Journalist Spotlight | Interview with freelance writer and content producer Alex Mitcheson
Alex Mitcheson is a freelance writer and content producer who has contributed to a wide range of publications such as Australian Men’s Health, Wine Magazine, GQ Australia, and News Corp Australia.
Medianet sat down with Alex to discuss his colourful career history and how he got to where he is now.
You have worked as a campaign manager, an event assistant, a project manager, and a sommelier, as well as currently working as an editor, copywriter, and freelance writer. How did these career experiences prepare you for the media industry?
Good question! The media realms that I play in at the moment are travel and hospitality, and after spending a number of years working in hospitality it’s given me a unique perspective surrounding all the ins-and-outs about how the hospitality industry works.
I think a lot of people that read hospitality news and editorial — and even those who write about it themselves — still don’t fully appreciate or understand what truly goes on behind the scenes.
I feel when I write about hospitality I have personal experience about what it is like. So I understand when people or staff may be having an off night because they have just been called in on a day off to cover someone else’s shift, or have been working non-stop for four days. I’ve been there, done that, so I get it.
Did you always want a career in media?
I’m British, so schooling-wise we do highschool, then six-form, which is two years that prepares you for university. During those two years I studied English literature, media studies, and mathematics — just because I also wanted to keep the door open and to round me out, I guess!
The media landscape was very different back then, which was around 2002 to 2003, and I remember learning about newspapers,radio and a bit on the internet, which I imagine is completely different to what students are learning now: the landscape has changed dramtically.
I’ve always loved reading and writing so English literature came naturally to me, but afterwards I was soon hit with a real desire to travel. I saved up some money and came to Australia like a lot of other backpackers; I’m not ashamed to admit that I bought a one-way ticket with about $1000 in my bank account to see what was over here and just look around and have some fun.
Hospitality got me around Australia and New Zealand. I loved it and met a lot of great people and learned a lot. I was also introduced into the world of wine which I am forever grateful for. But I guess there’s also always been a glowing little bit of ember in the back of my mind I would exit the hospitality industry and use my linguistic and writing skills in some format.
It’s all very well looking back retrospectively and having all these ‘what-ifs’ and ‘shoulda woulda couldas’ running around in my mind, but I do think I’ve been guided to this path I’m on now through through the many different opportunities I’ve had in my life.
What’s one thing about working in the media industry you didn’t expect when you first started?
It can be a really hard slog, trying to get ideas to stick. There’s a lot of relationship building which I think a lot of fellow freelancers already understand.
Being a freelancer in the space I work in is a lot of prospecting, a lot of conversations, connecting the dots, and then making things happen so it all comes together — but it does take some time.
Following up on that, what are the main challenges with working freelance VS working for a media company?
There really is a lot of waiting when you are a freelancer! You need patience to keep all your spinning plates up in the air — and you can’t devote too much time to only one plate, so to speak.
It can get frustrating at times, but it’s just the nature of the game.
However, the rewards are given to those who have the talent and perseverance, and this will always make me want to better myself and my work.
You should always want to improve, and seeking out constructive criticism is one of the most crucial things you can do.
What first drew you into travel journalism?
For me it’s the very fundamental feeling of wanting to know what’s over the next hill. Is the grass really greener on the other side? It’s this allure of the unknown.
I had a phase where I read alot, if not all, of Michael Palin’s travel books. Staying up past bedtime whilst learning about all of these farflung places kept me up form hours. In the end, I travelled around Europe quite a bit before I came over to Australia, and there’s such a smorgasbord of culture around every corner. I recieved a real taste of travel from there
However, growing up I was bored with where I was. My beachside home was in the very North East of England, with lots of long, golden sand beaches with castles hanging over cliffs that are very Game of Thrones-esque! I yearned to live in a warmer climate and spend as much of time as possible outdoors. Now when I go back as an adult I make sure to wrap up for the cold and I love it for what it is.
I’m so glad your childhood dreams have come true!
Yeah, I didn’t even realise that until I started talking about it now!
What has been your most memorable experience during your career, so far?
There’s been a few, actually!
I just wrote a piece for Men’s Health Australia for their 25th anniversary issue in September 2022 about a deer hunting experience. I used to fish when I was a kid, but I was by no means a proficient hunter at all, so I was experiencing this as a blank canvas.
I knew that were going to be confronting scenes of, dead animals. I think a lot of people assume hunting is very macho but it’s really not, the guys there have a reverance for the animals they’re killing and they make sure to use every part of the animal, as well as being as environmentally respectful as possible.
We managed to take down a deer and at one point the knife was handed to me and I had to skin this deer and take the meat off it. Still not sure how, but I was better at it than I thought I would be. It was very visceral, but I came away from that experience with a hard to describe feeling.
It’s hard to put a finger on it, it really touched me. I wouldn’t mind doing it again; it was great to see it first-hand to comprehend the whole thing better. Hunting gives you a poignant snapshot of where your meat comes from. It's so easy to walk into a supermarket and pick meat off the shelves wrapped in plastic, but to witness the death of the animal is another thing entirely. I’m still processing it all now a few months later.
What are your pitching preferences?
I’m a bit of a traditionalist; a snappy and succinct email goes a long way. My tendency to answer an unknown phone number, like most people, is fairly low!