Freelance journalist interview with Barry Cashin

Barry Cashin brings us up to date on his work as a money saving and consumer journalist, his columns for national and consumer press, and his take on PR professionals.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?

I was Consumer Editor and Readers’ advocate writing under the pseudonym Kevin Cotton for Bella magazine from 1996 to 2007 so my emphasis has always been consumer advice. However, I have also been an estate agent in a former life as well as a consumer troubleshooter for a high street retailer so I now use my past experience to guide my writing. My biggest area of expertise currently is money saving, showing consumers how to become better shoppers and saving them a fortune on their everyday living costs.

Where are we likely to see your work?

Mostly the weekly women’s general interest magazine market but you are equally likely to see my work in Sunday Mirror’s Homes & Holidays, and, anywhere in fact where there’s a market for the subjects that I specialise in: consumer issues/rights, personal finance, money-saving and home interest. Previously, I’ve written expert advice columns for Real Homes, Channel 4’s Property Ladder magazine, Move or Improve, Home etc, and have authored several ‘How To’ consumer guides for a number of titles and online websites so I like to spread myself as wide as possible. Currently, I’m on the look out for another regular advice column on consumer rights and/or home/lifestyle/property in either a weekly or monthly magazine so Editors, please call! I can also offer standalone or one-off features with a really quick turnaround.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?

I think the most memorable work is that which has had the greatest value for consumers so I would have answer this by pointing to my work in Bella where I won back £9.5 million pounds in refund and compensation settlements for the British public. No mean feat for a one man show working from a tiny home office in outer Hertfordshire!

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?

As an avid traveller, I’d love to do travel features using my knowledge and experience in consumer and money saving to help travellers get a better deal. So much is written about resorts and accommodation but very little emphasis is given on getting the best deal. This is where my expertise could come into play – so, yes, travel features would be a wonderful opportunity.

About you and PRs:

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I find PRs a double-edged sword. Most are terrific. However some of them poorly target releases which are of no interest to me at all or relevance to my key areas of journalism. I personally prefer to contact those PRs I know who can help me and then hopefully rely on their efficiency to give me what I want. When it comes to consumer issues and because I want my readers to get the best deals possible, I always tend to actively promote those companies whose products and service I use and enjoy myself as I know I can recommend them properly having tested them fully or experienced them myself. If it doesn’t work for me, I simply won’t advocate it.

Where do you source ideas for articles?

Ideas can come as a flash of inspiration at strange hours so you have to act quickly and be flexible enough to work around the clock. I work very unusual hours and immediate deadlines are a speciality, particularly on news reactive pieces. Fortunately, I know my subject areas very well so can write from either experience or with the help of information gleaned on the internet. Speed is the key though and of course a good contacts book!

How can PRs be useful to you?

By responding quickly to requests, returning emails and calls straight away and providing the information that is requested.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?

For me, because of the type of journalism I write, I prefer to do it the other way around. Of course, if a PR wants to throw a product or an invite my way then who am I to say no!?

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?

I don’t do press conferences or conventions. They are of no use to my type of specialised journalism and would be a distraction from the main business of obtaining new work. All I need really is to keep on top of my brief, to know my subject and to be aware of any useful or legislative changes of benefit to my readers.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?

More efficiency and understanding the journalist before making contact (that’s two isn’t it!?)

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?

As a money-saving journalist, I’ve pared down my outgoings to the bone so am lucky enough to be able to survive most downturns on a very meager income. My ideal job would be as a landlord of a couple of villas in Kalkan, Turkey.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?

On a holiday. I simply love to travel and nothing gives me more of a thrill than getting on a plane to some distant shore.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?

I collect cookery books and currently have 387 from around the world. At the moment though, I’m currently finishing off my own manuscript so only have time for reading, re-reading, editing and re-editing page after page after page of that! Any literary agents interested please give me a call! It’s a cracker, promise!

[lnk||_blank|Contact Barry Cashin via the Freelance Journalist Directory]
[img|jpg|Freelance journalist Barry Cashin]
[lnk| |_blank|Barry Cashin’s website]

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