Freelance Journalist Interview with Claire Donnelly
About your journalism
What do you write about?
Other people’s lives. I love listening to and telling stories. So in a normal week I’ll go from quizzing a big TV star about their love life to talking to someone who has found themselves at the centre of a real-life news drama. It’s always a privilege to hear the amazing things people have been through, whatever their circumstances.
Where are we likely to see your work?
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Talking to anybody about the loss of a child is always a humbling experience – whether it’s a celebrity or someone else trying to find their way through grief. When I spoke to footballer Brad Jones about the death of his son recently, I cried with him.
Holding Pavarotti’s hand as he opened up about the death of his baby son Riccardo was another remarkable but sad moment.
At the other side of the spectrum, I’ve been lucky enough to interview some of my heroes, including Shaun William Ryder. When we first met, we chatted about drink and drugs over a few bottles of Holsten Pils in a dingy pub. The next time we met he’d cleaned up and got himself a new set of teeth. He was looking forward to being a dad again and I was expecting – so we talked babies over a Chinese!
Inbetween interviews I’ve always loved doing undercover stuff or crazy things that involve dressing up, so I’ve been a Club 18-30 rep, traffic warden and bodyguard in my time. I even acted out my teenage years for a feature and spent the afternoon drinking cider in a school blazer.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d kill for the chance to grill Keef and Mick or Woody Allen, and I’d love to interview Corrie queen Barbara Knox about her life as Rita. I’m hoping they’ll all happen one day.
About you and PRs
Where do you source ideas for articles?
I’m obsessed with soaps and TV drama so I’ll often be inspired by something I’ve seen on-screen. I never stop listening to Radio 4 or chatting on Twitter – basically, I’m a massive gossip.
How can PRs be useful to you?
A lot of the TV-related pieces I write come about because of the good relationships I have with PRs. It’s important that we can trust each other, so I hope the feeling is mutual.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
If someone’s got a great story I don’t mind how, where or when they get in touch! Phone, email, Twitter; I’m always listening…
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Good press days can be a great way to put names to faces and to pick up industry news, and they’re usually a laugh – so for me they’re a day well spent away from the office.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Don’t send me irrelevant releases or contact me to ask who I write for – Google me then give me a call!
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
God knows. I’ve got two boys under the age of six so I’m getting good at making up stories for them, maybe I’d give that a go. I’d love to front a band as well. So it’s one of two extremes really – Children’s Laureate or rock chick.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
On flights to New York [Erm, we did this interview before Hurricane Sandy decided to show up and ruin the party. Obviously]
Do you tweet? Why, why not?
Yes. It’s addictive and drives my husband nuts, but I love it. I think watching TV and tweeting is the best fun you can have on a wintery night in. I love the fact that celebs forget that we’re watching and reveal themselves in ways they didn’t mean to. It’s a great way of getting a feel for a celebrity’s life before you interview them, too.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’ve just finished Jeanette Winterson's autobiography ‘Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal’ and I’ve just started a history of the 70s by Francis Wheen. We’re living through such turbulent times that it’s good to look back to where it all began.
I’ve got papers and magazines all over the place, but there’s usually a Private Eye and a few glossies in my work bag.
My must-read blog is Autisticdad.blogspot.co.uk by my friend, journalist Gordon Darroch. He writes in a very moving but unsentimental way about his sons’ autism. It’s powerful stuff.