Mary O'Hara

Professional Background:

For 10 years until May 2010 I was a staff journalist at The Guardian and The Observer in London and Manchester writing for the news, features, business and social affairs pages. While on staff I held a number of positions including spending time as an acting deputy editor of the Guardian’s flagship social affairs supplement.

I left to live in the US for a period of time as an Alistair Cooke Fulbright Scholar 2010 conducting research on press coverage of mental illness. Since then I have been a freelance social affairs and health writer and have considerable experience writing on poverty, social justice and human rights and reporting extensively for The Guardian and for other publications and platforms including the BBC, Mosaic Science, The New Statesman and Salon.

Samples of my long form work can be found here: Mosaic Science.

I am author of the book Austerity Bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK published by Policy Press and am author of the latest Samaritans Media Guidelines on reporting of suicide. Published in 2017 I am a contributor to a new book published by Pluto Press The Violence of Austerity.

I am currently working on MY NEXT BOOK: 'The Shame Game' - about stigma and poverty. It will be published by Policy Press in the UK and The University of Chicago Press in the US in February 2020. I am also the founder of Project Twist-It, with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation challenging the negative narrative surrounding poverty in the UK and the US. I also co-produce Getting Curious, a weekly podcast with Jonathan Van Ness.

Since 2014 I've been a Special Rapporteur for the EU day of persons with disabilities organised by the European Commission and the European Disability Forum. I am also co-founder and chair of the David Nobbs Memorial Trust and am on the board of trustees of the charity, Arts Emergency.

My media experience includes appearances on the BBC News, hosting a podcast on and directing and producing a documentary short. I have also been a guest lecturer at journalism schools around the UK and do media interviews and conference chairing on request.

Awards & Accolades:

My journalism has been recognised with international and domestic awards. These include runner up in November 2016 at the US National Arts & Entertainment Journalism for writing on diversity and another in June 2016 when I was awarded Silver International Columnist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club. In August 2016 I was named as a finalist in the PenFro Book Festival First Chapter of a Novel Competition for my first novel, The Linen Hall Waits. Other awards include Mind Journalist of the Year and winner at the Mental Health Media Awards for my multi-media packages on workplace discrimination. The package was described by the awards judges as ‘ground-breaking’.

In 2009 I won a prestigious Alistair Cooke Fulbright Award, for which I carried out longitudinal research on how the press in Britain and the US cover mental health issues. I conducted my research at UC Berkeley, California working with Professor Stephen Hinshaw, author of Mark of Shame. I also audited classes on investigative journalism at the prestigious UC Berkeley School of Journalism. In 2013 I was named highly commended Journalist of the Year at the European Diversity Awards.

Books & Screenplays

My non-fiction book, Austerity Bites, was published in May 2014 by Policy Press and in  the United States in July by the University of Chicago Press with an updated paperback published in the summer of 2015. The book chronicles my journey around the United Kingdom in 2012 and 2013 bearing witness to the impact of the UK Government's roll out of its unprecedented program me of austerity. Austerity Bites has received numerous accolades since its publication.

My first novel, The Linen Hall Waits is with a UK agent and I am working on my second. My UK literary agent is Futureman Rose. I am also co-author of the feature film screenplay, Once We Were Old and feature in two books: ‘Sister Genevieve’ by John Rae and ‘There’s Something About a Convent Girl’ published by Virago. You can read my foreword to Professor Danny Dorling’s book, Fair Play here.

Additional media industry experience:

Before I became a full-time journalist I spent six years in advertising and publishing during which I held senior management positions. I was a recipient of a number of national awards for my work including Media Week Face to Watch & Strategic Pitch of the Year. I am also an accomplished public speaker and have chaired many media and charity events. From 2011-2013 I ran a comedy club for two years in Whitstable, Kent which featured acts including, Josie Long, Stephen K Amos, Holly Walsh, Omid Djalii, Robin Ince and many more. During this time I also had a monthly column in the local Kent newspapers.