Freelance Focus: Tania Ahsan

Today we’ve got freelance journalist Tania Ahsan in the Focus spotlight. As a freelancer, Ahsan edits Kindred Spirit and her work can also be seen in Natural Health, Dance Today, Guardian and Metro. Today she tells us a bit more about her most memorable work and piles the praise on hardworking PRs.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
Everything from animal welfare to zero balancing but I mostly concentrate on travel, food & drink, spirituality and alternative health.

Where are we likely to see your work?
I edit Kindred Spirit on a freelance basis and I also write for Natural Health, Dance Today, Guardian and Metro, among others.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Probably a piece I did last year for Metro on Lahore in Pakistan being a funky, fashionable town. It couldn’t have been further away from the idea people have in the west about Pakistan being all about terrorism – it was about cocktails by pools and drag queen TV presenters. Ironically though, the travel editor had to hold off on printing it due to a terrorist attack and I chased it a couple of months down the line and he took a risk and ran it. Both the paper and I got great feedback.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d love to do something on either on soft-shell crab fishing or on mardi gras in New Orleans.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
I look for anniversaries and news angles for things that I want to do features on. Occasionally I’ll get ideas from press releases or online. A lot of what I write is confessional in nature so I also keep an eye on the things that affect me and my friends/peers.

How can PRs be useful to you?
The PRs who think like journalists are amazingly good as they will have sourced a decent angle for you and it’s fine to link that to a client but unfortunately we often get sent client-led releases that don’t fire the imagination with how it could pan out into an article.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
By email and during office hours. With the advent of the BlackBerry there is nothing more soul-destroying than getting a press release about nose hair clippers automatically set to send at 2am when you were hoping for a text from the love of your life.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Some are very useful as you get to network with editors and you can often place pieces off the back of a conversation had with a colleague at a party. Others are a bit staid and boringly repeat everything you’d get on the press release anyway.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Banning the use of exclamation marks.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d be a nail technician. Or a drystone waller. Perhaps a dog walker.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I’d go back to Aruba for a holiday. I went on a press trip there some time ago and fell in love with it. A grand would get me a week’s all inclusive I reckon.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
The O of Home by Jennifer Kavanagh and a collection of essays by William Saroyan. I have a copy of the London Review of Books (not exactly a magazine but close…) in my bag. I read, a blog by a journalist friend on her upcoming nuptials. I introduced her to her fiancé so I get a tingle of pride and joy whenever I look at it and see what I have wrought.

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