PROFILE: KATYA WACHTEL
If the Mayor holds the key to the city, then the head honcho at Broadsheet holds the compass. Cue Katya Wachtel, the editorial director at Broadsheet and long-time friend of J+B founders Jack and Pete.
Prior to returning to Melbourne with partner Adam (owner of the trendy pub-cum-eatery Half Acre in South Melbourne) to lead the editorial division at Australia’s most coveted cultural authority, Katya spent about eight years in New York, many of those as a financial journalist covering the world's largest money makers and shakers.
J+B were lucky enough to sit down with Katya and talk through the drivers behind her repatriation and better understand how her passions and interests shape how she spends her time.
Art Direction: Jack + Bell
Photography: Cinema Thom: https://cinemathom.com/
On set Director: Olympia Scott: www.olympiascottco.com
On set Director: a.g. press https://www.ag-press.com/
Through our profile series, we celebrate people’s relationship with time, and how it evolves through changes in lifestyle. You were a financial journalist for some of New York’s biggest media players including Reuters and The Business Insider. How were your days spent covering Wall Street?
Chasing leads, meeting with sources, jumping on breaking news, pouring over regulatory filings and government reports. I covered the world’s biggest money managers, which included everyone from George Soros, Warren Buffett and Steve Cohen to the internal hedge funds at banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Mostly, that all took in place in New York, but my reporting also took me to places like Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Boston for larger investigations. I arrived in New York about a month or so before Lehman Brothers collapsed, and the financial crisis and its aftermath became the biggest story in America during my time there.
What was the catalyst to leave New York?
I had actually moved to New York to pursue political and cultural reporting – that’s what I majored in at journalism school at Columbia University. But I ended up covering Wall Street instead. It was a fascinating beat, especially at the time, and there was no better journalism education: it was my job to break news on some of America’s most secretive private firms, which were not answerable to the public in the same way as banks, or other lenders. But after several years I still found myself skipping straight to the political and culture pages when I opened a newspaper or a magazine. That’s the stuff I really loved. And there were parts of Wall Street reporting I really came to dislike, such as the expected quid pro quo on the part of male sources who often saw me as a potential date, not a reporter. I was ready to pursue a different journalistic beat, and was ready for a location change. New York is an insanely inspiring and endlessly fascinating city, but it’s also exhausting. I’d been there for almost eight years and Australia – and the friends, family, and four-week annual leave that comes with it – became very appealing to myself and my partner, who had been involved in a very successful restaurant, bar and events business but was also ready to start his own thing.
Tell us about life working for Broadsheet, the cultural authority in Australia?
I’m pretty lucky. I have a truly inspiring and talented team around me, who make coming to work every day a real pleasure and very entertaining. I’ve never laughed as much at a job as I have at Broadsheet. We’re covering subjects we are personally passionate about – arts, food, culture, innovation, the history of the city – and that’s something I never take for granted. Every day is different, too.
Broadsheet educates its readership on what’s cool in their city, and as the Editorial Director, you get to call the shots. Has your job changed your outlook on life?
I’m not sure if it’s changed my outlook on life, but it’s certainly made me more culturally aware in a variety of ways.
You must be one of the busiest people we know. How do you regulate your days and keep things in balance?
Ha, I don’t! I’m not a running or gym kind of person, and I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve managed to squeeze in a yoga or Pilates class since 2016, which may seem like no big deal but I think staying active is really important to achieving a sense of balance. I used to meditate and that was a gamechanger for me. I’d like to get back into the routine of doing it. Keeping things in balance is something I actually need to work harder on. I like to-do lists in terms of organisation, but I have a team of 13, and things come up every day that weren’t part of the day’s plan.
Aside from business, what are your passions and interests?
Culture in all its high- and low-brow forms. Food and eating it; books (especially vintage paperbacks), novels, short-stories; history – especially 20th century; fashion; art and design; film and TV. Travel, of course (whose isn’t?). I’ve spent unfathomable amounts on coffee table books. I’m pretty obsessed with all things British, and that means everything from Middlemarch and Desert Island Discs, to British crime dramas, Antiques Roadshow and watching Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver cook.
Is there a milestone in your life you have rewarded yourself with a gift, or been rewarded by a loved one for your success?
I’ve been very lucky in regard to the latter – I have very supportive and proud parents who are incredibly generous, so I’ve not been lacking in the gift department. When I graduated from Columbia they bought me an SLR camera, which is something I can keep and use for the rest of my life.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Maybe the New York years, which includes everything from packing up and moving to another country at 22 years old, to getting my masters degrees, to the investigative journalism I did at Reuters.
We have always considered a watch the ultimate companion; it comes with you everywhere you go, and sleeps next to you at night. Do you have a favourite companion or treasured possession?
My favourite companion is my fiancé Adam, closely followed by my insane family dogs Lola and Stella. And my girlfriends make even the most mundane activity hysterical. Treasured possession? There a few. A gold ring given to me by mum, made from gold that belonged to her late mother – my grandmother – who I never met, but who was a journalist and ABC arts correspondent. A collection of letters my late grandma – dad’s mum – wrote over the years to friends and family. She was an absolute cracker, and her wit and hilariously sharp tongue are all there in those pages. The watch my parents gave me for my 30th birthday.
What sits on your bed side table alongside your Jack + Bell watch?
A few novels. A ceramic mug, which was a gift from one of my closest friends – an ex-Broadsheeter who is now in New York getting her masters from Columbia University – to remind me to look after and take time for myself. A black and white woven bowl from South Africa, where dad’s from.
If you had a spare weekend, where and how would you spend it?
Somewhere outside Melbourne – the country, the beach, anywhere surrounded by trees and the sounds of nature – that involves a pretty drive, good food and time for me to read.
Who has been your biggest influence?
My friends and family, professors, work colleagues, and fellow journalists – especially the ones I went to Columbia with.
What’s the most powerful way to make a first impression?
Be nice, be open, ask questions and listen to the answer.
And finally, what is next for Katya?
I should probably buy a ten-class pass to a yoga studio.
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