Freelance Focus: Deborah Dooley

For today’s Freelance Journalist Focus, we chat to Deborah Dooley, a freelance journalist and writer for over 25 years who now runs a writer’s retreat from her home in beautiful North Devon.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
I’ve always had a pretty commercial approach to my work – ie you pay me, I’ll write it – anything. But I’ve tended to specialise in health, particularly alternative health, lots of real life stories and features, and I’ve also done pieces for homes and interiors magazines, and celebrity interviews.

More information can be found at Deborah’s website (

Where are we likely to see your work?
The features sections of the daily papers and the womens weekly and monthly magazines.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Probably a very recent one, for the mail, on the subject of antenatal testing. It was a personal piece, in which my daughter spoke too – very eloquently. What made it memorable were some of the comments by readers, on the website, some of which were incredibly insensitive

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
All sorts of places, my imagination, old magazines, eavesdropping in the pub – and yes, from PRs, too.

How can PRs be useful to you?
In lots of ways. With information, statistics, expert quotes and of course case studies and interviewees.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
By email or phone – any time, but it’s nice if they start by asking if this is a good time – because sometimes it isn’t.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I suppose that if I saw them as an interruption, I’d choose not to attend. I enjoy the ones I go on, and find them useful, and often think I should go on more. But because of where I live – deepest Devon, traveling time involved is pretty lengthy.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I’d ask them to be totally upfront with all information from the outset. There’s nothing more annoying than getting half way through a story and finding it’s a non starter, because of something you weren’t aware of. A waste of everyone’s time.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I can’t imagine doing anything else, except perhaps finishing my half written novel. But I am now running a retreat from my home, which is helping to pay the bills.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I really need a great haircut – my husband’s been cutting it, but he’s a carpenter…., and then I’d spend the rest on something beautiful or useful for each of my children. Because they’re worth it.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
The Longest Crawl, by Ian Marchant – very funny and there’s a bit about my lovely husband on the first page! In my bag, there’s an old Independent, and a copy of OK – great fun.

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