Belinda Luscombe answers Ten Questions


Belinda Luscombe, an editor-at-large of TIME, writes about cultural trends and social sciences for the magazine, and is a featured writer on TIME.com’s Healthland site. From 2003-2008, Luscombe served as TIME’s arts editor, a role in which she directed all of TIME’s cultural coverage and wrote profiles and culture stories. Luscombe was awarded the Council on Contemporary Families 2011 Media Award for Print Coverage of Family Issues for her November 29, 2010 cover story “Who Needs Marriage? A Changing Institution.” As editor-at-large, her areas of interest range from divorce, marriage and parenting to social networking, mate selection, workplace issues and romantic comedies. She was also the editor of the first U.S. issue of TIME Style & Design (February 2003). Named a senior editor in 1999, she edited the magazine’s front of book section, as well as lifestyle and arts stories. She joined TIME as a staff writer in March 1995 as the magazine’s People columnist. Prior to that, from 1992 - 95 she worked at FYI, the company’s widely read in-house magazine, as a writer and editor. Luscombe began her journalism career at the Daily Telegraph in Sydney where she covered education news and wrote a humorous dining column. Her work has also appeared in New York magazine, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, Mademoiselle, the New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Vogue and Vogue Australia, Who Weekly, Arena (Great Britain), and the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong). She has contributed humorous essays to several books, including Dick for a Day (Simon & Schuster) and Fresh Milk (Random House). Born in Sydney, Luscombe holds a BA in English Literature (Hons) and a DipEd from the University of Sydney.

This article also appears in the May 2011 edition of our Alumni & Friends eNewsletter.

1. When were you in the ESW?
I originally enrolled to a do a BEd, but switched to Arts, because I wanted to take more English. Then, I changed my mind again and did a DipEd in 1986. I was thinking of being an English teacher or a Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages, which I thought sounded very fancy. But then I did my prac teaching stint during which I wrote a long and withering remark on an essay suggesting that the boy who wrote it was capable of much better. Shortly before class I realised that I had in mind the wrong student. After that I really began to question whether I should inflict myself on children.

2. What degree/s did you complete?
BA (Hons) in English Literature and a DipEd.

3. Was there something in particular that attracted you to this course of study?
Teaching seemed like a great way, if you’ll pardon the cliché, to make a difference. I still believe that. The difference I would have made though, might not have been for the better.

4. In what way did you use your ESW degree?
I talked my way into my first good journalism job, as the education reporter for the Daily Telegraph, by persuading the chief of staff that as I could write and I had a DipEd, I was the perfect candidate. (I didn’t mention the fact that I couldn’t really type.) My DipEd helped me cover that waterfront with more confidence and knowledge. Here in the US, I teach at Columbia University Journalism Masters Program one day a week, which kind of brings it all full-circle.

5. What’s your current role?
I’m an editor at large at Time magazine in New York City. Which means, counter-intuitively, that I write a lot and don’t edit much.

6. How did your studies in the Faculty inform your current position?
I think eventually you use everything you learn. When I was an editor and had to manage people, I used some of the techniques I learned during my DipEd. Not terribly successfully. Also they’re a big help in parenting, which is a lot of people’s other job.

7. Do you have fond memories of your time on campus at ESW?
I have only very fuzzy memories of my time there actually. I was also on the Student Union, so I didn’t spend a lot of time hanging around the Faculty. My strongest memory is of crawling out onto the roof of the stout old Madsen building and eating lunch there.

8. Were you involved in extra-curricular activities either within or outside the Faculty?
I was on the Board of the University of Sydney Union, which involved a very fun, but exhausting election campaign, I was into SUDS (Sydney University Dramatic Society), I had a role in the Union Revue, I wrote a column for one of the campus newspapers and I was a dilettantish member of the Evangelical Union. So I was busy. In the education faculty? Not so much.

9. How significant is it to you to be part of the Faculty’s alumni & friends group?
While I’m attached to my time at the University and it’s helped enormously with my career, my time in the Faculty was pretty brief. I’d love to hear from any fellow students from my time there, though.

10. And finally, any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on to the ESW alumni & friends?
In the US, where the education gaps are frighteningly vast, teachers and social workers are the front line of the fight to get people out of the depressing repeating cycle of poverty and festering misery and squandered ability. Smart, motivated, compassionate people can actually make change happen. I salute anybody who does this work. I chose an easier, wimpier path, but I admire enormously those who stayed the course.