Freelance Focus: Stephen Maughan

This week we chat to freelancer Stephen Maughan…

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
I cover literature, music, world affairs, religion, and family life!

Where are we likely to see your work?
I tend to write a fair bit for American magazines, which means my family aren’t always convinced I am really a journalist – although my mother started taking me seriously when I was in a dog magazine. Here in the the UK I have a monthly column in the trade mag Book Dealer, and I have regular features in the family magazine Playground, Lucid, Church Times, and the teenage magazine Caris. I also review new music for Clash magazine, and the website

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Breaking a story about Ethiopian tribal rituals, which involved the murder of young children the tribe felt were “cursed”, for the Church Times. It was very exciting, and rewarding when the research and hours spent getting a feature right pays off. From a personal perspective, last month I had a long feature in the American magazine Fine Books about the controversy regarding the forgery of the will of the American writer Jack Kerouac, and that gave me a chance to examine one of my heroes, and interview those involved in the scandal.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
It would have been my dream to get an interview with JD Salinger before his death, to get him to open up as to why he has chosen to live the way he did, and why he stopped publishing novels.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
Aside from the usual radio and newspaper reports (both here and overseas) which I read through every morning, I tend to follow trends and ideas from other journalists, twitter, blogs, and of course a good press release too!

How can PRs be useful to you?
By providing accurate, informative information that can be expanded to make a half decent story.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Always email, never by telephone.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Generally, an interruption, but on occasion you do meet some fascinating people who can inspire you and encourage you with your writing.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Not too be too pushy for stories. If I say I’m not interested in say being sent a book, I don’t want it to arrive in the post a few days later!

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I gave up a decent office job last year to do the NCTJ journalism course, so I suppose I could go back to that. It would be a last resort, because I enjoy what I’m doing now so much – even if the pay is considerably less!

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
My wife and I are involved in a Romanian charity, it sounds a bit cheesy, but I’d give the money towards a project to build a playground outsides a children’s home in northern Romania. Well, I might give £900 to the charity, and spend the rest taking my wife to a snazzy restaurant!

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I just bought the newly republished Stefan Zweig novel The Post Office Girl. I also have a Calvin and Hobbs book, and the latest London Review of Books. The magazine would be The New Yorker, and as for blogs, I tend to really only have my own – up – and check on other journalists I like every couple of weeks or so.

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