Focus interview with freelance journalist Josephine Murray

Josephine Murray is a freelance journalist specialising in workplace issues as well as human interest stories. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, Period House and regional interest titles.

FeaturesExec caught up with Murray to discuss her work, the dream of living in France, and the yolks of home-reared chickens.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
Mainly workplace, career and employment issues, food, home and garden, human interest subjects, health, rural life, travel, women’s issues and anything else that takes my fancy, or that I’m commissioned to do.

Where are we likely to see your work?
My main clients are The Guardian’s Work and Office Hours sections, Period House, Berkshire & Chilterns Life and Wiltshire Life.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
I wrote a feature for The Guardian’s Work section about different peoples’ experiences of undergoing gender reassignment, or transition, and how it affected their working lives. I was really grateful to my interviewees for agreeing to talk. Some of them had suffered horrific abuse, although thankfully others had really positive experiences. The feature was put forward by the Work section editor to be considered for the Work Foundation’s WorkWorld Media Awards 2008, and although I didn’t win it felt brilliant to be considered.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
It would be brilliant to live my French cookery dream (see below) and write about it. Also, I have a postcard on my fridge with a Yann Arthus-Bertrand photo of a village on stilts in the Samales Islands in the Phillippines. It’s the home of the Badjaos, or Sea Gypsies, who live by fishing and free-dive up to 80m for oysters. I would love to go and spend time with them and write about their extraordinary lives.

Where do you source ideas for articles?
Newspapers, magazines, the internet, conversations, things I see while out and about, thinking while going on long walks.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’m a Cordon Bleu qualified cook and fluent in French so my dream is to run a cookery school and catering company in a rambling old house somewhere in rural France, with its own vegetable garden, orchard, chickens and pond. I’d also love to write novels and short stories – I’ve just joined a creative writing group so perhaps I will be a published author one day!

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I’d really like to buy some chickens and a top-of-the-range henhouse for them to live in so they didn’t get eaten by foxes like my parents’ bantams did. Home-produced eggs taste much better than shop-bought ones – the yolks are really creamy.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
When I was doing my Trinity Mirror certificate of journalism course, in order to progress from junior to senior reporter at The Press newspaper in north London, I learnt that ‘the best interviews begin in the shower.’ I come up with my best ideas and interview questions when I’m not at my desk.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’ve been trying to finish The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau for a few months now – it’s amusing, but in small doses. I’m also reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror. It’s in 1001 Books you Must Read before you Die, which has been shaping my reading since I got it for my 30th birthday last year. I like food magazines; BBC Good Food, Waitrose Food Illustrated and Delicious, Country Living and the odd upmarket women’s magazine. I don’t often read blogs.
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