Freelance Journalist Interview with Heidi Scrimgeour
Freelancer and One Fiesty Mama Heidi Scrimgeour kick-started her journalism career after seven years in the PR industry – in today's interview we get an insight into the differences between the two professions, some snark about Sienna Miller (kind of) and gratitude to The Guardian…
About your journalism
What subjects do you write about and where might we have seen your work?
I’m a lifestyle journalist so that covers virtually everything under the sun, but I particularly love seeking out fresh angles on parenting and relationships. I also write comment pieces for the op-ed pages of the Irish Independent, and I’ve been published in The Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail, and in a range of consumer magazines including Grazia, Stylist, The Lady, Saga, Essentials, Practical Parenting and Prima Baby. I also write for the web – in particular, AOL Travel and Parentdish.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
This piece I wrote for The Independent about grieving the loss of a pet was especially memorable because I had to be photographed standing on the beach holding a framed photo of a beloved family pet, whilst looking wistful. As you do.
And writing this piece about dating my husband was a lot of fun.
But my most memorable piece was my first pitch – I pitched a first person piece to The Guardian. They suggested I write it on spec but the editor liked it and published it. That was my big break, and gave me the confidence boost to take the plunge with freelancing.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I don’t generally do interviews so that doesn’t float my boat particularly, and I don’t really have a dream feature. The features I’d love to do are the ones I pitch, and that’s what I absolutely love about being freelance – getting to pick and choose my work, and following up my passions with pitches.
You recently wrote about the nude and pregnant portrait of Sienna Miller – do you think female celebrities are forced to ‘reveal’ too much about their pregnancies by the media?
All I know is that being a mother is by far my toughest assignment to date (and obviously also the best) so I just can’t comprehend how celeb mums cope with it and handle all the extra scrutiny that comes with being famous. But yes, recent events suggest that extreme pressure is unfairly placed on famous mums.
About you and PRs
According to your JournalistDirectory profile, you spent seven years in PR – what did you learn in your time in the PR industry?
That I’m not cut out for it! Not really – I loved it while it lasted but it was always my dream to make the jump to journalism. I learned a great deal about how the media industry works, which was a brilliant foundation for a journalism career.
Does it effect how you interact with PRs now that you’re a journalist?
I’m probably more understanding of their position than many of my counterparts are. In many ways we (PRs and journalists) want different outcomes from our relationship and I’m prepared to put in some work to get what we need – I don’t expect PRs to hand me things on a plate. I also pride myself on being fairly approachable. I used to hate the cap-in-hand feeling of approaching certain journalists. I don’t think it pays to treat PRs that way, so I like to think I’m easy going.
What prompted the move from PR to journalism?
I’d always wanted to be a journalist but fell into PR accidentally soon after I graduated. I got established in a well-paid job fairly quickly so making the move to journalism would have been a big and fairly risky step. But I got made redundant just as I was about to go on maternity leave, then had a second child less than two years later and moved to a rural part of Ireland – at that point I knew I’d burned my bridges back into PR! But I had nothing to lose in trying my hand as a freelance journalist, so I did and things took off really quickly.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I hardly ever go on any because they’re ALWAYS based in London. I’m quite disgruntled about this! So I’d jump at the chance to go to some.
Tell us a bit about your blog, One Feisty Mama…
It’s cheesy, but it’s the space where I first discovered I could write, before I moved into journalism. The feedback I got from readers encouraged me to take the plunge and now it’s mostly a neglected space, but still somewhere I like to go to rant from time to time, mainly feisty ramblings that none of my editors would pay me to write elsewhere!
Talking of being feisty… in the book/film ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character manages to balance parenting and her work life by…giving up her career. As one of the many parents out there who balances both…do you think you could beat SJP in a fist fight?
Easily. Have you seen the size of her?!
And other than that literary and cinematic great of our times, what books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
An endless stream of library books which I never get round to reading. Caitlin Moran’s 'How To Be A Woman' which a friend pressed on me. A pile of mags and papers that I either fancy pitching or have clippings in that I’ve probably forgotten all about and will end up using to light the fire.
Give Heidi more fuel for the fire by tweeting her @heidiscrim!