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Gorkana meets...Telegraph features

25 June 2015

Olivia Goldhill, features writer at The Telegraph, on reacting to the latest news, why she loves covering science and the freedom to explore more unusual topics online.

Gorkana meets...Telegraph features

Firstly, how does a typical day shape up?

I start around 7am, look through the papers and my RSS feeds, and pick two to three online features for the day by around 8am. If one piece would make a good lunchtime read then I’ll start doing the research and have the article ready by noon.

I write one to two features a day, which range from longer indepth pieces to short, interactive articles (e.g. a quiz or gif-based piece).

I’ll try to look into research for long term projects if I have time after writing that day’s pieces. Before I leave, at around 5pm, I’ll have a look for any topics or issues that might be the basis for a good feature the next day.

How does The Telegraph features desk work?

We’re very focused on news-pegged features that react to breaking news. Most of our features are commissioned in the morning, then written and published that day. Every week we also look into upcoming events, trends and issues and the writers will plan to cover certain topics in the coming week.

Though we like to react to the latest news, the pieces with less of a news peg mean we aren’t strictly tied to the daily agenda, and also give writers a chance to research events in person across the country.

What makes the perfect Telegraph feature?

The topics vary hugely, but all great features focus on a major issue that hasn't been covered before. It can be an incredible case study, a trend that hasn't been spotted yet, or a complex political issue that has been overlooked. We’re very interested in rural issues and, in any day, at least one feature is likely to be focused on someone quite glamorous.

You originally started at The Telegraph on the paper’s graduate scheme - what did that involve and how did it prepare you for life as a journalist?

The graduate scheme is the best possible training - I worked as a reporter for the South Wales Echo and Western Mail in Cardiff, then spent time at the Press Association in London. At The Telegraph, I moved around several different desks including technology, news, features, women, data, digital and sports.

Working at Media Wales and the Press Association gave me a great grounding in fast reporting without compromising on accuracy. And working on so many desks means I now feel comfortable writing on any subject, which is great as a features writer.

You mainly contribute stories for the website, is there much difference in the type of stories published in the paper vs those online?

We format articles differently for print and online: online articles often have a separate headline and will get to the point quickly, without a long drop intro. Online is more likely to be urban-focused and has a slightly younger demographic, whereas print concentrates on more core audience heartland features. We also have the freedom to explore more shocking or unusual topics online.

The Telegraph has a clear digital strategy - does that affect what you do?

I'm largely online focused, so it definitely affects what I do. My early start time makes more sense for a digital publisher than a print one and I'm constantly tracking articles to see which perform best online. I'm also conscious of SEO and social media, and aim to write articles that will be widely shared on Facebook and Twitter.

You’ve written about a variety of subjects over the past month alone, are there any particular topics you’re always looking to cover?

I love covering science, especially artificial intelligence and psychology - anything about the latest robots or psychological discovery is great. I'm also always looking for good case studies of people who've had unusual experiences. These are often connected to upcoming book or film releases, but I'm also fascinated by the stories of people who've been caught up in the latest major news.

How do you and the features team like to work with PRs?

There are a few PRs who we know and work with regularly on certain issues/stories. Otherwise we tend to get plenty of PR emails and pick up the ones that seem interesting. It can be difficult to get time away from work for PR lunches so generally it's best to focus on set stories rather than meeting for coffee without a specific purpose.

What are your top tips for PRs approaching with a pitch?

I would definitely email (and not too early or late in the day). I'll see anything that comes between 10am and 3pm. A lot of PR pitches we get are better suited to fashion, weekend or food and drink, but if it seems like a strong features pitch and you haven't heard back by via email, then it can be worth following up with a call the next day.

Are you only interested in exclusive content?

Yes. Unless it's a major topic/book and there are several possible angles, we wouldn't run a similar piece at the same time as another paper.

Finally, if you were to write a dream feature, what would it be?

I think you can only really know a dream feature once you’re writing it. Sometimes you’re given an unexpectedly brilliant story but, once there’s an idea you’re interested in, there’s nothing to stop you from getting started on the piece.

Olivia was speaking to Gorkana's Alister Houghton.