Freelance Journalist Interview with Tania Ahsan
About your journalism
What do you write about?
Mostly unusual/alternative things like Pagan spirituality or Tantra, but also more mainstream pieces on travel, food and drink, business, dance or relationships. I’m also a stress management ‘expert’, so I do write on that quite a bit.
Where are we likely to see your work?
More recently in magazines such as Natural Health and Kindred Spirit but previously I’ve been published in The Guardian, Metro, Psychologies, easyJet Traveller, ShortList and Dance Today, among others. I still call myself the Dance Today belly dance correspondent, mainly because I like the idea of being a belly dance correspondent.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Almost definitely the travel piece I did in Metro on my birth town of Lahore. It was published some time ago now, but I think it is great when travel editors are brave enough to cover places that have a PR problem and mix some proper reportage with how nice the cocktails are or how fluffy the towels in the hotel were.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d love to return to Aruba and cover a bit more of the cultural and social aspects. I find it fascinating that there are these places that people think of as a clichéd paradise but real people live there with their own daily issues; I’d like to cover something a bit deeper than just the tourism angle. There’s also a massive nature reserve there that I hardly got to see at all, so I’d definitely return there if I got the chance.
About you and PRs
Where do you source ideas for articles?
From press releases and anniversaries to things I’ve read or spoken about in passing with people; I get ideas from everywhere.
How can PRs be useful to you?
PRs are vital to me because they often send really relevant releases that can help make a story I want to write more newsworthy. They also supply information and products for some of the natural beauty features I write.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Definitely by email and ideally within office hours. A lot of PR companies seem to work very late hours or they set a release to automatically go out in the middle of the night. The problem is that in the age of the smartphone, having a beep go off can be very disruptive to sleep (although I generally keep my phone on silent now). I’m just a little old-fashioned and I think everyone would live happier lives if we knew when to switch off, i.e. evenings and weekends.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I find them very useful because I do circulate and chat and I’m a business card hoarder, so even if I don’t need someone’s details straight away, I can do so a few months down the line. Plus, it is nice to get out of the office and see people over a glass of happy juice.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Relevance. I do sometimes get stuff for Botox or very invasive surgery beauty treatments and I only deal with natural beauty (or as near as can be expected) so some days I get repetitive strain injury deleting all the irrelevant stuff.
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d probably be a massage therapist.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
Wine, men and song. Well, actually probably beer, boyfriend and song as we both really want to spend St. Patrick’s Day in Boston at a Dropkick Murphys gig. That would be a great help to that fund.
Do you tweet? Why, why not?
I despise social media with a deep and abiding passion and have recently deleted both my Twitter and Facebook accounts but I do blog quasi-anonymously about drink at everythingiknowaboutbooze.wordpress.com – word of warning, it's a bit rude and irreverent.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’ve downloaded 'A Game of Thrones' and 'The Trials of Arthur' on my kindle (the latter is written by a great writer friend of mine C.J. Stone, who used to be an Observer columnist). I have copies of Natural Health, Kindred Spirit and Olive on my bedside table and the 'Hedgerow Handbook' by another friend of mine, the brilliant Adele Nozedar.
You can find out more about Tania Ahsan and get in touch with her via her website at www.taniaahsan.com.