Friday, 25 October 2013
The Dos and Don’ts of Journalism Part 2
As promised, here is more of Sarah Poulton’s advice for budding journalists. On Wednesday we gave Sarah’s dos and today we give you her don'ts.
Sarah has worked for mainstream magazine publishers such as IPC Media, National Magazine Co and BBC Magazines and, most recently, the Telegraph, where she was deputy editor of Special Reports.
Don't underestimate the importance of structure. It will help to make your piece clear and readable. That said, don't be afraid of experimenting. There are many ways to structure a feature and if everything is chronological it gets boring.
Don't complicate unnecessarily. Make sure your piece has an introduction that hooks the reader and keep your language simple, active and specific. Let paragraphs suggest each other, link them unobtrusively and include an ending.
Don't assume your editor knows what she wants. If you are commissioned to write a piece, try to get the editor to spell out what s/he has in mind and make suggestions if you think it would strengthen the feature. Once you've submitted it, be prepared to re-write or add to your copy at no extra cost.
Don't badger an editor if you submit ideas and they don't get back to you. Wait at least a week then email or call to remind them about your submission and that you exist. Sometimes, editors commission the first appropriate person whose name pops into their head.
Don't wait until you've submitted a feature to inform your commissioning editor why it doesn't work. Get in touch as soon as you identify a problem. Your editor WON'T thank you if she has to publish something there wasn't time to replace.
Don't expect to earn a lot, particularly when you're starting out. Even once you've become an established contributor word rates may be slashed. That doesn't mean you shouldn't stand up for yourself if you genuinely feel you're worth more than is being offered. Just be aware: you may lose the goodwill of your editor and scupper your chances of working for that publication again.
Don't assume journalism is just for the young. Freelance contributors come in all shapes and sizes. And life experience is invaluable if you're a writer.
Don't be precious. You can't afford to be. If a new editor offers you the chance to write for her but it's an advertorial rather than a full-fledged editorial feature, see it as an opportunity. She may be testing you out. And look on the bright side, advertorials tend to be better paid than your average feature for the work involved.