Journalism in the 21st century is arguably more challenging than ever before. Traditional newspapers and magazines have been shrinking, while online content is in many arenas dominated by aggregators and 10-cent-a-word wannabe writers. Back to Main Page: Journalism Entrepreneurship You have to be agile to feed a career in these settings, willing and able to jump back and forth between traditional and new media.
Of all the buzzwords in journalism right now (“hyperlocal” comes to mind), perhaps none is more important than “entrepreneurial.” As news companies continually look for fresh sources of revenue and ways to monetize digital and mobile offerings, the journalists who report can’t help but think: “Is my job secure?”
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.
Send member and chapter news items to editor Scott Leadingham at email@example.com. Students spend Labor Day in homeless shelter College journalists from nine schools around the country spent their Labor Day weekend in a homeless shelter in South Florida – and they had to fill out a lengthy application for the privilege.
A new SPJ member asked me about how to drum up freelance business in today’s market. Use 55-gallon drums of oil, I want to say — they’ll help keep you warm in the winter. The freelance market is even less certain than when I started in 2002.
With the U.S. economy still in a vulnerable position, more and more journalists are looking for extra work to supplement their incomes. And with so many non-journalists also looking for extra work, it’s easier for those in journalism to find work on the side as a freelancer.
Like many in our field, I’ve been a freelance journalist for as long as I’ve been a broadcast journalist. It’s a great way to supplement my income without taking on a second job. Specifically, the work I’ve done has been in public radio, with occasional programs for public television.
Documentary filmmaker Brett Junvik is only 26, but he’s already traveled around the world telling stories of impoverished people and the international aid groups that assist them. Here, he reflects candidly on his experiences and gives advice to journalists, particularly young ones just entering the field and looking to establish a portfolio, on how to manage overseas travels and connect with the people they’re filming.
BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA — All foreign correspondents have a tale of their big break: the story that, in the eyes of editors back home, suddenly transformed them from a dreamer who only talked about the overseas reporting they wanted to do into someone who’s proven they can deliver the goods.
In these scary days of a shrinking job market for journalists, with newspapers closing at every turn and journalism jobs at risk from bloggers willing to write for free, freelancing is an ever-more-tempting option for SPJ members. For some of us, it’s a joy and a thrill; for others, it’s simply a necessity.
So, what’s a day as president and chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum, Newseum and Diversity Institute like? That’s a really good question. You know, I’ve been on the job for a grand total of 60 days. It’s not that different from my life as editor of USA Today.
When you first stand up on water skis, you’re gripped by a singular euphoria. The air and surf rush past while you struggle to figure out how you succeeded in standing. But you’re there, white-knuckled and shaking, a grin pasted from ear-to-ear.
After a recent Cincinnati SPJ event, a local reporter took pity on my employment hardships as a recent journalism graduate. “I’m reminded of the 1991 film ‘The Commitments,’ about a struggling Irish rock band,” he said. “At one point, the manager tells the band: ‘It’s better to be an unemployed musician than an unemployed pipe-fitter.’”
When the stock market recently hit a shocking low, I received a call from a friend whose income hovers just above the poverty line. “I can truly say I’ve never been so happy to have absolutely nothing to lose,” she said.
August 1st, 2008 • Quill Archives
Freelance: Freelancing advice from the ivory tower
One word: plastics. When I was in college, my journalism professor (and now colleague) Marcia Hurlow put me in contact with a university research magazine called Odyssey, whose editor asked me to write about “the world’s longest plastic-deck bridge.” I knew relatively little about bridges, and less about plastics, but I wanted to set myself apart as a writer who could translate scientific jargon for readers.
As the push to market SPJ’s new Freelancer Directory continues, we are learning more about how to make it better in terms of functionality and visibility. Editors to whom we market (about 46,000 in late June alone) have taken the time to let us know when the search works for them, what functions would ease its use, and their frustrations when they can’t find what they are seeking.
Chris Nolan of Spot-On.com has worked in her share of newsrooms on both coasts. While many in the news business are left scratching their heads and wringing their hands over loss of readers and revenue, this self-described “stand-alone journalist” is excited about the future of news.
Recently I was invited to speak at an annual creative-writing workshop on the business of freelancing, something I’ve done many times before. Only this audience was a bit different in that it consisted largely of novelists, short-story writers and poets. They were eager to learn how they could use their talent for writing and get paid.
Q: How did you get into journalism? I studied communication, English and mathematics at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. I would’ve been a math major, but I was working hard to get As and Bs, and math majors didn’t have to work hard for those grades.
A fair amount of successful freelance writing involves good salesmanship. While that may be anathema to the newsroom journalist, it’s not as far-fetched as you may think. “Sales” in this case involves selling both your ideas and your ability to execute those ideas in the written and reported form.
Dan Rather recalled in his book, The Camera Never Blinks, the time he walked into his house when his son was 6 or 7 years old and he overheard his son nonchalantly tell a playmate that the man who just walked in was Dan Rather, the CBS news anchor — not dad.
As another year of advocating on behalf of SPJ freelancers comes to a close, I thought I’d take a moment to review where we are with the freelance committee and where I see us heading in 2006. So much of what I’ve done this year is talk to freelancers.
October 13th, 2005 • Quill Archives
Putting professionalism in the freelance profession
Some of you may recall a column by Byron Calame, The New York Times public editor, from Aug. 14 called, “Outside Contributors: In The Times, but Not of The Times.” If you missed this column and you are a freelancer, I suggest you Google the piece and read carefully.
Journalism educators and working journalists agree that students who hope to work in today’s media organizations need to have an understanding of globalization, international affairs and cultural differences — and getting this experience firsthand is optimal. Their opinions about how students get this experience may vary, but their beliefs about the overall importance of a global education do not.
June 30th, 2005 • Quill Archives
Many freelancers benefit from settled class-action suit
If you’ve been freelancing for a while, chances are pretty good that you stand to collect money due you for electronic use of your work without permission. In August 2000, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Author’s Guild filed suit in U.S.
In 1995, while covering an Aboriginal festival in Australia for his book “Wild Planet,” someone told writer Tom Clynes about a trucker who delivers fuel to the remote settlements in northern Australia’s Outback. “I came back a few months later and traveled with the trucker on what became a weeklong torture trek.
May 2nd, 2005 • Quill Archives
Q&A: Rebecca Wilson, Field editor – Indiana AgriNews
Q: Much of your beat involves livestock, how much time do you spend in the field? A: Some weeks, every day. Other weeks, not at all. I like to be in the field as much as possible, but there are other times where I need to work the phones as hard as possible.
April 1st, 2005 • Quill Archives
Stricter rules have many freelancers walking tight rope
Ethics. It’s a tight line to walk. Journalists live on trust and reputation. One ethical mishap affects all of us and the ever shrinking public trust. The biggest ethical issue is coming to terms with what it means to be “unbiased.”
From time to time, this column will feature your questions about professional development. I will strive to answer your questions fully before publication in this space. Thanks to all who have offered questions and, to others, keep them coming. Before tackling the questions posed to me, ethics is the theme for this issue, and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to discuss ethics and highlight the excellent staff at Poynter Institute.
I confess, I’m an idealist. That notion was reinforced after receiving training at the Ted Scripps Leadership Conference in 2003. (I’m an ‘I’ for those of you who have participated in the personality profile process.) So you’ll understand why I have this burning desire to make things better.
During the longest prison hostage situation in U.S. history, a virtual media blackout took place last year in Arizona when state officials pressured the media to withhold information about prison-guard hostages and the inmates who held them against their will. In a rare and controversial action, the media complied, choosing to believe the state’s claim that publishing or airing detailed information might lead to the deaths of the two guards.
Until a colleague mentioned it, Dana Slagle didn’t know she worked as the only black person, the only non-white person at all, in the small newsroom of The Herald-Palladium serving Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, Mich. “He said, ‘You’d think it was the early 1900s because there are no black reporters here,’ (and) that was the first time I’d realized it,” said Slagle, 34.