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A day in the life Of...
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A day in the life of ... Louise Tickle (freelance education and social affairs journalist)

Date:8 JAN 2016
Education and social affairs journalist
See also Lucy Reed and Louise Tickle, 'Press reporting of care proceedings' in the January issue of Family Law at [2016] Fam Law 72.

What is your position and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I am a freelance journalist for national papers. Probably won't take absolutely anyone's shilling anymore...

How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?

At 23 and with two drama degrees, I realised I didn't love the theatre enough to be poor and struggling even for a couple of years, let alone a lifetime. I got a job in public affairs at the RSPB despite only being able to identify seabirds (they're big, have distinctive markings, and helpfully hang around long enough for you to get your binoculars focused and leaf to the right page in your British Seabirds reference guide).

I got another job in a charity press office as fast as I could on being found out, then moved to Comic Relief. In the run-up to Red Nose Day, I took a Marie Claire journalist out to Ethiopia to do a story on refugees, and realised I was on the wrong side of the fence: I wanted to do what she was doing. At 28, I had to re-train I felt so old (HA!) and went freelance pretty well straight away.

What are the people you work for/with like? Any memorable stories?

Mainly I write for The Guardian, for a number of editors I've built relationships with over the years. One in particular, who I've written for for a decade now, has shaped my journalism more than anyone: she is hugely warm, exceedingly demanding and understands what makes a good story like no-one else. If something's not good enough, you find out smartish; but she is full of praise when you pull off something difficult. And so you learn (I've had every elaborate flourish excised from my writing style by her ruthless editing).

Memorable moments: I will never forget the parents of a 10-day-old boy with a life-threatening heart condition allowing me to observe his open-heart surgery I saw the surgeon cut the aorta or interviewing a woman whose sister and 2-year-old niece had been murdered by the ex-partner/father. She trembled so hard she nearly shook herself off her chair. She was incredibly brave to carry on. In those moments, when people trust you with what is most precious in the world to them, you are incomparably privileged.

What is the best and worst part of the day for you?

Best: the moment when I turn off my router and enter my place of calm as I start to write.

Worst: this only happens on complex stories concerning painful issues, but 'holding' the knowledge of everything awful that has gone on in someone's life, and the accompanying anxious itchiness it is genuinely uncomfortable and causes sleepless nights that I won't manage to do the issues justice. I wish I could remember at these times that the writing is the best bit, that I can do it, and that there is nothing to worry about.

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What adjectives best describe you?

My partner is wetting himself! Ignoring him: driven, bolshy, persistent, impatient, indignant.

What keeps you motivated?

When someone with no power has their life trashed by someone with more.

Tea or coffee?

Tea. Hot as hot. Asbestos mouth.

What would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?

You're unlikely to get rich. But you will have the most fascinating life, and access to extraordinary people, fascinating thinking, and unusual - sometimes hidden - experience that no other job would give you.

What song do you listen to the most?

Currently: 'I Don't Want to Change You' by Damien Rice. Lifetime listen: 'The Boxer' by Simon and Garfunkel.

How do you enjoy your time outside of work?

Private ballroom dancing lessons. Even better, salsa. It's been too long.

If you could change on thing about the family justice system, what would it be and why?

In care proceedings, I would change the adversarial nature of the process to one where courts had a more explicitly constructive role, and powers to require and monitor collaboration and service provision to vulnerable families.

Louise has her own website (www.louisetickle.co.uk), and her work can frequently be found in The Guardian.

You can follow her on Twitter at @louisetickle.

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