Having been tagged by journalist, blogger and sometime drinking buddy Louise Bolotin, I thought I better get on with responding to this meme, Call Yourself a Writer.
Had I not been tagged, this is one meme I could have answered with one word – ‘no’. A journalist, yes, but a writer? Not really. I’ve always seen myself more as an intermediary with the writing part being a means to an end.
Which words do you use too much in your writing?
‘So’. It’s the one I have to check back and remove from just about every blog post I write. Verbally, it’s the word “actually” which pops out all the time and which I have to watch out for in audio/video interviews.
Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?
“Outrage”. Usually merely a device for the journalist to be able to report an issue and get it past dullard news editors by whipping up some frenzy where there was none. I’m sure readers see through it and are perfectly capable of understanding stories which don’t always have polar opposite viewpoints.
What’s your favourite piece of writing by you?
It’s not really a piece of writing in the conventional sense but I claim it as something of a first for its time – an ‘interview’ with Peter Mandelson the second time he resigned in 2001. He would not do any press interviews for the nationals or broadcast, but agreed to come and do a “web chat” with me because it was a way of connecting direct with readers. Due to his Northern Ireland position, my little web office at the Northern Echo had to be checked out by security spooks with ear wires first, then he came in, drank hot water with lemon and we took questions via email and published them straight away online. Not very sophisticated I grant, but it was one way of doing it without having the proper technology for live chat which is available now.
What blog post do you wish you’d written?
The Drudge Report’s Monica Lewinsky scandal. It was a game changer for blogs as places to break news and it’s amazing to think that was in 1998.
Regrets, do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn’t written?
I do regret being involved in the make-your-own-cut-out-and keep Ruud Gillet wig (Dreamed up in response to his appointment at Newcastle). Trivial waste of a good broadsheet page. Apologies. ‘nuff said. Move on.
How has your writing made a difference?
What do you consider your most important piece of writing? The sort of community journalism I have a passion for probably isn’t going to change the world in Pullitzer Prize kind of way but, going back to that idea of journalist as intermediary, it can help people gain access to decision makers and connect with power. As a reporter I followed a long campaign involving a Northamptonshire man who had some very rare cancers he was convinced resulted from exposure to pollutants from the tanneries trade. Helping him push the bureaucrats and get some recognition for his case was important. I do sometimes wonder what else might have come from that investigation if we’d had had the benefit of the internet.
Name three favourite words
Sleep. Food. Drink. (I’m pleased by simple things).
…And three words you’re not so keen on
Gypsies (usually precedes a thinly disguised piece of racism). Can’t. Goodbye.
Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?
Over the years, heaps of people have inspired me. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a role model as such but I’ve always admired war reporters and particularly women working in that field. Katie Adie was a household name when I was studying for my journalism exams and more recently Sue Lloyd-Roberts’ reports on human rights issues are examples of how journalism done well can bring about a better understanding of the world.
What’s your writing ambition?
To communicate effectively.
Plug alert! List any work you would like to tell your readers about:
I wish I could find the time to write that book. I probably will at some stage, plenty of notebooks with half-started attempts but in the meantime this blog will have to suffice. Thanks for reading!
Tag time. Here’s five journalists I’ve been impressed by in recent weeks who I hope will also do the meme:
The rules: If you have time to do this meme, then please link to my original, then link to three to five other bloggers and pass it on, asking them to answer your questions and link to you. You can add, remove or change one question as you go. You absolutely do not have to be what you may think of as a “published” or “successful” writer to respond to this meme, I hope people can take the time to reflect on what their blogging has brought them and how it has been useful to others.