its style

and tone it has a very straight-talking, realistic, down-to-earth

approach.’ As well as taking charge of Prima, she also oversaw the

successful launches of Your Home, Vital, Prima Baby and Prima Christmas

Traditions. Typically, she pulls no punches about their success: ’When I

launched Your Home, the first issue sold 245,000 without any promotion

whatso-ever. Vital, which didn’t have the Prima brand, had zero

promotion and sold well.’ In terms of turning around GH’s circulation,

the implication is that Nicholson will definitely improve things.



While speculation mounted about who would take over as GH’s

editor-in-chief, following Pat Roberts Cairns’s decision to retire, it

seems that people in high places felt Nicholson would be perfect for the

job. Even No 10 Downing Street gave its approval: The Sunday Telegraph

claimed that Cherie Blair would be put out if Nicholson wasn’t made

editor.



Nicholson is no stranger to No 10, having formed a strong friendship

with Blair after inviting her to guest-edit Prima’s tenth anniversary

issue. ’I’ve always worked on the proviso that if you don’t ask, you

don’t get,’ Nicholson explains. And few, I feel, would dare to say ’no’

to her.



But there is another reason for Nicholson’s powerful personality and

drive. She has experienced tragic events which would have destroyed most

people. Five years ago, when she was four months pregnant with her

second child, her husband died from leukaemia. Four years later, her

eldest daughter, Ellie, also died from leukaemia. During both illnesses

she continued to work, aware of her responsibility to support her

family. ’I found it was the best thing I could do. It didn’t diminish

the pain, but it made me focus in a way I hadn’t done before, because I

had quite enough of the horrors and nightmares when not at work.’



While Nicholson admits that she can be a tough taskmaster, those who

know her and have worked with her have an unerring admiration for her

capabilities. Jessica Burley, Gruner & Jahr’s publishing director, says:

’She can be fantastically difficult to work with on occasion because she

believes that she can really make the best job of what she’s doing.’

Terry Tavner, editor of Woman’s Own, says: ’She’s got a tremendous

capacity to enjoy herself. She’s always been very driven and always

assumes she could reach for the top, and she’s got there in the face of

the tragedy around her, which is an extraordinary achievement.’



Nicholson does not take her responsibilities lightly. When she edited Ms

London she resigned when the magazine printed an ad for the Sunday Sport

which had been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority. ’I was

fully prepared to take the rap, but I was not prepared for the people I

worked for to put me in that position.’ She moved to Best, which she

describes as ’balm to my jangled nerves’ and two years later moved to

the launch magazine, TV Plus, which lasted just four issues. After

fighting off office suppliers who tried to repossess her chair, she says

the experience taught her the importance of being a businesswoman, as

well as a journalist.



She has a clear direction for GH. ’For me, GH’s style and tone is about

embracing change ... the reader could be 22 or 62, it’s about what’s

going on in her life.’ And Nicholson is set to stay for a while. ’I plan

to be at GH for an extremely long time, and be an elderly, dangerous old

bat when I leave.’



The Nicholson file

1986

Ms London, editor

1987

Best, features editor

1990

TV Plus, assistant editor

1992

Woman, assistant editor

1995

Prima, editor

1998

Prima Group, editor-in-chief

1999

Good Housekeeping, editor-in-chief



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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