How could I not believe, when Ita tells me too?

Several weeks ago, a large contingent of Edge’s Melbourne team headed to the Wheeler Centre for the latest instalment of The Fifth Estate: a series of fortnightly forums that contemplate news and current affairs. On this occasion, the drawcard was magazine queen and media legend Ita Buttrose, reflecting on her decades of experience in the media.

Judging by the predominantly female audience, Buttrose – who turned 70 last January – is a major inspiration for women. Those of us who watched the recent ABC mini-series Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo will understand why – this is someone who has tackled pretty much every form of journalism, held positions previously reserved for men and worked for all the major media players in this country. In short, she’s one of few women in Australia who has had real power in the industry.

In her role as an editor – regardless of the publication or the platform – she has driven momentous change within the media industry. And how has she done this? By knowing her audience and understanding what it’s ready to absorb – the most important skills an editor can possess, according to Buttrose.

“I was an ‘out and about’ editor,” she says. “I listened and watched and observed. All of these things helped me form opinions about what the readers would and wouldn’t accept.”

You can find her wisdom distilled into five top tips for journalists, but don’t think for a minute that she’s stuck in the glory days of print; judging by her latest role as chairman of iPad/tablet-specialist digital publisher Reddo Media Services, time hasn’t thwarted her aptitude for discerning what the public wants.

“Like everything to do with publishing, you have to know how best to take advantage of the new trends, while at the same time not alienating your loyal readers’ needs,” she says.

In other words, anticipate what ‘the people’ want – whether that’s adopting a new technology or adapting content to suit changing needs – and lead the charge. A wise sentiment from the woman who gave this country its first nude male centrefold … and had a hit song written for her. Now that’s someone I’m willing to take notice of.