Freelance Journalist Focus: Kate Hughes
Today we speak to personal finance journalist Kate Hughes…
About your journalism:
What do you write about?
Money! I’ve been writing about personal finance for around 10 years – everything from how growing your own vegetables can save you cash to hardcore specialist investment articles and financial services regulation analysis. I’ve have been a senior journalist with both the Financial Times Group and The Independent Newspaper. The knowledge base you need to be an informed financial journalist is incredible. There are a couple of hacks who seem to have encyclopaedic brains and the intellectual challenge continues to fascinate me. Financial journalism has really come into its own recently and has become a huge part of the consumer psyche since the collapse of Northern Rock in 2007. It’s fantastic to know that what once seemed a dry and dull subject for many people is now being recognised as vital information for their everyday lives. It’s hugely rewarding to be a small part of that.
Where are we likely to see your work?
Financial Times Business, a number of Financial Times micro sites, Sky, The Independent and Independent on Sunday, The Sunday Times, Confused.com, Telegraph Weekly and a lot of in-house and customer magazines – which I really enjoy working on, so I’m looking for more of this kind of work!
I work with a large group of very experienced freelance journalists as part of Fit For Print – a central hub for editors and marketers who need to source copy or content (www.fitforprint.co.uk) – and between us we pretty much cover the industry!
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Without doubt my front page splash for the Independent. Lord Mandelson had ordered credit card companies to curb their extortionate interest rates and fees within a two week window or suffer the consequences. As that deadline loomed it suddenly became clear that most of those companies were disregarding the warnings and a couple even increased their rates during that time! (http://www.independent.co.uk/money/loans-credit/the-great-credit-card-scandal-1058003.html) The piece led to a number of follow ups on TV and radio as well as in print and online. My folks were very proud!
I’ve also learned that a couple of my columns have been used during presentations and debates at the main political party annual conferences, which is quite an honour.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
Easy – I’d want an exclusive first interview with the new Chancellor. There’s a lot riding on him and how he takes direction from his advisers as well as pressure groups, big business and of course the media!
About you and PRs:
Where do you source ideas for articles?
The news, press releases, taking forward or finding new angles on articles produced by colleagues and peers, personal experience, and on more than one occasion from overhearing conversations in the City that really shouldn’t have been happening in public!
How can PRs be useful to you?
There have been a couple of times when I’ve had great new angles on a seemingly hard flogged subject from PRs, and I’d always welcome truly new ideas from their clients or spokespeople. And the ability to source the huge number of case studies I usually need is often quite stunning!
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Emails are usually best for me. I work fairly long hours, so I really don’t mind when those emails arrive.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
My first editor at the FT said that his reporters could go on press trips and other events as long as we came back with a minimum of three printable stories. That was a tall order but one I try to stick to. I love the social side of the media industry, and I hope I never become blasé about the astonishing things I get to do, attend or witness during press events and trips, but it is a point of honour to come away with useful material!
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I struggle with those follow up ‘Did you get my email’ or a ‘Can I send you a press release?’ calls. I like to think I’m a professional, so always send it and if it’s truly worth following up, I hope I would do so without being asked!
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’m a keen amateur racing sailor and my family has a strong tradition as merchant sailors, yachtsmen and life boatmen. My cousin is the chief engineer on a super yacht and that seems like an amazing life – he claims he works hard but he’s actually being paid to travel the world on a floating mansion. The last I heard he was scuba diving off the back of the yacht in the Galapagos. It can’t be bad…
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I should say something obvious like I’d add it to my pension fund, but if I’m honest it would actually go on two really good sea kayaks and a roof rack!
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
The books by my bed always join the magazines in my bag every day anyway so right now I’ve got some hideous chick lit that I’m not about to admit to, Creation – a fascinating and very readable biography of Charles Darwin, The Week, the FT and Dear Bill – a memoir of the legendary Bill Deedes. My bag weighs a ton!