Liam O’Dell is a freelance journalist, vlogger and campaigner from Bedfordshire. He is mildly deaf and wears hearing aids.
Our writer, Zubee Kibria, got the opportunity to interview Liam O’Dell about living with hearing loss and working as a vlogger and freelance journalist.
Liam O’Dell living as a deaf person
Please can you tell Disability Horizons readers a bit about yourself?
My name is Liam O’Dell, my pronouns are he/him and I’m a deaf freelance journalist and campaigner. I’m also dyspraxic, have OCD and identify as asexual (which means I experience little to no sexual attraction).
I can often be found writing a lot about deafness, disability, social media and the theatre on my own website, but also for the deaf news site The Limping Chicken and The Independent.
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What challenges have you had as a deaf vlogger and journalist?
As a journalist, certainly legitimacy and hearing phone calls. Thankfully, I’ve got a whole lot better at the latter, and these things can sometimes take time.
With regards to the legitimacy, there’s been a few times when I’ve had requests for interviews and comments turned down because I’m a freelance journalist and it’s trickier to guarantee coverage.
Over time, I’ve found that in those situations, it’s about generating a discussion around the story in a way, which means the individual has to respond to you. It isn’t easy.
Similar to that, as a deaf journalist reporting on the deaf and disabled community, it’s hard for those outside this group of people to engage/find content about deaf and disabled people.
For instance, I wrote about the court case around the UK Government’s refusal to provide a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter for its coronavirus briefings, but my coverage failed to penetrate the wider public conversation in a way that got hearing, non-disabled people talking. It’s sometimes hard for marginalised journalists to be heard in mainstream society, for sure.
Liam O’Dell working as a vlogger and freelance journalist
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What inspired you to get into vlogging and become a freelance journalist?
In terms of vlogging, I was – and continue to be – a huge fan of content creators on YouTube. I admired their creativity and their desire to capture as much of their life as possible, and thought I should have a go at that too, at least as an opportunity to have some fun and practice my editing skills.
As for journalism, I’ve adored writing and stories since I was very young, and it just became a natural progression for me in terms of what I wanted to do for a living.
It began with wanting to write a book (I still want to publish one) and when I spoke to my school’s careers advisor about wanting to explore journalism, I was advised to set up a blog, which I did back in 2012 and have been managing ever since.
It’s been a great place for me to perfect areas of my writing where I maybe didn’t feel too confident. First, it was opinion pieces, then it was features, and over time, I got better at those two styles that a lot of my freelance work right now is writing one or the other.
How long have you been vlogging for and how did you get started?
I first properly started vlogging when I was in my first year of university at Lincoln, back in 2015, when I realised that I could probably do some more work around video editing/production while attending my TV journalism classes.
I eventually decided that TV reporting wasn’t for me, but I decided to still keep at it so I could still practise my skills.
You vlog about theatre, lifestlyle, music. current affairs and life as a deaf person. Can you tell us more about why you decided to vlog about those areas in particular?
Well, I’d like to think the current affairs one is obvious, given my degree in journalism.
As for the others, I’m a Grade 8 drummer and I play the occasional bit of keyboard, so music has always been in my bones and something I enjoy and think about a lot.
Similarly, I became really obsessed with theatre from 2018 onwards, as it’s a place that can really give me food for thought and gets me so invested in a way that a book or film might not. I enjoy writing about it and in particular, dissecting the ideas a play brings up once I’ve seen it and reviewing it on my website.
As for writing about being deaf, it forms a huge part of my life and I like sharing my everyday experiences in the hope that it will educate others and help make the world just that little bit more deaf aware.
What are your top 5 tips for other disabled people who may be interested in starting their own vlog or considering a career as a freelance journalist?
- Find your own space to create without constraint
- For journalism, find your niche. If you can make yourself an expert in covering a specific topic (in my case, disability), then do it. It’ll really help you stand out from the crowd.
- Accept the fact that your first video won’t be perfect, and see it as a learning opportunity, and a chance to have fun, first and foremost.
- Email pitches, I find, tend to follow the order of a catchy hook, an expansion of the issue and the points you will make, and why it should be you who writes about it. After some point, you need to explain why it needs to be published now, too.
- Captioning your vlogs for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers is a must – it can help you in YouTube’s algorithm, too.
Do you have any exciting plans for uploading new content on your vlog that people can look forward to watching?
Sadly, I’ve fallen out of whack with creating content for YouTube, as a lot of my work now revolves around written content. However, I have spotted a lack of videos on the platform about a subject that is close to my heart, so I may be producing some content about that in the future – if I can find the time.
If you are planning to upload new content now or in future, can you tell us a bit about it and what people can expect?
I don’t want to give too much away, but if I do end up creating content, it’ll be more educational in nature, and I’m hoping my extended break from creating video content has meant I am a little less stilted on camera! I’m keen to try some new things out.
Interview by Zubee Kibria
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