Archives for posts with tag: Print Journalism

Advice from Madeleine White

Whether you like it or not, selling yourself is a part of journalism. The art of freelancing is not that dissimilar to the art of selling shoes. You have to convince your customer (in this case an editor) that you’re knowledgeable about the product that you’re pitching, and that it’s good.

It’s been my experience that many journalists hate to talk about themselves, let alone their strengths. The good news is that a well-written pitch can let your work do most of the talking, but you also have be prepared to back it with some ego and expertise. To help build your confidence, here are five strategic points to consider when you’re putting a pitch together.

1) Do your research first.

Figure out which section of the website/paper your story would go in and then find out who is the editor. This may require that you make a phone call or two. Once you’ve found the decision-making editor, get their business email address and phone number.

2) Keep it short.

These section editors are usually incredibly busy people, assigning their own staff to stories, managing freelancers and working under constant pressure to produce award-winning journalism. Do not send them a pitch that is over 250 words long. They won’t read it.

Things to include in your pitch email are:

  • the nut graf of your piece (this gives the editor a sense of your writing style as well as the essence and importance of your story)
  • a brief (one, two sentences maximum) reason why you are the best person to write this piece (do you have an inside edge? are you more knowledgeable than others on the topic?)
  • the time line of your piece (is it embargoed news? can you have it done in less than a day?)

3) Give enough detail to intrigue the editor but don’t ruin the surprise.

A major fear with pitching is that the editor will take your idea and assign it to one of their reporters. There is no way to prevent this from happening, but one way to decrease the chance is to give only a bit of the story. Choose one tantalizing detail. But that’s it. You can also be a little coy and suggest there is more where that came from but make sure there is. There is nothing worse than a pitch tease.

4) Don’t expect to make riches at first.

Different sections pay different amounts for the a story of the same length, so try to freelance for different editors. But don’t balk at an offer. As a young journalist you need the clippings more than you need the money. Shitty medicine, but something we all have to swallow.

5) If someone takes you up on your pitch, work your ass off.

A big factor in freelancing is your reputation. As a rookie freelancer, you need to prove that you can develop your pitch into an engaging, well-written story on time. No pressure, right? Good work will help solidify professional relationships and once you’ve been published by an editor it’s a lot easier to go back and get published again.

Remember to keep trying if your first pitch isn’t successful. Like anything in journalism, it can be hard but it’s totally worth it when you do succeed.

Happy freelancing!

About Madeleine

    Madeleine White

  • J-school: MJ at Ryerson University, undergrad in Women’s Studies, Political Science and Zoology at UofT
  • Publications: Toronto Star
  • Platforms: web, print, video
  • Twitter: @mjwhite27
  • Most notorious piece of work: Why I look good naked
  • Previous incarnations: Political staffer from 2006 to 2009, Running Room manager

Advice from William Wolfe-Wylie

There are so many ways to succeed in journalism, it’s impossible to count them. What’s important to realize is that everyone must forge their own path based on their own passions, ambitions, loves and fears. The admirable list of bright young minds that Fabiola Carletti has compiled on this site is a testament the diversity of our chosen profession.

Sarah Millar is one of the most driven young journalists I know. Every piece of work she does, every decision she makes, every interview she conducts is of the highest professional standard she is capable of producing, and geared toward making herself a better journalist. She is a professional and her path to success reflects that: strong decisions, unparalleled drive and a head for learning on the fly.

Erin Millar, on the other hand, hates the idea of working 9-5 hours. She’s a musician, a bit of a hippy, loves to travel and has more ideas pouring out of her brilliant mind that anyone could collect. Her drive to become one of Canada’s top young professional freelancers is an evolution from these personal traits. Her desire to make her name, to achieve the highest professional standard, drove her to write her book and write for magazines most journalists don’t breach until they’re 15 years older than she.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey is smart and refuses to accept that there’s any such thing as bad news. I’ve never met a man more persistent, more optimistic and always able to work with a smile on his face. His work with OpenFile was a direct result of his community engagement, incredible knowledge of local issues, and desire to tell the stories of the everyday person. Nick loves, and it’s love that drives him forward.

Since 2003, I have been volunteering at conferences for the Canadian University Press, helping young people get their foot in the door. I offer one-on-one writing critiques to help them improve their craft and also help them to find freelance work when I think they’re ready for it. There are a few people I’m keeping my eye on to see how they develop professionally, some even at UBC right now. None of them mirror the images of the bright young people on this website. They are each forging their own paths, according to their own talents and passions.

Over the past seven years, “how do I make it in journalism” has been the second most common question that students I’ve worked with have asked. The most common is “how do I get better at my craft.” That, to me, is more telling than anything. So as you flow through this page, take every piece of advice you agree with, and disregard every piece you don’t. Filter everything through yourself. Spend some time being introspective, as terrifying a prospect as that can be. Figure out what drives you, what you love, and pursue those passions. Make friends, whether for networking or to share war stories. Call on them when times get rough, because they will. Pick yourself up when you fall, because you will. Never stop reading. Never stop paying attention. Love what you do, and if ever you stop loving it, have the courage to change it, because you’ll want to.

This is an enormously competitive and changing industry, but there is room for everyone who works hard.

Work hard.

About William

William Wolfe-Wylie

  • Name: William Wolfe-Wylie
  • J-school: None. B.A. in History from Mount Allison University
  • Current/Past employers: Current: Quebecor
  • Publications: Each of QMI Agency/Sun Media’s 200+ newspapers, Rabble.ca, Via Rail’s travel magazine, others.
  • Platforms: Print/online
  • Twitter: @wolfewylie
  • Sample work:

Laser attacks on planes on the rise
Social Networking and Gender Categories

Fair Trade Jewlery May Have Bright Future

Eyes on the Prize

Dungeons and Dragons banned from U.S. prisons

Remembrance Day hits home

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