A story killed and resurrected
Throughout my years of freelance writing, there is one recurring situation that is genuinely tricky to prevent: the story that gets killed because the assigning editor leaves the publication. You might think that the new editor would be so busy trying to get up to speed that the last thing they’d do is kill a piece that’s already been slated. But for a myriad of reasons, these stories often get caught in limbo and never make it into print.
I had this happen earlier this year without even realizing it. I’d been commissioned a big food trends story for a Cape Town magazine toward the end of 2013 that was expected to be a cover story. Lots of reporting on relatively short notice. It was delayed one month, than another. I was busy with other deadlines in 2014, and by the time I noticed that it still hadn’t run, my editor, who was no longer working there, told me that she thought it had been killed and that she was sorry that nobody had let me know.
Well, feh. This was a tightly briefed assignment–but it is a good reminder of why never to write on spec. I had lots of good reporting, but the long piece was written with an angle very much for the publication’s specific audience. Not a chance that I could just pick it up and sell it to another mag.
Not too long after this, I was asked if I could do a piece about the food and wine scene in Cape Town. As you can imagine, it was pretty quick work to put together a proposal. In the end, I was able to salvage and rework about a third of the original piece for ‘The Cape Crusaders’, a food trends piece for Australia’s TravelTalk magazine.