EDITOR 1975-92

Kim Wilde

Adam Ant - New Look

Clare Grogan

Covers from top: 1981 no.36 - penultimate old skool issue, Kim Wilde by Jon Geary - superb!; 1981 no.38 - What is THAT? The shock of the new as Adam Ant launches the new-style mag; 1982 no.17 - Clare Grogan from Altered Images ... swooon!
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Just before that 1981 style change the paper quality had changed too hadnít it? It was the same all the way through?

Yes, I think that let us do colour throughout or near enough. Again that was influenced by Smash Hits. Look-In had had the market for boys and girls up to about age 13/14 to itself for a decade and had served that market jolly well but Smash Hits had come along in 1978 and was fantastic. We all loved Smash Hits, I thought it was a magnificent piece of work and what that did was sort of redefine and put on a lid on where Look-In could go. It didnít really threaten us that much as it was very obviously different and it was only about pop music but it had a bearing on how kids perceived what a magazine would be. Smash Hits was on beautiful paper, colour all the way through Ö other people piled into that market so we had to take stock and think what Look-In needed to be doing. Something if not 'Smash Hits good', at least 'this good' and still able to operate as the market leader.

TOPS I remember but the big thing that hit Look-In was Fast Forward in the later 80s.

What about Beeb in 1985 from Polystyle? That was very short lived.

Dennis Hooper was editor on that. I think there was some kind of bad blood between Polystyle and the BBC over lack of advertising for Beeb on the BBC. Or maybe it was that the BBC were disappointed in the product - there was some fall out between the two parties.

Anyway, out of that came Fast Forward. It was from the BBC in exactly the same way as Look-In was from ITV and Fast Forward was very heavily promoted on the BBC. Of course, we'd been promoted heavily ourselves on ITV. We used to make an ad about a particular issue a couple of times a year (Laaa-La-La-La-La Look-Iiiiiiiin! - Al). And a plain slide and voice over most weeks.

Those ads were made by Cosgrove Hall weren't they?

Some were, and some by an agency who TV Times used for their weekly adverts. Anyway, Fast Forward was the first real head on challenge Look-In had ever had. I've no idea why it took so long. So from there being one magazine for kids who were interested in TV, pop, sport and stuff, suddenly there was another.

The mid-80s saw you and Angus coming to blows over violence in the action strips. What's your take on that? Was it down to you or pressure from above at TV Times?

It was me being nannyish is what it was. For the best of motives. I sensed a sort of change in people - this is parents, adults - their approaches to violence. Now, with hindsight, I'm sure I went right over the top but there was something going on then. No but Angus is right, it was me being very nannyish. The instruction was to have no weaponry pointed at people. For a time we had the rule that you could see a gun - or a bow and arrow in Robin of Sherwood - but it wouldn't be pointed at anybody. I can see now how frustrating it must have been for Angus - he'd didnít agree with my stance and it also meant he had to restructure the way he went about telling the stories.

Did you have your own kids by this time, whereas you hadnít back when Kung-Fu was on the pages, and this made you feel slightly more protective of the readers?

That's a good point, I hadnít thought of that. Yes, I was a dad by then Ö I think it was more that I had this sense of this feeling being around in the world, of anti-violence. As I say, I may have misread it and it doesnít seem to be so strong now but that was the vibe I was picking up. I mean, if we'd run Tom and Jerry in Look-In my thoughts wouldnít have gone as far as to take the cartoon violence out of Tom and Jerry.

Another difficult issue at that time was sponsorship in sport. On photographs we had of racing cars or footballers we had great agonies then - itís only in the last 20 years or so that shirt sponsorship in football happened. So suddenly in Sports Spotlight we would be confronted with a photo of a strip with Carlsberg on it. Using a similar rationale to how we tackled the violence, I tried to use only photos that didn't show a 'dodgy' sponsor. We even went to lengths of retouching offending pictures - and this was before Photoshop, it had to be done very expensively by the repro houses. Which wasn't probably a great use of my editorial budget but it seemed important at the time. We come across similar photos now at Egmont and I think it's just accepted now that you're going to get those kinds of sponsors.

Speaking of Photoshop retouching there (or the lack of), when did Look-in move to Macs and DTP and away from the hand paste-up/repro house path?

I donít think it was until the very late 80s, possibly even 1990 or 91. The first sighting we had of Macs was in the main TV Times offices and at that point in the 80s they had the capabilities of a super-typewriter. What was great about them was that you could share type around, so that if you typed something once it could go round the office, to the printers and so on. But they weren't designing pages on them until the end of the 80s.

Even so, when we got Macs at 1990 or so we were still not as late as some kids and teen mags. Of course it might be that we had and others had a Mac-look without knowing it - the prepress and repro houses might well have been rendering our paper layouts using Macs.

Speaking of those later days, the late 80s - the picture strip seemed to decrease in importance around this time. Was that a cost thing?

Not particularly Öit was to get more value from the other material in there, so yes the posters, the features, facts and stuff but the other reason was that the whole rationale for having a strip of a famous TV property was that it gave you an extra dose. Because in the past when you wanted to watch The A-Team most people still had one go at it on a Saturday night once a week. Where Look-In scored was in bringing you stuff about the A-Team when it wasn't on telly. That rationale vanished when kids got access to videos and could watch an episode as many times as they liked.

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