Freelance Journalist Focus: Richard Yarrow

Today we speak to freelancer Richard Yarrow, motoring aficionado and enthusiast. Find out about jeeps, tanks, and hiring the Great Wall of China for a photoshoot…

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
Cars, the automotive industry, related new technologies and consumer motoring issues. It’s been that pretty much exclusively since I left local newspapers in 1998.

Where are we likely to see your work?
I write a lot of stuff for Auto Express. It’s the UK’s top selling weekly car news magazine, and I was a staffer for seven years. I contribute regularly to the Wheels section of Metro newspaper, and I’ve had motoring stuff in many of the nationals on and off since I went freelance in 2005.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
I’ll never forget starting out as a freelancer. I was petrified whether it was all going to work out. It was Monday 10 October 2005 and I was in Paris driving new Renaults. The following day I was in Stuttgart driving a prototype Smart, and on the Friday I was in Spain doing something else. I was knackered but so exhilarated. Individual jobs that stick in my mind include being the first European journalist to drive the all-new 2007 Jeep Wrangler. We did an amazing three-day off-road drive through the Zambian bush. I also hired the Great Wall of China for a photoshoot once, and the very reasonable price included two security guards to shoo tourists away.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
For some reason, I’ve yet to visit the Nurburgring in Germany. It’s a legendary test track and race circuit, and I’ve love to spend a day driving it in something seriously quick. I’d also jump at the chance to go back to Alaska. I spent time there in the early Nineties, so a test drive of some suitably oversized Yank Tank would be ideal.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
Anywhere and everywhere. Cars I’ve driven, places I’ve been, people I’ve met, articles I’ve read, things I’ve experienced.

How can PRs be useful to you?
PRs are vital, without them I’d be nothing. Motoring journalism is a fairly small world, so personal relationships developed over more than a decade of doing this job – and always trying to build new ones with fresh faces in the industry – are the most important thing.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
However and whenever they want. Office hours are preferred but we all know it’s not that sort of business.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
In motoring journalism you can’t be a desk-based freelancer. It’s about interacting with new products and technologies, so you have to get out and about. With a young family I try to limit myself to two days/one night away a week, and I avoid evening and weekend jobs wherever possible… unless it’s something really good!

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I’d love people to pick up the phone more. E-mail is important, but we all talk faster than we write. There’s too great a reliance on E-mail these days, particularly time-consuming backwards-and-forwards conversations. I end up getting frustrated and just ring them.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’m not sure I would. Writing is the only thing I’ve ever really been good at. I spent two summers as a student working on a kids’ camp in Connecticut, and toyed with the idea of teaching after that. I’m fascinated by cinema, so perhaps a job in film-making.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
A holiday somewhere warm with my wonderful wife would be great. Freelancing gives me so much freedom to work how I want to, but taking time off is hard. It’s the age-old thing of taking a break and paying for it twice – once for the holiday and again because you earn nothing while you’re away. The Caribbean would be first choice.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I only ever read non-fiction and currently awaiting my attention are How I Escaped My Certain Fate by comedian Stewart Lee, and England’s Dreaming, the 1991 biography of punk by journalist Jon Savage.

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