A focus on The Focus with managing editor Paul Watson
By Phoebe-Jane Boyd
18 Jun 2020
Here to help furloughed and out-of-work journalists
continue to flex their writing muscles while the COVID-19 crisis has put things
on hold is The Focus. As
well as providing a space for writers to share work focusing on culture,
opinion, sport, politics, tech and lifestyle, the website is donating all
revenue raised from advertising to NHS and mental health charities.
Managing editor Paul Watson shares how the team works,
how you can contribute if you’re itching to write while furloughed, which
initiatives are working hard to help journalists during difficult times and why
journalism is still a career path worth pursuing (even when the way ahead gets
Could you tell us a bit about the aims
behind the launch of The Focus?
The Focus was launched as a platform for
furloughed and out-of-work writers to continue to write and express themselves
creatively during a difficult period. All revenue raised from advertising is
being donated to the NHS and mental health charities.
What is the editorial structure for the
team, how do your day-to-days work?
We have a small but very committed
editorial team who allocate as much time as they can to it each day. As they
are volunteers, we have to be flexible. We use a Slack workspace so the writers
and editorial staff can communicate easily. As the number of writers is
constantly increasing, it is becoming a busy place!
How should journalists get in touch to
work with you?
Are there particular areas of expertise
you’re looking to fill on the team/feature on the website?
We are open to anything and everything!
Part of the ethos of the site is for writers to engage their passions, so while
we are happy to throw in ideas, we are also keen to hear what our writers are
excited about. We are always in need of more editorial support and as we
continue to grow, that is becoming increasingly important.
How can PRs contribute/support?
We’re keen to receive positive news stories, so PRs can get in
touch with feel-good initiatives, anything with a philanthropic slant and news
of interesting online events and campaigns.
Has the Government has done enough to support
freelance journalists during the COVID-19 crisis?
Honestly, it’s hard to say. The first self-employed grant and
the second to follow in August was a great relief, I’m sure, for many
journalists. But there are still far too many people who slip through the
cracks and aren’t eligible for help. Some of those are the people who need it
Which organisations/initiatives would
you advise furloughed/out of work journalists connect with for support?
What are a few of your favourite pieces
recently published on the site?
I know I would say this, but the quality of the writing on the
site has gone beyond even my expectations. I love how diverse the content is,
so I find myself reading on topics I didn’t know a thing about and really
enjoying it. Rashmee Roshan Lall has written some
brilliant articles, including an excellent read on Britain’s relationship with
its empire. On a lighter note, Laura Gavin listed some of the
weirdest theme parks in the world, including BonBon-Land in Denmark with its
mascot, Henry the Farting Dog! Alexandra Ciufudean wrote a couple of
compelling pieces on coronavirus – one on whether vitamin D can help treat it
and another on whether it is seasonal. One of our new writers Jack Turley wrote a piece on the environmental impact
of Crohn’s disease which managed to be eye-opening but also funny.
What are the best things about working
I think the satisfaction of putting something out into the world
that you are proud of and seeing your name in print never gets old. And as an
editor the sense of pride in seeing talented writers building in confidence and
reaching their potential is immense and addictive. It’s a tough industry to be
in, but the highs are very high even if the lows can seem pretty daunting.
Would you still recommend journalism as
It’s undoubtedly a harder field than it was when I started 12
years ago. It also feels like journalism is in a state of transition (although
maybe it always does) and that it has some hard questions to answer. My honest
advice to someone starting out would be to try and diversify and to have as
many options as you can – PR, social media, copywriting, etc. Don’t be too set
on one path as it could be quite a windy road!