The Art of Freelance Journalism
How to Land a Freelance Journalism Job
Journalists often work alone, without a second set of eyes or the safety net of a group decision. Critics on the right argue that journalists hide behind a false objectivity that masks liberal worldviews or privileges a straight, white, male perspective.
A more diverse newsroom armed with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, relationships, skills and expertise can spot more stories. Attribute information until it can be independently verified.
How to Pitch a Story
Getting a story idea in front of an editor is one of the hardest steps to landing a freelance writing job. The key is preparing the right pitch at the right time.
A journalist’s inbox is cluttered with pitches and stories, and yours must stand out to be noticed. It helps to have a subject line that grabs attention, but you also want the rest of your pitch to be concise and clear.
According to Muck Rack’s State of Journalism, editors prefer pitches that are no more than three paragraphs in length. Including relevant and useful data is another way to make your pitch more appealing.
Rachel Charlton-Dailey, editor of “The Unwritten,” an online magazine that shares the stories of disabled people, suggests tying your story to current news values and issues. She says that editors will be more inclined to take your story seriously if it is not only timely but if it has a clear focus and if you have research, data or case studies that support the idea.
Writing a Story
A big part of being a journalist is finding and writing stories that people want to read. There are many steps that go into this, including researching the topic, interviewing sources, and writing the story. It is important to be factual and cite your sources. Journalists are held to a high standard and most credible news organizations have staff members dedicated to making sure the information they publish is accurate.
In addition to writing traditional text-based news articles, journalists also film documentaries, record podcasts, create photo essays, and help to run 24-hour TV broadcasts. In addition, the internet and social media have made it easier than ever for journalists to keep the public informed on a wide variety of topics. Whether they are reporting on hard news, such as politics or the economy, or soft news, like celebrity gossip or lifestyle issues, journalism plays an essential role in our society. It takes a keen mind, an able pen and a facility with language to succeed in this profession.
Getting a Story Pitch
Journalists receive many pitches each day, and even an amazing one can fall flat if it’s not delivered at the right time. As such, a journalist should consider their deadlines and what their audience may be interested in before sending a pitch.
It’s also important to take into account a journalist’s previous coverage on the subject matter. This can help you determine whether your article is a new angle on an old topic, or an attempt to repackage existing research.
In the same vein, journalists are looking for newsworthy angles that can bring their audiences new information and a fresh perspective. For example, a story about the effects of tax reform could be a new take on an old development or it could highlight how individual taxpayers are affected by changes to the system. Either way, it needs to be timely or it won’t be newsworthy. Timeliness is a major factor in how often editors pick up and publish stories.
Journalists spend a great deal of time immersed in their work, examining resources and materials to uncover reliable data. They are charged with educating themselves on topics so that they can distill complex issues into bite size tidbits for their readers.
A journalist needs to rely on facts in order to maintain the public’s trust. They are not allowed to bend the truth for their own purposes or to promote a particular viewpoint. They must present the entire picture, including all sides of a story.
Once they have the green light to pursue a story, journalists begin gathering elements such as interviews, photos, video and other pertinent details. Then, they work through the story, ensuring that all of the information flows in a logical progression from start to finish. This style of reporting is called “tight” writing within journalistic standards. Each paragraph should add new information to the story, avoiding repetition of the same information.