Andrew Don: Freelance Journalist Focus

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
I am currently freelance editor of SalonFocus, published by the National Hairdressers’ Federation (NHF). I am the sole professional journalist involved so I do everything from commissioning, writing, planning, proofing, editing and liaising with the designers and ad team. I have a supportive publisher who appreciates good writing, “real news” and the importance of editorial integrity. SalonFocus has a massive news section which is unheard of in the hairdressing press. We are more about the business of hairdressing than the “oh aren’t our highlights marvellous” type of publication. The news agenda rules the content – not advertising interests. I am known for breaking exclusives, identifying business-to-business scams and ensuring our readers don’t get bitten. The reason I took on this role was that I was promised that I could tackle business stories in-depth and spend time on investigative journalism. I also love the idea of providing practical guidance to small businesses owners who share my work ethic. I write speeches for the NHF, its annual report and other materials as and when needed.

I provide a 364-day-a-year “intelligence news-cuttings” service – providing early morning news summaries and weekend stories for business-to-business websites culled from the national and regional press with the help of other journalists whom I sub-contract. Prior to accepting the SalonFocus role in November 2007, I wrote extensively for the national press and business-to-business press. I have been freelance since October 1990, trading as Don’s Hard News.

Where are we likely to see your work?
Currently in SalonFocus, Estates Gazette Interactive and the Costco Connection among many others. I have also been published over a period of about 25 years in The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, Financial Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The European (Elan), Retail Jeweller, Checkout, Educational Courses In America and Britain, Manchester Evening News, The Publican, Asian Business (contributing business editor), Today, Financial Director, Evening Standard, Caterer & Hotel Keeper, The Sun, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Electrical Times, Hairdressers Journal, Financial Times Food Business, Chemical News & Intelligence, Farmers Weekly Interactive, Independent Travel News, The Sunday Times, The Grocer, Press Gazette, Home & Family, Retail Week. Also published under the pseudonym of Jason Andrews in The Guardian and The Independent. Author of Security in the Salon, Fathers Feel, too and contributor to Creating New Families – Therapeutic Approaches to Fostering, Adoption And Kinship Care.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Getting my book Fathers Feel too published and the publicity it generated in The Times, the BBC and elsewhere. I turned my own experience of losing a baby into essential reading for men who are grieving, medical professionals and for all those who provide support to bereaved parents.

I did a couple of articles complete with photographs in 1999 when I went under-cover for the London Evening Standard about a quarantine kennels where conditions left much to be desired. In the days of apartheid, I discovered how produce of South Africa was being relabelled as produce of other countries and being distributed via Bophutswana. Got a great interview with the late Bernie Grant MP. I had some of the South African establishment lot (Mr Big in fruit and veg) really gunning for me.

I wrote a piece for The Publican many years ago about a bar time-share scam in which people were being ripped off in Spain. The chap running it ended up in prison. I’m very proud of that.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I love “Man bites dog” stories so “My hamster ate Freddie Starr” would do nicely, thanks. I would love to be a regular columnist on a national writing about fatherhood issues, men’s lib (I think the balance of power’s gone the other way) or wildlife issues (they are actually closely related). I am a passionate supporter of both animal and human rights through political means (I condemn violence) and would love to write regularly on this topic and issues that surround it. Anything to do with parrots – I get more sense out of my cockatoo than the many MPs I have interviewed. We thought our parrot was a boy until he laid an egg earlier this year. I was so proud.

I’d love to be Barak Obama’s speech writer. I am exceptional at speech writing and reckon I could turn around Gordon Brown’s career in a flash should he want to call on me.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
Talking to people and buried in the penultimate paragraph of long-winded documents. Sometimes PRs will send me useful articles – thank you Sally Learmouth. Also from my own unusual life experiences.

How can PRs be useful to you?
Phone a chap called Geoff Simpson, who used to be in charge of PR at Co-operative Wholesale Services – he’ll tell you. Best PR I’ve known. Sally Learmouth, with a clutch of high-profile hairdressing clients, is pretty good, too.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
E-mail in first instance but I do enjoy phone-to-phone contact once we’ve established a connection.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I rarely go to them. Too busy trying to earn a living.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Answer the question and think like a journalist rather than a PR.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d be a “parrot whisperer”.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
Premium parrot food for my feathered pal, some exotic irises for my garden, and a few days walking in the Yorkshire Dales with my wife and dog.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
No is not a word.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Gardening Made Easy – three massive second-hand manuals I picked up for a tenner. Tells you everything from how to prune your lupins to keeping pests off your cherries; The Elves of Cintra, by Terry Brooks, Parrot Magazine.

Where do you want to be in 10 years’ time?
A stress-free life retired in the Seychelles – me, the wife, the parrot and the dog – the kids successful and many miles away (no offence kids) while I write and publish the many novels I’ve been storing up.
[lnk||_blank|FJD: Andrew Don]

New! Check out our Media Jobs board for PR and Journalism vacancies Learn more