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June 1, 2021updated 07 Nov 2023 5:46am

Youngest ever Reach editor sets out plan to take publisher into Norfolk and Suffolk with two new sites

By Charlotte Tobitt

Reach’s youngest ever editor at 23 has said she can use her age to her advantage as she is “closer to the zeitgeist” and “not bound by traditional methods of journalism” – but she wants her work to speak for itself.

Abigail Rabbett, currently audience editor for Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, will edit Reach’s Norfolk Live and Suffolk Live sites which are set to launch later this summer.

Recruitment is ongoing but she expects to manage approximately one content editor and two reporters on each site, with a number of other roles yet to be announced. Reach is currently advertising for a reporter and a trend writer.

Rabbett told Press Gazette she took the role with her mum, who died just before Christmas in her early 60s, in mind.

“At 23 to lose your mum is a big thing. It taught me life is too short not to say yes to every opportunity that you get,” she said.

“I was quite determined to do her proud and live out her legacy.”

Rabbett joined Reach aged 19 after spending six months working at John Lewis. She got a job as a What’s On writer and then did her trainee reporter qualifications, working her way up through senior reporter and content editor roles.

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She told Press Gazette this amounted to a huge breadth of experience in just four years and that some of the lessons she had learned included to celebrate every success, how to put personality and flair into her work, and not being afraid to have awkward discussions.

Speaking of the advantages her age will bring to her role as editor, Rabbett said: “I’m closer to the zeitgeist which means I’m not bound necessarily by really traditional methods of journalism and I’m really willing to try new things.

“I’m flexible in my way of working. I think the main important attributes of an editor are to be passionate and try to implement healthy working patterns within your team – attitudes and habits – early on.”

She added that she was “fortunate to be surrounded by a team with a whole wealth of experience who are committed to bringing local news to people in a manner that’s fresh and exciting and digital-first”.

But she said she wants her work to speak for itself: “I am passionate and I don’t think age particularly matters that much when you’re a hard worker and you want to knuckle down and you are driven by results.”

Rabbett does hope to set a good example for young people looking to start their careers: “I hope that I can set quite a good example for young people and I hope particularly for young women who are thinking about what they want to do with the rest of their lives,” she said.

“I can hopefully be a good mentor for that. I really advocate everyone giving everything a go and trying their hardest.”

Rabbett added that she wanted to make sure her team has a “range of faces and range of people that are representing our readers and are from every walk of life” and championed the non-university route into journalism.

[Read more: NCTJ report warns ‘graduatisation’ of journalism could slow attempts to boost diversity]

Norfolk and Suffolk are new territories for Reach, and currently Archant strongholds with titles including the Eastern Daily Press, Yarmouth Advertiser, East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star.

The launches are part of Reach’s plan to cover the whole of England and Wales for the first time by the end of this year.

“There’s enough space for all of us in Norfolk and Suffolk and healthy competition is really good for local journalism,” Rabbett said.

Archant has a presence in Cambridgeshire, where Rabbett is currently based on Reach’s Cambridgeshire Live, with titles including the Cambs Times. She said the publishers “work really well in tandem and serve different audiences”.

[Read more: Reach reveals post-lockdown plans for staff to work mostly from home]

She said being digital-only will help her sites be “exciting and fresh” and put an emphasis “on telling every story accessibly and imaginatively”.

“I want these sites to give every reader a voice – no matter who they are – through content that is relatable, innovative and different to our competitors,” she said. “I want to invite discussion and encourage people to experience the best our counties have to offer.”

Picture: Reach

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