Wednesday, 23 October 2013
The Dos and Don’ts of Journalism
Journalist Sarah Poulton, who spoke at Words And Women’s first membership event, has kindly provided us with a copy of her short talk about the Dos and Don’ts of Journalism.
It’s great advice stemming from her experience of working on the inside as an editor and on the outside as a freelance writer for print and online publications. Today we post her To Dos and on Saturday we will post her Don’ts. Thanks Sarah!
Do your research. It sounds obvious but before you pitch anything to anyone read recent back issues of the publication you're interested in writing for CLOSELY. What are the gaps? Who is your audience? And remember, two or three well-thought out ideas is generally better than a fistful of suggestions you haven't had time to research.
Do think laterally. For example, if you're interested in health, why not look at the latest research that's being published in relatively obscure US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand science and social science journals. Is there anything that could be adapted to the UK?
Do try to entice. Editors are extremely busy and they can receive tens if not hundreds of emails daily. Many of those may be urgent, yours won't. So think about how you might excite their curiosity.
Do attach samples of your previous work. It will annoy an editor if she takes the time to read through your ideas and you haven't attached any published examples of your work.
Do assume there are differences between writing for print and online publications. The latter tend to have shorter features, an emphasis on keywords and less scope for figurative language. Ask for guidance if you need it.
Do make an effort to understand the culture of the publication, or organisation, for which you would like to work. The BBC isn't the same as The Daily Mail, nor is Marie Claire the same as Boots Parenting Club. All will have their unspoken rules, accepted office behaviour and established editorial lines. And it's wise to be familiar with the latter, at least.
Do get as much professional exposure online and face to face, as you can. Use Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, your own blog, Wannebehacks.co.uk, press events, whatever works for you. Even if you're guest blogging for free or submitting unpaid-for features to relatively obscure online or print publications. You never know when one of these will bear fruit. However, do be aware that a vapid blog or inane Facebook commentary isn't a recommendation to use you.
Do take time to develop a special interest or area of knowledge. Whether you've studied economics, or have an interest in ecology, a specialism could come in handy.