Freelance Journalist Interview with Cath Harris

Freelance journalist Cath Harris has a knack for turning complex science in to accessible news. She has written about athletic feats and landmarks in history, famous playwrights, wild food foraging and cycling in Bhutan, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications including The Guardian, Yorkshire Post, The Countryman, Real Travel and Runner’s World. Read on to find out more.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?

My features are usually about the environment, wildlife, travel or sport. I also write news and media material on science, technology and the arts, turning complex information in to language suitable for general audiences for organisation websites.

Where are we likely to see your work?

In The Guardian, Yorkshire Post, Real Travel, Runner’s World and Running Fitness, The Countryman, Bird Watching Magazine and elsewhere.

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

I guess my most memorable feature arose from a most memorable trip – a 600 mile cycle West to East across Bhutan. Bhutan is a midget against its giant neighbours India and China, but has maintained its independence, character, culture and environmental integrity despite strife and change across its borders (The Bhutan piece can be found on Cath Harris’s profile on the JournalistDirectory).

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

I’m hoping to cycle the circumference of Lake Victoria, the waters of which lap three countries. It would make a wonderful feature both in words and pictorially. Separately, if the 400m runner Christine Ohuruogo ever wanted to publish an autobiography I’d love to help out. Now is clearly not the time but what a story it would be if she bounced back from World Championship misfortune and did well in the 2012 Olympics. Her Olympic, World and Commonwealth gold medals after a bar from competing were stunning. And, as US Olympian Michael Johnson has said, she’s such a nice person.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?

Ideas appear in all sorts of guises. They might be a throwaway line in a newspaper or a mention by one person of another’s achievements. A village banner produced another article, likewise a chance encounter while walking on the Northumbrian moors. Milestones and anniversaries are obvious story hooks. Anyone and anything that’s different and or new is potentially interesting to write about.

How can PRs be useful to you?

By knowing their stuff, which many do, and returning calls and emails promptly.

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

There are no bad times. Phone or email is fine.

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

Yes they are useful. I enjoy meeting people and visiting new places, and they get me away from the screen.

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

Background knowledge is essential before pitching to editors and if it’s readily available life is much more productive for journalists and PRs.

About you:

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

I’d probably go back into sport. I have a sports science degree and am a qualified personal trainer.

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

John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ by Azar Nafisi, ‘The Child in Time’ by Ian McEwan and Kingsley Amis’s ‘The King’s English’. Isabel Allende’s books can be horrifying but brilliant so another one of hers is next on to the pile.

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