Freelance Journalist Interview with Lorenza Bacino
Today we speak to a freelancer so multiskilled, so hardworking, with such a can-do attitude, she even taught us how to kiss. In addition to that most recent undertaking, Lorenza has also focused on human rights and international law stories from Holland; has tracked down numerous illusive interview subjects across the globe; and is now managing to keep her list of ever-changing UK editorial team line-ups in tip top condition. Read on to figure out which of those is most challenging…
Lorenza, on to business! You write on a variety of subjects – are your focuses based on personal interest in these particular areas, or did you fall into writing about these subjects by chance?
My subjects are rather an eclectic mix aren’t they? I think as long as it isn’t sport or finance, I can turn my hand to most topics!
The human rights and international law stories stem from my time working at Radio Netherlands in Holland. I arrived there in 1994 and The International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was just getting underway in The Hague to deal with war crimes during the recent conflict. I became really interested in what was happening there. It was exciting when Milosevic finally arrived, and so I went down to the Tribunal to see for myself. I knew lots of interesting people working on those cases, which in turn led me to go on assignments to Sarajevo and also Kosovo to make radio documentaries. That was fascinating.
What advantages (and disadvantages!) are there with working within the UK’s media industry?
The advantages are, of course, the number of outlets available, the choice of media events and the amount of networking you can do. There are thousands of magazines you can peruse to find outlets for stories. I go into WH Smiths every so often to find new ideas.
One of the disadvantages I’ve found is there’s a lot of movement in the industry. No sooner do you strike up a nice working relationship with an editor, then they’re gone and you have to start all over again! So I’m constantly updating who is doing what and where. There’s a lot of competition too. It’s quite hard getting editors to even glance at your pitch so writing them is a real art.
Take us through some of the most memorable pieces of work you’ve done – any that were particularly fun (or perhaps challenging) to write?
I enjoyed interviewing Ralph Heimans, the Australian artist who painted the Queen’s portrait last year in honour of her Diamond Jubilee. I really needed to meet him and spend time with him, but he was painting in a secret location and it was all very hush-hush. In the end Ralph was really nice, got back to me himself and agreed to a skype call. It wasn’t ideal, but I wove the whole impossibility of meeting him into the story, and it worked quite well. The editor loved the story and so did Ralph!
And Dr Estelle Lazer was an extraordinary person – I really admire her as she often works alone in challenging situations. She’s a forensic archaeologist who’s spent decades digging through the bones in Pompeii to piece together accurate information on the people who lived there and how they died. Here’s the profile piece I wrote.
I'm particularly pleased that this piece I wrote came out in the Society Guardian pages a few weeks ago.
What interview or feature would you love to do, if you could be commissioned to write about anything, or anyone? Are there any particular magazines, newspapers, blogs or websites you’d like to work with?
I’d like to be able to do more interviews for profile pieces, that’s what I really like – understanding someone’s ‘essence’ and finding out what motivates them to do what they do and the conflicts within. I’d like to write more for the nationals, especially The Guardian and The Independent. I do on occasions, but it would be nice if it were more regular. Those would be my first choices.
In terms of who I’d like to interview – I’d like to meet David Attenborough who’s had a long and illustrious career. And on a lighter note, I’d like to interview Berlusconi’s ex-wife! I’m sure that would throw up some gems.
Seriously though, I wish there was greater opportunity to interview all those millions of people in the background, doing amazing work in very difficult places and trying to make a difference. Those are the people I want to talk to. But the media is intent on feeding the ‘celebrity’ beast and that seems to be what the majority enjoy reading about. I find it depressing that celebs without much to say get so much coverage. I’d like to be able to make people care about the important stuff, and that’s hard under the current climate. I won’t stop trying though as I think the media has a great capacity to make change.
Do you have a lot of dealings with PR people in your freelance work? What kind of things do you find useful?
I usually deal with PR people when it concerns travel. I’m interested in receiving information about new travel initiatives, but I’m not interested in products. People and places are what I love the most.
Do you ever attend press conferences, trips, parties and other events, or can you do most things remotely these days?
Working remotely is fine, but it can also get a bit lonely. I run a writers group where I hook up with other freelancers to bounce ideas around. We all find our meetings very useful. I also try to get into town more often these days, to attend events. Usually it’s in the travel industry. I’m on the mailing list of the Italian and French tourist boards so receive information from them. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and new destinations and topics though.
Is social media useful for your work?
I think it’s absolutely vital for journalists. People need to know how you think, what you think and what you care about. It’s a great source of information and work for journalists. Most editors are on it too, so it’s good to keep up your profile as if you tweet they may remember you at some point in the future when you pitch an idea.
As a journalist who’s worked from countries all over the place – what differences have you noticed in the ways their media industries work?
I haven’t worked in Italy for Italian media, but I know the whole Italian media scene has been dominated by the ‘Berlusconi phenomenon’ for a generation. That means scantily-clad women are ubiquitous even when talking about serious topics. I think that wouldn’t go down too well over here, but has become the norm, unfortunately, over there. My Italian side doesn’t feel very proud of this at all. There’s no independence and it’s been incredibly difficult for journalists to speak out, but now Berlusconi has gone, hopefully things will change and start improving. It’ll take time though…
Lorenza is tweeting @LorenzaBacino.