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Freelance Journalist Focus – Brian Pedley

Brian Pedley is a Cornwall-based freelance journalist who specialises in travel, history, the outdoors and business. His work has appeared in the Express and Times as well as in several TV programmes.

This week, we caught up with Brian to discuss his work with Plymouth Argyle and Feature Writer Time (FWT).

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
Working from my base in Cornwall, I write about travel, history and folklore, the outdoors and people with a passion for the natural and built environment, as well as businesses and the professions. I’ve even found a niche writing about people of faith and their achievements. There`s also a friendly TV company that uses me now and again to research and script a series of programmes about unsolved murders.

Where are we likely to see your work?
The travel pages of the Express and The Times, as well as The Times Faith page. You’ll also catch my name rolling up the TV screen on repeats of ‘Murder Most Foul’ and ‘Roy Marsden’s Incident Room’ on the Crime and Investigation Network. Google my name and you’ll find me spread all over the place. Sometimes, you won’t even notice it’s me. Since starting my own office in 1993, I’ve ‘ghosted’ hundreds of stories, articles and case studies for firms and business leaders to run under their own names in trade pages and online.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Assignments for national broadsheets with NATO forces in Bosnia, in the aftermath of the Balkan War. Watching an Army vet castrating a feral dog in a newly established clinic in Banja Luka, I noticed this crowd of local civilian medics looking on. It turned out that the Army`s equipment for anaesthetising animals was newer and more sophisticated than anything the local doctors used for ‘knocking out’ humans.

Being in Mid-Wales in the foot-and-mouth outbreak was also something that has stayed with me. You don`t forget a family weeping in a farmhouse kitchen when their entire flock’s just been slaughtered. More recently, touring the Galapagos Islands for the Express in November 2008 was pure joy. It’s why we become journalists, to be out there in the wider world, at the worst and best of times.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
Re-enact the car journey that the great travel writer HV Morton made in 1928 for his classic book, ‘In Search of England’.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
I trawl the web like everyone else, but ‘low-tech’ is best. Simply being among people and talking and listening – and reading everything. When the newsagents’ bills arrive, I howl like some stricken beast in the Serengeti.

How can PRs be useful to you?
Successful PRs have this unfailing grasp of stories and ideas that are ‘bankable’. Being a freelance writer is a business and if my work didn’t ‘sell’, I`d probably be living under a tarpaulin in Plymouth bus station.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Any time by email ( or by calling 01752 844591 or 07831 518933. Even at three in the morning, if there’s the chance of a commission.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Always useful. I thrive on personal contact. But too many ‘events’ happen in London, 220 miles away. I try to get to as many as I can, but there are shedloads of us freelances, beyond the M25, crying out for events and get-togethers to be spread around the country a little more.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Please don’t send me autumn ideas in the autumn, or spring stories when the daffodils are out, or significant anniversaries five days before they actually happen. Freelancers need time to pitch ideas to editors and for editors to respond. There`s GMT – Greenwich Mean Time – and there`s FWT – Feature Writer Time – which tends to be anything up to three months ahead of everyone else.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I really don`t know. It`s hard to imagine doing anything else.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
That’s season tickets to Plymouth Argyle, taken care of until 2013, for myself and my young grandson, Tom.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
From a chief reporter, in my first job 40 years ago. ‘Keep the readers with you, right to the end of the piece. Anything else is crap.’

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Currently, ‘The Smelly Dog – Social Stereotypes’, a wonderfully funny collection of pieces by Victoria Mather and Sue Macartney-Snape, of the Telegraph magazine. I also keep a paperback of ‘The Diary of Samuel Pepys’. Pepys wined and dined, went to the theatre, strolled the parks and watched history unfold. Then he wrote about it. A perfect life really.
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