As EIJ15 draws closer, I am reflecting on the year behind me. It sounds more like lyrics to a Billy Joel song than a year as SPJ president: FBI, Ferguson, Charlie Hebdo, ISIS, the U.S. Forest Service, Brian Williams, Rolling Stone, Hillary Clinton and Indiana’s RFRA.
You know the sad saga of now-suspended “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, but it’s worth re-telling and remembering to drive home the lesson. In February, Williams was caught in a lie — a very public one resulting in a six-month suspension without pay.
I am Charlie, and I am proud to be a journalist. The Jan. 7 attack on Charlie Hebdo in France was brutal and tragic, highlighting the very real dangers of press freedom. Twelve people – journalists and police officers – lost their lives.
Last year SPJ added communities to its list of membership offerings, giving members new ways to connect with and learn from each other. To date, we have three — freelance, digital and international journalism — all of which are active and serving SPJ members in new ways.
On the heels of a busy 2013-14 led by SPJ President Dave Cuillier, I am honored and eager to serve SPJ during the next year, continuing his good work and embarking on new projects and initiatives to better serve journalists. While journalists continue to face daunting challenges, including fighting for press freedom, facing arrest and even death in extreme cases, there is much SPJ can do to support journalists and our industry.
After 15 years in the corporate world, I had the opportunity to start a second career as a freelance journalist, and I’ve never looked back. That was nearly 10 years ago, and I’ve seen a lot of changes in our industry since that time, but none more exciting than right now!
One thing I miss about having a full-time corporate job is the benefits — sick time, vacation time, health insurance, a retirement plan, etc. It was nice having someone else take care of those pesky but necessary details of life. As a freelancer, I have to provide all of those benefits for myself, or simply do without.
Your refrigerator is full, your quarterly taxes are paid, and you’ve got a little money set aside for the client who pays late next month. So what’s next for the ambitious freelancer? The sky’s the limit, I say. This is the time for you to explore new opportunities, try different writing styles or pitch that publication you’ve always wanted to write for.
With so many journalism organizations like SPJ, the Radio Television Digital News Association, Online News Association and UNITY to join (among many others), the budget-conscious freelancer has to choose membership options carefully. She has to ask herself, “What groups should I belong to, how much does membership cost, what benefits do they offer, and what’s in it for me?”
To keep the cash coming in, freelancers need to exercise their marketing muscle regularly. This can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Simply think of promoting yourself as telling a story — your story — using a variety of marketing tools: Website and/or blog: Once upon a time, a simple, static website that rarely changed was ideal for freelancers.
Making it as a successful full-time freelancer — writer, editor, photojournalist, blogger, etc. — requires equal parts talent, persistence and business savvy. For the sake of this article, let’s assume you are skilled in your primary area of interest and that you are motivated, self-disciplined and persistent enough to acquire and produce a sufficient level of work to make a living.
As our media world changes and adapts to new business models, rules and tools, I am often asked what it takes to be a freelance journalist. Sure, it requires a passion for journalism, some marketing know-how and a lot of business savvy, but to earn a decent living, a freelance journalist also needs skills and resources that are not necessarily obvious to the outside observer.
August 3rd, 2010 • Quill Archives
Sigma Delta Chi Awards Winners – Newspapers/Wire Services
[b]Click here for introduction to the awards and a menu of all categories. Deadline Reporting (Daily Circulation 100,001+) Winner: Staff, The Seattle Times “Four Officers Slain” During the Thanksgiving weekend of 2009, four Lakewood, Wash., police officers were murdered at a coffee shop, the deadliest attack in law enforcement in the state’s history.