In this week’s edition of ’10 minutes with…’, Lougher tells us about the journalism ‘itch’ she’s had since she was a child, her dream dinner party with the Queen and the little ways journalism matters in our everyday lives
How did you get into journalism?
It’s an itch I’ve been scratching since I was a kid: when I wasn’t reading my parents’ daily cover to cover, I had my head in a now-long-forgotten children’s newspaper, Scoop. During A-levels, I teamed up with some pals to put together a short-lived college mag called ‘The Big E’.
I really got the bug at uni, where I spent most of my time in the basement of King’s College London’s Strand campus, putting together the arts section of its student union paper ‘Roar’.
In terms of ‘I was there’ moments, I’m still chuffed I got to see Oklahoma at the Lyceum, featuring a dazzling lead turn by a charismatic unknown called Hugh Jackman. While at King’s, I joined a fantastic brand manager scheme run jointly by the National Theatre and Time Out magazine, which recruited students to do guerrilla marketing around unions in exchange for work experience.
I was particularly keen to get my foot in the door at Time Out and the scheme was a great opportunity. I was editing their Student Guide and writing and editing across their magazine sections and travel guides. I worked as a theatre usher in the evening so that I could be available for any journalism experience during the day, paid or unpaid.
Why does journalism matter?
It matters because without it the powerful aren’t held accountable for their actions. Journalism exposes corruption, hypocrisy, deceit and incompetence, so without a free press, society becomes a very dangerous place indeed.
On a microscopic level, great journalism informs and educates you, makes you smile, or inspires you to make a change. A good features section should be your pal in the café or your mate down the pub – broadening your horizons and reassuring you every step of the way.
Best scoop (yours or someone else’s)?
I think one of the most interesting was the Panama Papers leak in 2016, which shone a spotlight on corporate responsibility and ethics. That carries so much currency now.
Career highlight so far?
Interviewing every single major party leader for the last three general elections with my brilliant news colleague Joel Taylor. We were able to condense all their policies into a digestible format, humanise each candidate by uncovering the personality behind the politics, and remained impartial throughout.
The fact that every single leader – including serving prime ministers – were so eager to talk to Metro spoke volumes about the power of print media and our political neutrality. An unbiased approach to reporting is the core of Metro’s ethos and it’s one of the reasons why we are so popular with readers.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
My favourite, which I first heard on the TV series Mad Men, is: ‘If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.’ This helps you think outside the box and change cultures, which can be very difficult to do but so valuable when credit crunches and pandemics require you to spin on a dime.
Who or what inspires you most?
My colleagues at Metro – we’ve always been a very small team that punches well above our weight, and the talent and tireless creativity never ceases to amaze me. And my editor Ted Young is the best headline writer is the business! There, I’ve said it.
Who would be your fantasy dinner party guests and why?
I’d love to have the Queen at her most tipsy and indiscreet – I’d love to know what she really makes of it all. Others would include Alastair Campbell – a former journalist turned savage spin doctor at the heart of power is never going to be short of political gossip. And Brian Blessed, because he’s an absolute hoot and completely bonkers.
How do you switch off from work?
Silly action films, ground-breaking sci-fi, a basement comedy club and a traditional Korean martial art called Hapkido.
If I wasn’t a journalist, I would be…
Schlepping round the world trying to sate my post-lockdown wanderlust. Or teaching roundhouse kicks to anyone that will listen.
Gym or gin?
Gin – I highly recommend touring the distilleries of Scotland if you can find a designated driver. It’s a fab (if slightly blurry) prism through which to see some beautiful highland landscapes.