About Me

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Weston Super Mare, Somerset, United Kingdom
Hello and welcome to my blog. My name is Robin Whitlock. I am a freelance journalist with a special interest in environmental issues and renewable energy. I have numerous published articles to my credit and write regularly for a number of renewable energy websites. I am also a writer for Renewable Energy Magazine and a sub-editor for Renewable Energy Focus. I am currently based in Bristol, UK. Besides renewable energy and green issues I have a wide variety of other interests which includes World War 2, mythology and folklore, gardening, railways and lots more besides. You can also reach me on either of my two email addresses, which are: robinwhitlock66@hotmail.com and robinwhitlock1966@gmail.com Thanks!

Hire Me!!

Hire Me!! - Freelance Journalist specializing in environmental issues and renewable energy
Writer for Renewable Energy Magazine
Sub-editor for Renewable Energy Focus
Contributor to Holmes Digital Media websites (Solar Guide, Renewables Guide, Boiler Guide, Builder Guide)
Contributor to Cleversolar blog and Find Energy Savings
Published in numerous national magazines
See below for writing samples

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The diary of a freelance journalist (1)

So this morning, as usual, my first act of the day has involved going through my emails looking for suitable stories for Renewable Energy Magazine (REM). It is my usual practice to hold some links in reserve on a separate word file for use if I can't find anything more impressive in my emails. This word file is normally where I put links extracted from Google alerts, or rather the press release pages on company websites that those alerts normally lead to.  Fortunately, I have got to the stage now where companies are now sending me press releases without me having to ask for them, so I can normally find two or three really good news stories buried in my emails somewhere, and then it's just a case of writing them up.

One thing I DO NOT DO AT ALL is to rewrite news stories. I mention this because there are some companies around that try to get you to do this, but in my experience it is far too easy to not pay enough attention to producing a completely different story and then suddenly you are in hot water with potential risks of plagiarising someone else's work. For someone starting out as a freelance journalist, this is a potentially deadly trap. If you see companies asking you to rewrite stories from news pages, avoid those companies like the plague. There are only two reliable ways of writing good news copy in my experience - 1) find a press release and rewrite that or 2) interview someone. If you can't find a press release, look at a news story, find out who is involved, contact the company mentioned in the news story and ASK for a press release, or an interview.

Having written up the news story, like this one (below) for example. I then have to market it. Renewable Energy Magazine has a Facebook page and a twitter account. My editor takes care of the Twitter account, putting a link to the stories on there, while I normally put a link on my own Twitter page, which I usually do via Hootsuite, and on the REM Facebook page. I also put links on Google+ and LinkedIn and then on my own, professional, Facebook profile and page.

This usually takes the best part of an hour per story, from finding the story in the first place through to writing it, putting it on the website and then marketing it. Therefore I usually allocate the best part of a morning or an afternoon to dealing with the REM stuff.

Having sorted that out, the rest of the day I reserve for trying to find and pitch suitable ideas for magazine articles.

Some people will tell you to stay away from Facebook while you are working, but there are several advantages of keeping your Facebook page open, providing you are disciplined about it. For a start off, working from home can get fairly lonely, as you haven't got any work colleagues around to work with, chat with, etc. So Facebook, providing you don't allow it to become a distraction, replaces that environment, not ideal, but it helps. The other thing is that Facebook, being a place where people chat endlessly, is a very good platform for watching what is going on and potentially spotting some worthwhile ideas for magazine articles. This is particularly true if you join or like a variety of Facebook groups and pages, on all sorts of topics depending on what your interest is. It can also be a good way in which to network with other freelance journalists working from home, participate in debates, quickly grab news from various places, and so on. The best advice here is keep it open, but don't dwell on it, just dip in and out now and then as and when it is advantageous to do so.

So now its mid-day, and I need to eat. Very important, sometimes you can be so busy with looking around for ideas, writing, networking etc that you can easily forget to have a good lunch and a break, so structure and self-discipline is all important in this game.

Bye for now

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The irony of Owen Jones's new book

I can't wait to read Owen Jones new book The Establishment, despite knowing already what it's about. A review in The Guardian gives a brief account and a taster. Essentially Jones argues that the people who caused the financial crash have got away with it while those didn't have been punished.

However, this is a symptom of a deeper malaise which has been nagging at British society for years. Peter Oborne touched on it in his book The Rise of the Political Class (2007) pointing out that, for the most part, you have to be a member of the upper middle class and have gone to a good university, usually Oxbridge, if you really want a chance of rising to the top of the professions, or even getting in there in the first place. This is very definitely true of politics, dominated as it is by Etonians and the like, but it is also true of journalism.

Jones pointed out in Comment is Free recently that 54% of the top media professionals went to private schools. He argues that most of the top level of society is essentially a racket for the privileged. Really, he is only pointing out what has been obvious to many of us since the days of Thatcher, whose name I can hardly utter without spitting blood. Her revolution of inequality was perpetuated by both Conservative and Labour governments right up to the present administration, which perpetuates it still.

"Only 7% in Britain are privately educated, and yet this section of society makes up 71% of senior judges, 62% of the senior armed forces and 55% of permanent secretaries" Jones explains. "In the case of the media this has much to do with the decline of the local newspapers that offered a way in for the aspiring journalist with a non-gilded background; the growing importance of costly post-graduate qualifications that are beyond the bank accounts of most; and the explosion of unpaid internships, which discriminate on the basis of whether you are prosperous enough to work for free, rather than whether you are talented."

Yes, that's definitely true, and it is certainly true that this situation leaves our institutions undemocratic and unrepresentative, particularly the media. As Jones pointed out in his previous book, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, hardly anyone has been speaking up for the working classes ever since the Thatcher demon trashed the unions, and now the lower middle classes have been left behind as well with the increasing dominance of the elite.

However, there is a particularly irony in all this. If I quickly name my top three favourite political authors, Owen Jones, George Monbiot and Peter Oborne (the latter purely on the basis of his The Rise of the Political Class), what do you notice about them? All three went to Oxbridge (Owen went to University College, Oxford; Monbiot is Oxford educated also and Oborne went to Cambridge), with Owen being the only working class member of the three to have broken into it.

So the irony is this, Jones is attempting to challenge the establishment (as is Monbiot to a certain extent) from a position of himself being part of the establishment, having broken into it as a writer and a journalist. In essence, Jones is himself living proof of his own point - the very serious problem we have in this country regarding the atrocious lack of social mobility and institutionalised, entrenched inequality. The very reason why Jones has been able to so fluently write about and challenge the establishment is by virtue of his breaking into it first.

I applaud him for having done so, but I resent totally the situation which he himself describes.

"Certainly Britain is in desperate need of radical measures to ensure all can realise their aspirations, including the banning of unpaid internships, the scrapping of charitable status for private schools, investment in early-years education, and dealing with issues such as overcrowded homes that stifle educational attainment. But surely Britain's chronically unequal distribution of wealth and power has to be tackled too."

Brave words Owen, but are you likely, really, to be able to bring the system down by yourself? I hardly think so.

Anyone for a revolution? We are badly in need of one I suspect.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The joy of climbing trees

When I was a boy I often used to relieve myself from the boredom of helping my Dad on his allotment (I am glad to say gardening has since been included in my list of interests, but back then I found it tiresome), by climbing into a rather squat beech tree by the alloment perimeter fence. There was a hollow at the point where the branches started to divert from the main trunk into which I squeeze myself and watch the world go by, hidden by foliage.

I've just read, admittedly in the Daily Mail, that Bristol City Council has placed a ban on children climbing trees in the city's parks and gardens. My response to that? Oh poo!!

I could go on for ages about how tree climbing, though admittedly dangerous to an extent, is great for kids for a whole range of reasons. It is good for health and building strength, it is good for teaching oneself about problem solving and the importance of observation, planning and preparation. And so on.

However, more importantly in some ways I feel is that tree-climbing is an endemic and important part of our human tradition and almost a 'rite of passage' for boys in particular. And where best to observe this than in literature?

J. M. Barrie was inspired to write Peter Pan by his memories of encounters with the Llewellyn-Davies boys in Kensington Gardens.

The American preservationist and naturalist John Muir writes of climbing a 100 foot Douglas Spruce following a storm in California and gazing out over the forest "kindled into one continuous blaze of white sun-fire".

Rupert Brooke went tree-climbing with the Olivier girls and together they mused on how growing up into middle age must surely be an appalling tragedy. "Is there a greater tragedy than for a boy to die, except for him to grow old, to live!" Brooke wrote in a letter to a friend. 

"One could do worse than be a swinger of birches" wrote the poet Robert Frost.

According to Robert McFarlane, writing in The Guardian, these works are now little-read, which in my opinion is, in itself, a great tragedy.

Along with the day when the powers-that-be finally, successfully, manage to stop children climbing trees, something that I hope, and expect, fortunately, will never happen. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Fashion magazines - read or burn? The latter option for me...

The more I see job ads for freelance writers writing in the areas of "the latest fitness, exercise, travel, fashion and lifestyle trends", the more they make me want to wretch. The fact that this garbage still occupies such a prominent place in our society just proves how RIGHT Naomi Wolfe was in her expose of the 'the beauty myth' - for both men and women. It not only generates huge profits for fashion, cosmetics, health products and dietary giants but more to the point it is inherently political - continually used as a social and psychological weapon to keep both sexes in their place - the 'GQ Hunk' and the 'Cosmo Girl' as icons of 'the ideal man/woman' - a subtle eugenics whose sole purpose is to benefit the, still male-dominated, established order, supported by those who read such trash. Cosmopolitan, GQ, Mens Health, FHM, Tatler, Hello, etc etc - read or burn? It's the latter option I would go for, assuming I had for some unforeseen reason acquired copies of this rubbish in the first place....