Clareville caught up with well known B2b journalist Stuart Derrick
1. What did you do before you were a journalist?
I involved myself in a small way in student journalism while at university, but after that I flitted around for a few years doing various filler jobs. Journalism was the only thing that I ever really considered as a career, but it took me a few years to get the wheels turning.
2. For what other titles have you written?
As a freelancer I write for all and sundry, but I suppose my patch is mainly marketing and business related, including trade magazines such as Marketing, Campaign, Growing Business, and Revolution. I also edit the annual Show Daily magazine for the IMEX show, undertake some corporate writing gigs and have written a book which my publisher assures me will see the light of day sometime. No job too small!
3. How many news releases do you receive each day?
Not as many as if I was on a news desk. It could be 20-50 a day, but I think many PRs know where the balance of power lies, and it’s not with freelancers.
4. Roughly what percentage of them would be of interest to your readers?
I probably only use a small proportion of them directly as I mainly write features. Unless a release has actually prompted an idea for a feature, it can be difficult to lever it into a piece. However that doesn’t mean they are not useful. Sometimes an unused press release can provide useful background, or a commentator months down the line – if I haven’t deleted it that is.
5. What tips would you give to PR and marketing people about what you like / dislike about news stories and feature comments you receive?
It’s all the usual stuff really. Only target me with press releases that are relevant to what I do. A strong headline makes it easier to get the gist of what a release is about. And make sure there is a phone number on the release. It’s amazing how many PR people are phone phobic these days. A call is still the quickest way to get things moving. Another thing that is quite interesting in this supposedly digital age is how slow PR responses can be. Nothing delights me more than when a PR person gives the impression that I am their number one priority. My heart sinks when I hear the phrase: “What’s your absolute deadline?”
6. What is the biggest difference that online publication and social media have made to your job?
Online publication has changed the nature of a lot of content. Editors think there is less room for lengthy features pieces, so fewer are commissioned. They are probably right, but what’s replaced it isn’t always better. Nick Davies, in his book Flat Earth News reveals the pressure that a lot of news desks are under to be first with a story, and to go with the prevailing consensus on what the ‘line’on a particular story is. This can lead to a lot of cut and paste, me too ‘churnalism’.
The web has opened up content to the amateur and in some ways has devalued the role of journalists as people now think that anybody can provide content. Of course they can, but good journalism can provide an objective overview that is often missing in the more partial attempts of those without our craft skills.
Online publication has brought in certain stylistic changes. You need to be aware of possible web links that can advance the story without necessarily being part of the narrative. Style is punchier too. It’s an ongoing challenge to know how you can sell a story in 140 characters.
Social media is an interesting and evolving area. As a freelancer it enables you to create a personal brand and position yourself as something of an expert, either by self-publishing on a blog, or by rebroadcasting your stories, and those of others through Twitter.
7. What can you tell us about your publication that everyone should know?
The editor’s decision is final.
8. What can you tell us about yourself that not many people know about you…?
I’d give it all up for rock ‘n’ roll.