Pete Wedderburn is a partner in a four-vet companion animal practice near Dublin. He spends half of his working life in the media, with weekly veterinary features on Irish breakfast television and local radio stations, as well as working in print journalism.
- British Veterinary Association
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How did you first get involved in the media?
My media career has been based on a simple concept: not saying ‘no’. My first television job was a one-off children's programme 15 years ago, and those initial contacts led to more requests for work that have continued to grow over the years. It's easy to ask a researcher to ‘call back later’, but they're busy people, and there's a high chance that they'll simply find someone else who's willing to help at once.
How did you get to where you are today?
When I moved to Ireland, I felt that the practice needed to be promoted, so I approached local radio stations and newspapers about the possibility of doing ‘vet spots’. The local radio work helped me to get used to working in front of a live microphone, which made television easier to tackle at a later stage. Early on, I attended a creative writing evening class and I discovered that writing gave me a buzz that I still enjoy today. Five years ago, I realised that I could earn enough from writing to pay for a locum to fill my slots at the practice, and so I started to spend my mornings at home doing journalism. As well as my television and radio features, I now write a weekly column and daily blogs for The Daily Telegraph, contribute to a number of other newspapers and magazines, and have had several books published.
How do you spend a typical day?
I'm ruled by writing deadlines, and have a tight schedule that I need to meet each week. My day starts at 06.30, and I write through till lunchtime, with a few breaks for dog walking and triathlon training (another passion). I'm at the vet practice by 14.30, finishing consulting by 19.30. My clinical work is an essential part of my media role: if I stopped practising, I would soon lose my credibility as a working vet, and I'd also lose the main source of material for my writing. In any case, I enjoy practice too much to consider stopping it completely.
What do you like about your job?
The variety. In the mornings, I enjoy the freedom of being away from the vet clinic. No staff to manage, no stock control to worry about, and I can take breaks when I feel like it. Plus, I love the process of writing – English was my favourite subject at school. In the afternoons, I'm very happy getting back to the clinical aspects of my job, seeing my regular clients and their pets, and working with a great team of vets and nurses.
What do you not like?
The relentless nature of deadlines. If I want to take a holiday, I need to complete the writing assignments for my absence in advance of my departure. I can employ a locum to do my job at the practice, but I'm the only one who can do the writing.
Why is your job important?
There's a lot of misinformation in the media. Vets are able to give the facts with authority: people listen to us, and they believe what we say. My role allows me to speak to thousands of people at one time, promoting the cause of animal health and welfare that has motivated me since I first wanted to be a vet.
What advice would you give to someone considering a similar career?
Start small, by offering to write a free column for your local newspaper or taking listeners' queries on your local radio station. If it goes well, don't be afraid to promote yourself to other outlets.
What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Whatever you put energy into, grows. If you find something you love doing, don't hesitate to put your energy into it.
What was your proudest moment?
Like many in the profession, that still goes back to the moment I discovered that I'd qualified as a vet. I've never wanted something so much, nor worked so hard as I did for my veterinary degree.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
When my mobile phone rang loudly during a live television interview. That's a mistake that you only make once.