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The Journo Grill: Gill Anderson, Editor, Total Lighting

Posted by Andrea Berghäll on 1st May 2012

This month we’re talking to Gill Anderson, Editor of Total Lighting the voice of the UK lighting industry. Here she talks about the future of the humble LED and her plans to inspire the next generation of lighting designers.

1. Describe your typical working day. 

Since the magazine moved to London earlier this year, a typical working day now starts very differently from the mad panic of de-icing for an early morning 120-mile round trip to the office I’d done for the past 20 years. All that fuel!

These days I still get up pre-dawn, but the first job of the day is a walk through the woods with the magazine’s resident news hound. We’re lucky to live right on the coast, so if the weather’s good, the dog has a swim, but if it’s cold or wet, it’s a mad dash back, chickens fed and the eggs collected.

Once that’s accomplished, I head to the office with my early cuppa ‘just to see if anything important came in from the newswires’, and usually end up immersed in internet newsgathering. I find this is the most productive time of the day. If I’ve got a feature to write that’s not working out the way I want, then I’ll attack it first thing in the morning.

A typical day may include interviewing a lighting designer for the regular Q&A slot we carry in TL, or possibly juggling our B2B titles, which always seem to need subbing at exactly the same time! The one thing I struggle to do is plan the next issues. I used to try to be very organised, but I’ve realised that leads to madness as the latest news gets left out if everything’s too tightly scheduled. I plan the magazine, research and write the features (with the help of some brilliant PRs, designers and manufacturers, who I couldn’t work without), and conduct interviews, as well as sourcing news items and thinking up ideas to keep the magazine moving in the right direction. Once the designer has woven her magic, it comes back to me to be subbed.

2. What’s the best tech story you’ve ever covered?

The story that springs to mind was about fracking for a title on renewable energy. Since the Blackpool ‘quake, it’s become headline news, but at the time it was almost unheard of. When I found out about it (all a bit cloak and dagger), I knew I had to cover it – and tell the truth about the damage it was doing to the environment.

To choose the best I’ve ever read is almost impossible – there have been so many features that have made me either cry with laughter, fury or sadness, but I enjoy history, and am fascinated by the Middle East, so anything related to the area and it’s instability has to be up there.

3. What’s the next big news for lighting in 2012?

That’s easy! At the moment, the news is all about LEDs and OLEDs, the light source for the future. There has been so much drama about their suitability for many applications – and in truth early technology was a bit hit and miss. Combine that with certain designers misguidedly using them as a total replacement for all light sources, which really gave them a bad press. Many believed they were only useful for car brake lamps and fridges.

But despite that, the humble LED is fighting back and the advances happening on an almost daily basis are really very exciting.

4. How important is social media in sourcing stories?

Social media is rightly seen as the future for sourcing stories in almost all walks of life. Having said that, the volume of information available means it’s too easy to miss the vital element, in the same way we now spend 75% of our working day responding to email rather than actually producing. So I think that new ways of sourcing specific information will emerge – either that or there’ll be an information overload & melt-down!

5. What do you feel could be done by the UK lighting industry to support its new design talent?

I recently had the chance to go to Venice to witness the opening of a brand new facility, the like of which I’ve not come across in this country. Called the Light Village, it’s been created by Linea Light, an Italian family-owned and run manufacturer, which saw the writing on the wall a few years ago and made the decision to switch totally to products using LEDs. Within its vast factory and office HQ, the team has created an amazing facility for lighting designers and students to come and explore the possibilities of this still-new technology.

Without boring everyone with the details, any designer looking for help or inspiration now has a potential magic wand at his fingertips. But what thrilled me most was learning that the facility will be opened up for students from the local universities – and with the best will in the world, there are few teaching establishments that could provide similar levels of equipment, teaching and inspiration for the next generation to learn their craft.

All of this started me thinking about how not just TL, but all of the UK’s trade press could facilitate learning, and I have been in touch with a couple of UK universities to start exploring the possibilities. There’s nothing concrete to report as yet, but as the saying goes: watch this space!

Andrea Berghäll

Andrea Berghäll trained as a journalist and has worked in technology PR for over five years across a variety of IT and electronics clients, delivering high level campaigns.