For today’s Freelance Journalist Focus, we chat to Anton Rippon…
About your journalism:
What do you write about?
The dafter side of life – nostalgia for the way things were, an old ’un’s mystification with modern life (the last piece of technology I successfully mastered was the ball-point pen) and a sideways look at sport. I’ve also written 30 books, almost all on sport but also, most recently, a military biography.
Where are we likely to see your work?
I write a weekly column ‘In My View’ in the Derby Telegraph (http://antonrippon.thisisderbyshire.co.uk) and articles and book reviews on the Sports Journalists’ Association website (http://www.sportsjournalists.co.uk/blog/?p=1941)
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Being a Derby County fanatic, that has to be interviewing the seven (there are now only two) surviving members of the 1946 FA Cup winning side for a BBC Radio Derby series. I’m also quite proud of one period, in the 1980s, when I was simultaneously Midlands correspondent for both Local Government News and Cabaret and Variety Review, and covering football for the Sunday Telegraph, proving that the successful freelance must be prepared to multi-task.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d love to do a regular newspaper column taking a tongue-in-cheek, whimsical look at big-time sport. I also wonder if a world figure like Barack Obama would be up for giving an exclusive interview to an unknown UK regional freelance ahead of the White House press corps.
About you and PRs:
Where do you source ideas for articles?
I write a weekly column ‘looking at life’, so keeping an ear open down the pub to see what is important to people is a key method of deciding on topics. The subjects are manifold and various: law and order; issues affecting senior citizens; daft laws; how difficult it is to find a decent window cleaner; unwanted sales phones calls; surly shop assistants; the price of a pint; the unnecessary demolition of old buildings (and the poor design of some new ones); councils wasting money – I’ve covered them all and a million other things.
Sourcing the research is usually done through the internet, either directly or else looking for the organisation to give me a quote.
How can PRs be useful to you?
If they have something genuinely new – and, better still, offbeat – to tell me.
As I do a sports books review ‘column’ on the web, publishers’ PRs are especially welcome to send books for review.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
By email whenever they feel they have something helpful to say. Then I can decide whether to ring them and take it further.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
They can be useful if they provide genuinely fresh copy.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I wish they would work out what suits which freelancers rather than a blanket email to everyone, even if they have ticked the appropriate broad box. I ticked “Entertainments and Art” but then I got bombarded with emails telling me that some band of whom I’d never heard was playing gigs in South America. I think PR people would get a more positive response if they took more care to target the right journalists.
Too many people have set up in “PR” without first working in journalism. Those who have know what a journalist wants (a story or a feature idea).
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
In the 1970s, I spent three years away from newspapers, managing a sports centre. In the unlikely event my qualifications are still up to date (the leisure industry we know today was then but a work in progress) that would be appealing. And I ran my own book publishing business for 25 years (sold it in 2003), so I could return to that side of the media.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I’d take myself off to Cape Cod for three weeks, sit on the porch of an old seafront cottage and watch the world go by. Then I’d spend a week in the hubbub of Boston. And all the time I’d be forming the novel that, one day, like the rest of us, I’ll write.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’m currently re-reading The Boys Of Summer by Roger Khan, a baseball classic but also probably the best book on any sport – and the newspaper reporting of it – ever published. The Week Magazine is a must. Various BBC and Sky News blogs.