Ever wondered what it’s like to be on the frontline of property journalism? Well, wonder no more, as our very own Graham Norwood – freelance journalist and editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today – fills us in on what his typical day involves.
A prolific tweeter (he tweets to more than 21,700 followers on a daily basis, earning himself the tag of Social Media Influencer of the Year at the 2017 Property Press Awards), Graham has been writing about residential property for more than 15 years and contributes articles regularly to The Sunday Times, the Daily Mail, the Financial Times and The Telegraph. He has also published four books and one e-book, and blogs regularly at propertynewshound.com.
He lives in Devon, loves cinema and – in his own words – is something of an “F1 obsessive”. But what does a usual day for him look like? Take it away, Graham.
It’s a cliché but it’s true: every day is different, thank goodness.
As a freelance journalist I write about property for a range of publications - Estate and Letting Agent Today, of course, but also London Property, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Estates Gazette amongst others - so each has different deadlines and some stories require visits to locations and individual properties.
But there’s a pattern to many days and it kicks off at...
6am: I fire off tweets with links to that morning’s EAT and LAT stories - I send them in real time and sometimes I’m still in bed (my first confession). I’m also keeping an eye on the opposition - other industry news outlets which also update early each morning.
7am: Time to check stock market announcements. With so many agencies and portals now floated, this trawl through announcements often produces a late story for EAT and LAT before the email newsletter goes to subscribers at around 7.30am.
8.30am: Another confession - on days that I’m working from my home office in the loft of my home in east Devon, I will by now have walked the dog (six-year-old labradoodle Macy, pretty and loyal and with a love of barking at people with hats).
Alternatively if I’m travelling for a story, I’m long gone. The next few weeks are typical and I have to be at the Future:PropTech conference in London, visit Somerset market towns with housing markets boosted by the building of the massive Hinkley C power station, and go to Birmingham to see how the city’s housing infrastructure might be changed by HS2.
11.30: If it’s an office day, by now I’ll have written a few stories for the next morning’s EAT and LAT. The stories ready by now are embargoes (‘given’ to journalists with deadlines before which they can’t be used) while others are stories based on announcements (like agency acquisitions or jobs moves) which filter in through the morning.
Alternatively, early in the week I might be doing telephone interviews and/or writing a story for one of the nationals. Daily Mail and Sunday Times stories must usually be filed on the Monday or Tuesday before they’re published (Friday and Sunday respectively) to allow time for checking, layout design, inserting pictures or tables and so on. There will also be queries from sub-editors, by email, to fact-check and query anything appearing odd.
And all morning I’m on the lookout for possible newsflashes for EAT or LAT. They might come from predictable announcements (say, an interest rate decision which we know will be made at a set time and day) or something completely unpredictable (a government announcement, a portal’s latest salvo in its war with rivals, and so on).
12 Noon: Monitor news. This isn’t code for a coffee and watching TV (alright - coffee is involved, so another minor confession) but this is key element for a serious journalist.
On my desk an iPad has BBC Two’s Daily Politics show or Sky News on while I write at my desktop Mac alongside...many a low-level housing announcement or idea for a story comes from hearing parliamentary announcements or what’s happening in the economy.
2pm: If I’m on the road I often try to start returning to base by now: that image of hacks having long lunches used to be true, but the sausage-machine of news stories today (40 to 50 stories on EAT and LAT combined each week, for example) means you have to make visits, interviews and hospitality purely functional. And you have to be prepared to write stories on an iPhone if you can’t have the luxury of getting back to the office.
3pm: Time to start uploading the next day’s EAT and LAT stories that have been written so far. For the nationals I simply fire off my stories attached to emails and ‘they’ do the rest; for Angels Media it’s more intense so I load stories to the back-end of the system, attach links where appropriate, and (unlike with newspapers) I can write the headlines - this is all more work but actually gets me far more involved and ‘at one’ with the stories as a result.
Late afternoon: Now’s the time to schedule social media for EAT/LAT stories, which always go live at midnight. Twitter is a key way to kick off readership for individual stories and build long-term commitment to outlets and my journalistic ‘brand’, so I put great store by this. As EAT/LAT stories go live over seven hours before the newsletter links many readers with the news, it’s vital to encourage readers with early-bird tweets which I can set up in advance.
Evening: It’s not over yet. Remember when Purplebricks announced its US launch, when early mutterings of Alison Platt’s departure from Countrywide came through and when the government launched its ‘call for evidence’ on reforming house sales?
They all happened during the evening and in one or two cases over weekends, so monitoring of news outlets, checking emails and keeping in touch with contacts frequently occur after hours. Some lead to newsflashes and many lead to late night or early morning EAT and LAT stories being written to ensure you read it here, first.
Have I missed anything?: Well I guess I need to ‘fess up that I have been known to check F1 websites during working hours (it’s ‘my’ sport of choice), sneak out to coffee shops with the iPad to write stories in more convivial surroundings, and pay way too many visits to my kitchen for vital nourishment - a problem when it’s around 45 seconds away from my office. Oh...and sometimes I’ve given that dog a second walk during the day, too.
Great insight, Graham, into what makes sure EAT and LAT are at the forefront of the property news agenda. We, and no doubt our readers too, salute you!