Freelance Journalist Interview with Helen Russell
After two years at the helm of IPC's fashionable flagship Marieclaire.co.uk, Helen Russell departed for freelancing in October of last year. Originally starting her journalism career at The Sunday Times, Helen has put in time on the editorial teams at Take a Break, All About You and Top Santé, as well as contributing to national press titles such as The Guardian, The Independent and the Daily Mail.
Now focusing on health and wellbeing, arts and lifestyle features, and perhaps also fitting in some Scandinavian-style media reportage soon, Helen tells us about her move to full-time freelancing.
From Marieclaire.co.uk to freelancing…
You left your editor position at Marieclaire.co.uk to go freelance late last year – what prompted the decision?
I loved being at Marie Claire but my other half works in Denmark, so going freelance allows me to split my time between Sarah Lund-land and home. Being a LON:DEN commuter means I get to take on freelance commissions, write columns and do more consulting work as well as eat amazing pastries and crib up on Borgen.
What were some of the most memorable moments while working at the Marie Claire website, what will you miss?
Meeting some truly inspirational women as part of MC@Work and having a front row seat at the catwalk shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris wasn’t too shabby. We also re-launched the site to take Marie Claire’s digital presence to the next level as the UK’s biggest fashion glossy.
You did some presenting while working on the website – are you looking to doing more of it in the future?
Broadcasting is something I’ve always been into and I’m currently working on a new project in this arena. If anyone needs a Scandinavia correspondent in the meantime, I’m your girl…
What are you most enjoying that you couldn’t do while working full-time?
I’m working full-time now – just with fewer glamourous co-workers! The flexibility and variety of freelancing is invigorating and with social media, I’m always in the loop.
Which kind of work are you looking to do as a freelancer?
Women’s lifestyle, health and wellbeing, and anything Denmark/Scandinavia-related make up the bulk of my current commissions but I’m also available to write on the arts, travel and relationships.
Where might we have seen (and enjoyed!) your work previously?
I’ve written for The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent and The Daily Mail, magazines including Fabulous, Top Santé, Tatler Asia and online for Sky, MSN and, of course, the Marie Claire website.
About you and PRs
How can PRs be useful to you?
Keeping me posted on health news and female-focused events is a great start, but leave me off the round-robin alerts about who’s wearing what and reality TV product placement. I’m also likely to hit delete if someone gets my name wrong or mistakes me for one of my contemporaries. You’d be amazed by how many emails I get from PRs telling me we last spoke when I was at Elle…
On your twitter you say you’re “regularly outraged” – what has made you particularly angry recently (media-related and personally)?
I attended the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Trust Women conference in December and heard women from around the world describe the injustices they face on a daily basis. Anything that undermines women’s rights is likely to get me going – from ‘casual’ sexism to Danny Dyer-esque idiocy.
Having started your journalism career as a researcher for The Sunday Times, would you ever be tempted to work there again? Was it a positive experience?
Being at The Sunday Times was a real education in how newspapers work and the time and research that should go into a piece of quality journalism. It was an incredibly positive experience – The Sunday Times would be a great place to work again.
How do you feel about unpaid internships in the media industry?
I feel incredibly lucky that I never had to work for free and got a job straight out of journalism college, but I know that this is increasingly rare. I couldn’t afford to take an unpaid internship and it was only classmates with wealthy parents in my year who could. The media should be representative of the population as a whole, so we’re in trouble if the only the rich can pick up the pen.
Who would you say is your favourite fellow Russell, out of Jane Russell, Russell Grant or Russell Brand?
Can I go with Russell Tovey? Or Jane, the early years.
Both of those are good and valid choices. Now, 'Strictly Come Dancing' or The 'X-Factor'?
'Strictly', so long as I can mute out anything that isn’t dancing, or 'X Factor' circa 2010 (pre Tulisa).