5 Minutes With Alice Clarke

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on
Freelancer Alice Clarke has built a strong reputation over recent years, delivering great coverage of tech and games to mainstream outlets throughout the past decade. So we’re kicking off the fresh new 5 Minutes series with her insights into the state of the industry, how to PR in her general direction, and that she definitely had her hairstyle before Ramona Flowers came along.
 
What do you do and where does your work appear?
I’ve been a freelance tech, games and entertainment reporter and opinion writer for a little over 13 years. You can currently see my game & app reviews every week in the Sunday Herald Sun and I regularly write tech for The Age / SMH.
 
Anything else in your career you’ve been known for?
I spent years writing about TV for places like the Sunday Herald Sun TV Guide and The Age Green Guide, wrote about music for Cherrie Magazine, and I had an opinion column in the Herald Sun on Mondays for a little over five years. I also co-curate the PAX Aus Diversity Lounge and occasionally pop up on New Game Plus.
 
What did you really want to be when you were growing up?
As a toddler I used to make little newspapers for my parents, so I pretty much always wanted to write for newspapers. But I also wanted to be a presenter on Triple J, team captain on Good News Week (still do, call me), drummer in a rock band, and, briefly when I was about three, a dog.
 
Which story or stories are you most proud of?
It would have to be some of the columns I wrote about failing at IVF. They were some of the most difficult words I’ve ever written, and thinking about them still makes me sad, but I’m proud of how they turned out and I like to think they were important to some people.
 
What's your secret superpower?
I can find my way around almost any shopping mall in any western country. I still don’t know the name of the street I grew up next to, and I get lost outside the Hoddle Grid, but put me in a shopping mall and I know where to go. It is not a very useful superpower.
 
What are three top tips you can give PR pros for working with you effectively?
Know what I write about and who for. I get a lot of completely irrelevant pitches (the most recent weird one was men’s underwear), and it just wastes both of our time.
Know how to contact me - my inbox looks like possums have nested in it. If you know a pitch is something I’d be interested in, give me a call. If you’re unsure, send me an email.
All events longer than one hour need snacks.
 
How do you like to start a PR relationship if you've never been in touch before?
Give me a call, introduce yourself. Or send me a nice email telling me who you are and what you do.
 
What's the most important lesson you've learned about journalism?
I have two pieces of advice for newbie journalists from stuff I’ve learned:
  1. Rejection isn’t personal 99% of the time, and you have to be very good at handling it. There is a lot of “no" in this job, because there’s more freelancers than budget and space.
  2. This is something my first mentor told me shortly after I met him, with a slight adjustment: every day the clock resets to zero. It doesn’t matter how good or bad (to a point) you were yesterday, only what you do today. That can be pretty disheartening if you were amazing yesterday, but very reassuring on your off days.
How do you hunt for good stories?
That is a good question, and one that shouldn’t stump me so much :P I guess I read and watch a lot, and people pitch me interviews and products. But most of the time it’s just seeing an angle on something that you don’t think enough people are considering, or when you suddenly can’t stop half writing a story in your head.
 
What's been the biggest change in the industry over the past decade?
Well, the internet, mostly. But the rise of parent companies and accounting dragons not valuing writing enough to pay for it. Rates are going backwards, and there’s less work. Plus, some PR folks prioritise giving review devices to influencers first, that’s certainly new.
 
What do you think is the most important issue facing the tech industry today?
Climate change. How on Earth is an industry focused on getting people to constantly buy new products made out of mined and difficult/impossible to recycle materials going to turn things around before it’s too late? Also, y’know, privacy. That’s a thing.
 
What's the biggest issue facing journalism?
Few want to pay for it, yet journalists keep insisting on eating and living in places with roofs.
Also, no one trusts us anymore thanks to an unfortunate combination of some poor-quality publications (mostly in the UK) tainting it for the rest of us, people confusing games journalists with influencers in terms of whose opinion is for sale, and world leaders loudly and shockingly effectively trying to discredit any publication that says anything negative about them or reveals a truth they’d rather stay hidden.
 
Exclusives are everything. Discuss.
Depends on the story. Exclusives are certainly nice, but I think what matters more is having a different take and saying it in your voice. Most people could probably write a decent article, but what makes journalists compelling is their unique voice, the way they think, and their depth of knowledge. But I do still like a good exclusive.
 
What do you wish you'd never have to explain to readers ever again?
Queer people getting equal rights will not take away your rights.
 
Who is the best journo in the industry and why?
It’s impossible to pick just one, plus we’re all friends. But I will name two that I really like:
David Milner writes some of the best video game articles in the world. He has a compelling voice, a nuanced take on anything he writes, and it’s always a pleasure to read.
 
Jen Dudley-Nicholson is an excellent tech writer who finds good stories, takes amazing photos, and always manages to say things that anyone can understand, but experts can still find something new in, and that is one hell of a skill.
 
Which industry publications, podcasts or other productions are on your unmissable list?
Media Watch. It’s a must watch for anyone who wants to write.
 
How do you keep up with what your colleagues are writing?
Twitter? I read/watch The Age, Herald Sun, 9 News and ABC each day, as well as checking in with CNET every now and then. But I read a lot of the good tech/games pieces that get shared on my Twitter timeline.
 
Which app has changed your life more than any other?
Twitter. It’s such a great way to stay connected with what people are up to, which is especially helpful given how spread out we all are.
 
Favourite screen-free hobbies?
I build a tonne of Lego and play the drums.
 
What's your best party trick?
I used to be pretty good at fire twirling/eating, but it’s been a while...
 
What’s your go-to song at karaoke?
Barbie Girl by Aqua. I prefer to sing the Ken part, but can do both in a pinch. I can also do pretty much the whole Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog soundtrack, when it’s available.
 
Have you ever been said to resemble a famous person or character? If so, who?
Mary Elizabeth-Winstead, particularly as Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs The World (for the record, I had this hair cut first).
 
What's your favourite game of all time?
It’s a two-way tie between the Forza Horizon series and Rock Band 3. I love Forza so damn much, and the hayday of Rock Band was such a good time.
 
Name five discs you'd want to be stuck with on a desert island?
If it can only be single discs, it’s gotta be The Carmilla Movie, The Con by Tegan and Sara, the Josie and The Pussycats movie, Forza Horizon 4, and NBA 2Kwhatever year I’m trapped. If I can have whole TV shows, then that’s gonna be The Carmilla webseries, Buffy, Grey’s Anatomy, Legends of Tomorrow, and Marvel’s Runaways. So I will need ten discs, and five of them will need to be magical.
 
What was your favourite TV show of the 2010s?
Oh my god. Can I only pick one? And only TV? That’s gotta be a toss up between Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Wynonna Earp, Runaways, Timeless, and Why Women Kill. You’ll need a weird coin.
 
What vices do you lean into when you're chasing a tight deadline?
I eat my stress and either don’t tidy my apartment at all, or tidy it to an almost disturbing and inconvenient degree. My stress is delicious, at least.
 
What's the most ridiculous buzzword in the industry?
It’s a variant of this buzz phrase “the customer is at the centre of everything we do” or “this is for you, the gamers”. Yes. We know you’re making things so people will buy them. I’d be more impressed if you said “we made this because we’re passionate about fixing this problem/telling this story/making this statement.” Say or do something meaningful. At least pretend money isn’t your only priority.
 
The PR fairy calls saying you can have the interview of your dreams. Who's it gonna be?
I’ve been very lucky throughout my career to tick some of my dream interviews off my list (yes, there is a list). At the moment I would be crazy excited for Shonda Rhimes, Janet Weiss, Emily Andras, Ellen DeGeneres, Taylor Swift, Sara Ramirez, and/or Jennifer Beals.
 

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