Modern Journalist Toolkit 11: Freelancing in the era of Trump with Ray Joseph

Modern Journalist Toolkit 11: Freelancing in the era of Trump with Ray Joseph

“Alternative facts.” Real-time verification. Journalists arrested or alienated when covering the president. If the 45th U.S. president is in power for four years, we have 47 months to go. What does Donald Trump mean for us as freelance writers? Some important insights about working in the new now come from those who have worked in […]

7 most popular posts of 2016

7 most popular posts of 2016

Would you be surprised to hear that this Backstory blog was originally conceived of as a place to post comics about what goes on behind the scenes when writing articles? A few years ago, I was not imagining that I would be making videos, teaching freelance writers how to pitch, leading goal-planning challenges, or even […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 10: Color Me Quick

Modern Journalist Toolkit 10: Color Me Quick

One antidote to overresearching, overreporting, overthinking, and overwriting is a really tight deadline. This video offers some takeaway tips on quick reporting in the field: For many freelancers, breaking news is part of a mix that keeps things fresh and exciting. For writers who are used to working in isolation, there’s a satisfying sense of […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 9: Long-distance clients and time zones

Modern Journalist Toolkit 9: Long-distance clients and time zones

Choosing to work with far-flung freelance clients typically requires two schedule modifications. The first is a flexible attitude, and the other is a system to manage the different time zones. Flexibility with your schedule Your existing commitments may mean that you can’t or don’t want to work in the mornings, evenings, weekends, local holidays, etc. If you […]

“Just” an interview vs. THE interview

“Just” an interview vs. THE interview

During a very long delay at the Atlanta airport, way back when, I sat on the floor and read my first longform interview in Rolling Stone magazine. It was my foray into reading adult publications. I was enthralled by the in-depth conversations about the creative process, life on the road, and the surprisingly unglamorous backstories […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 8: Saving time with sourcing services

Modern Journalist Toolkit 8: Saving time with sourcing services

So tell me, are you that incredibly well-connected writer who always knows the savvy, witty person to contact for insight and comment on every story, regardless of topic or audience? Is your contacts list completely up-to-date? Does everyone immediately take your call, or respond within minutes to your messages? No? Me neither. But I am […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 7: Three-minute marketing makeover

Modern Journalist Toolkit 7: Three-minute marketing makeover

The humble email signature is one of the overlooked workhorses of your marketing efforts as a freelance writer. You are more likely focusing on the brilliant idea you’re developing and pitching, but the contact details you provide give you an opportunity to come across as thoughtful and professional—or not. In the worst-case scenario, your signature […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 6: Yusuf Omar on Reporting with Snapchat

Modern Journalist Toolkit 6: Yusuf Omar on Reporting with Snapchat

Yusuf Omar is a cell-phone trailblazer. He finds unconventional uses for apps like Snapchat, Facebook Live, and 360 video for telling serious news stories, most of which are viewed on small screens. Omar is the new mobile editor at the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest English newspapers, with a print circulation of more than […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 5: Taking Notes & Recording Interviews

Modern Journalist Toolkit 5: Taking Notes & Recording Interviews

I put fresh batteries into my tape recorder shortly before I hopped on the DC Metro for my interview with Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. I’d pulled a personal favor with somebody who in turn asked for a favor to get me the private face time, and I’d done all my due diligence […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 4: How to Make a Phone Call

Modern Journalist Toolkit 4: How to Make a Phone Call

Right after I finished this video about making phone calls, my cell phone company announced that it is raising its rates by 40 percent. I’m unlikely to get around such a major price hike by relying on one of the myriad phone apps I’ve tried, such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber. They have a variety […]

Can I quote you on that?

Can I quote you on that?

Quotes aren’t necessary when submitting a query to an editor, which is one reason why including a good one can make a pitch really stand out. A proposal should have the same DNA as the final story. Original reporting brings new insight and life to most articles; even if it’s a given you’ll be speaking […]

Which comes first, the story or the market?

Which comes first, the story or the market?

Looking for story ideas first and then scrambling for market suggestions often doesn’t work out in the long run. It likely took me a while to figure this out because that method is so common amongst freelance writers that it appears as if it’s the way things are done. Freelance forums typically have a bunch […]

Real success, real failure, real people

Real success, real failure, real people

On the ever growing list of “Who Remembers How These Things Worked Before the Internet?” is the finding of so-called real people for articles–that is, people who will speak on the record about their own personal experiences. Rather than an expert trend analyst who comments on data, these people are in fact a single data […]