Three Minute Squiz With… Helen McCabe

Helen McCabe is one of the most respected media mavens in Australia. From TV to newspapers to magazines and digital there’s not a corner of the media landscape she hasn’t conquered. Now the head of digital content at Nine, Helen spends what little spare time she has plotting the launch of an exciting new venture, Future Women and taking on the Three Minute Squiz.

Where and how do you Squiz?
I am an early person, so I Squiz at about 6.05am. I have usually read all the sites so this is a great way to have it summed up especially if I get lost in one story. By checking in to The Squiz I make sure I haven’t missed anything.

Where were you born?
Hamley Bridge, South Australia. It’s sort of near the Barossa.

What was the first album you ever owned?
The only one I remember is Imagine, John Lennon.

You’ve made the leap from print to digital: are you a Snapchat, Whats App or Instagram afficionado?
Definitely not Snap and on the others, sadly, I am only average.

Cambridge Analytica: terrifying aberration of the internet age or simple reality of the digital new world order
Both. People will demand personalisation while simultaneously being (rightly) suspicious of it. And we are only at the beginning. And yes, it is also terrifying.

Mark Zuckerberg: harmless wearer of grey t-shirts or egomaniacal overlord with designs on taking over the world?
I think he is just very young. He has so much money, power, fame and responsibility and yet he’s still learning and working stuff out. Of course, he is going to get a bunch of things wrong and over-reach at times. I am not saying what he has done is ok. It is just that I am not surprised.

You edited The Australian Women’s Weekly for seven years. Which cover are you most proud of and why?
Well it was not Julia Gillard with a knitted kangaroo. Not least because it was never a cover. Even though many people still think it was. Prince Harry was on the cover that month. The answer however, is Turia Pitt – who has since graced just about every cover in the land with the exception Vogue. But I wouldn’t put it past her.

As well as being head of digital content for Nine, you’re also about to launch Future Women. Two questions: 1. When do you sleep? and 2. What is Future Women and why should we sign up?
Oh, I am with Ariana Huffington on sleep. I sleep a lot, believe me. I don’t do a lot of other stuff such as cook. And I am often in bed finishing emails by around 8.30pm so I can get up at 5am. So sleep is not my problem but I have come to terms with being a workaholic.

And Future Women?
Hell yes, sign up. Future Women is a forum for forward thinking women. We are creating a single destination to help women advance, both personally and professionally.For updates ahead of the launch, sign up to our newsletters through where you can find out about our studio sessions, our upcoming series of talks, the long-form journalism we are planning and how to become a part of the movement.

What gave you the inspiration to create Future Women?
In a way it was The Weekly. I kept asking if you were to launch a product for today’s forward-thinking women what would it look like? In other words what is the 2018 version of The Weekly and I believe it has to be something which is more tangible, something which can live through events and be accessed every day rather than once a month. So we’ll have newsletters, podcasts, insight papers and a range of ways to get involved. But FW is also about super charging our desire for greater equality which I believe is very consistent with the way The Weekly saw itself.

Do you want men to be a part of Future Women?
Of course we want men to be a part of it because in most cases they are crucial to all of our endeavours, success and happiness. At Nine, the CEO Hugh Marks gifted every staff member a membership on International Womens Day. It was a way of saying to our male colleagues log in. Join the conversation. But if it is not right for them, that’s ok too. I hope they still pass their membership to their wives, daughters, nieces or someone important in their life. It will be interesting to see how they respond. But they are certainly welcome.

If you had to have a current world leader to dinner, which one would you choose?
Well it wouldn’t be Donald Trump. Does Pope Benedict count? If not, I would definitely say French President Emmanuel Macron.

At The Weekly, you would have become an instant expert on all things royal: what’s your take on the Markle factor and what do you think it will do for the House of Windsor?
I am not entirely sure. I think it is a very difficult to be a modern and successful princess. In a way it is a very selfless role. And she has tasted freedom. She is already a star. So, I am a bit worried for her and Harry even if the world she is entering is more forgiving than it was for his mother. Perhaps it will be easier for her than I think.

What skill or talent do you not have but wish you did?
The ability to throw together a fabulous meal the way you see Maggie Beer, Matt Moran or Rob Marchetti do it. Rob came to my home one day and pulled together five dishes in forty-five minutes. That’s the skill I want.

Your favourite writer/s? And which book of theirs do you recommend?
I am currently reading three books. Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending and Helen Garner’s The Spare Room are both gripping. They are two exceptional writers. I am also reading the award-winning book Tracker by Alexis Wright. It is about legendary Aboriginal leader Tracker Tilmouth. He was a very dear friend and a big character. He would visit me at The Weekly and terrorise me and the staff by saying “bet you’ve never seen a black fella in here before” with a mischievous grin and of course he was right.

What would you say is the most overrated virtue?
Patience. Time goes so quickly why spend too much of it being ‘patient’

What quality or qualities do you most value in a friend?
Loyalty and humour. Honesty is important too. But I am very drawn to anyone who makes me laugh. I think it explains why I like The Squiz so much and its founder Claire Kimball, who is hilarious – and mostly she doesn’t even know it.

You manage large teams of people: what’s the essential quality of a good leader?
I think people need to trust and respect you. That’s hard to win but if you win it, you get incredible loyalty. I also think you can’t take it all too seriously. As I said above, humour in media is a core ingredient to a successful happy team.

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