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Freelance Journalist Interview with Simon Morrison

Simon Morrison has been a journalist for the past 15 years covering club culture, music and travel for everyone from Loaded to The Observer. In this week’s freelance interview Simon tells us all about raving with Judith Chalmers and his book ‘Discombobulated’; a collection of his columns for DJmagazine.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?

Over the last 15 or so years it’s principally been music and travel, often combined. I had a column for many years in DJmagazine and that took me everywhere from Brazil to Beijing, checking out the local nightlife. But I’ve penned stories for everyone, from Loaded to The Observer, about anything from prison to the property market. More recently I’ve painted with a broader brush on all sorts of leisure and lifestyle subjects, writing about whatever interests me, really – from cycling to music to reviewing pubs to my own family situation (married highschool sweetheart, currently resides with four children and four chickens – lots of source material!)

Where are we likely to see your work?
My first ever music review in the mid 90s was for the Big Issue in the North and it’s been good to be back writing for that title. I also worked as the Manchester Evening News’ pub critic recently and in terms of freelancing I’ve currently got a feature running in Marie Claire in Australia and contribute quite regularly to BBC Radio 5Live.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
There’s been some fabulous moments – editing Ministry of Sound’s Ibiza magazine for two summers, presenting gossip programmes for Rapture TV, producing and presenting radio. My favourite of all was the Gonzo-esque column for DJmagazine which had many highlights – gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. It ran for eight years and last year the best columns were collected together as the book Discombobulated, and published by Headpress in the UK and US. Signing books at the launch party was the highlight of my career.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’ve been lucky enough to use my position to spend time with some people I have huge respect for – the people behind Manchester’s music and music scene, for instance. In terms of dream interviews, I have many idols I would love the chance to spend some time with. As with many men (and all women, I think) I find Johnny Depp incredibly interesting but there’s also other people like Woody Allen who would make fascinating interview subjects.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
It really comes from my own interests and concerns. I’d say 50% of what I write these days comes from my own ideas but I’m always happy to hear from PRs with strong feature ideas. In my past it was a case of travelling the world writing stories but since life became a little more sedentary, I have looked closer to home for inspiration, writing about family life and even the process of “retiring” from the dancefloor and the world of club culture journalism.

How can PRs be useful to you?
I should probably admit that I’m one of those people who managed to straddle both sides of the media fence. I ran a PR agency for about 12 years, Pad Communications, working mainly on leisure and lifestyle clients, so I see things from both perspectives. PRs can be invaluable if they approach you with a genuinely chunky story that, as a freelancer, you can then take on to your various editorial contacts. At the end of the day freelance journalists are only as good as their ideas and if a PR can land a prize one in your lap, that can be a great help.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
I’m an e-mail junky. I spend my life writing so I can always communicate what I want to say, and what tone I want it to take, in an e-mail… which you can then send at a time of your choosing. One magazine actually tracked me down on-line and as everyone casts a digital shadow you can usually find the people you need to talk to that way. I do the usual Linked In and Twitter social media platforms and people tell me my i-Phone can even receive phone calls, I can’t quite believe them…

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
A useful interruption, I would say. Ibiza was pretty much a summer-long expo when I worked principally within dance music, and it was always useful going on overseas press junkets and making friends and contacts with journalists from other titles. As I now work from home, it’s also good as leverage to get me out of the house.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Cut the spiel. There is a certain amount of sales within the PR process but if the relationship is fully evolved it should really be a case of pitching a journalist and letting them make the call, without overt hassle.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Hmm… well I’m currently researching a PhD so I think it would be academia. I’ve always loved the campus atmosphere and aspired to be one of those lecturers in tweed jackets with leather patches talking to people about something they love. Although maybe it would be better to be at the Indiana Jones end of academia, combining lecturing with the odd adventure into the jungle.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
Unwisely. I have various expensive hobbies, such as collecting modern first editions and also artwork so it would go fairly fast, with enough put aside to take my wife away for the weekend.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’m re-reading a lot of Jack Kerouac novels at the moment, so on the bedside cabinet it’s his novel ‘Maggie Cassidy’. I subscribe to two magazines – The New Statesman and Esquire, so one of them will undoubtedly be in my bag. Blogs… hmm. As someone who has worked principally as a print journalist I have a somewhat reactionary attitude to blogs. Will Self said something interesting at a talk I went to, regarding blogs. He said in the UK it’s not a matter of media censorship, it’s more that you can say whatever you want, only no-one’s particularly listening. I think there’s something in that. It’s the newsagent shelf where I want to be, not the bookmark tab on someone’s laptop screen.

[lnk||_blank|See Simon’s recent articles here]
[lnk||_blank|Simon Morrison on the JournalistDirectory]
[img|jpg|Simon Morrison]