Clips in the digital age

Put down your scissors, my fellow journalists.

If you need to send clips to an editor, press agency or competition, the days of taping newsprint to card stock or loose paper are gone.

Below read my advice about making clean, crisp clips or risk seeming downright dusty.

For generations, reporters have been judged by their clips: their printed work, traditionally clipped right out of newsprint.

While (some) newspapers will have another generation of (some) print, journalists should already abandon the old method of creating a portfolio.

You should have any clip of yours worth sending in four forms – with the volatility of the market today that goes for established writers, too – in a text document, as a PDF, printed, looking clean, and on a Web site, available for linking, all part of your journalism tool box.

Suppose your work ran in the print edition and, while you could grab it from the newspaperdotcom as text, you want that pretty design. Are you friends with a designer who could nab you whatever version of the paper is sent to the publisher? Often that is a PDF, which you can digitally save for eternity, save as an image in a text document and print with ease and clarity.

I’ve worked at papers, though, that took very seriously doling out their PDFs. (This is another way they’re behind, newspapers should monetize this process for readers who want a print copy of a story and should be able to easily give these clean clips to their writers.)

Next easiest is if your story ran on the cover. I go through the same above process with PDFs of my front-page stories I grabbed from Newseum the day they ran.

If that’s not an option, get yourself a handy scanner (a tool some printers have and multimedia journalists might think about getting) and bring in your designed clips. Jees, no scanner? Copy the text and artwork from the newspaperdotcom, arrange them accordingly on a text document and figure it out. (Microsoft Paint or Paintbrush for Macs is your best friend for those of you without graphic imaging software.)

The point with all of this, again, is to give you mobility. With a printed, text and PDF version available for long-term archiving that won’t reduce image o text quality, you’re always ready to mail or e-mail your work and can organize your work.

Put your printed versions in a binder, your text versions in Google Documents and your PDFs on a hard drive. Really, you also should have copies of or links to your clips on a Web site, even if you don’t blog. That way when you e-mail editors, you can give them a quick link to your clips, instead of cluttering their inbox with attachments.

Remember that ultimately, there are two priorities for your clips: your lede and the publication.

Otherwise, editors will likely want to know if the story was your own idea, how you reported on it and if there was any follow-up.

Making your clips look good, any editor will say, is not as important, but certainly a way to show your care and knowledge. You should also leverage your available tools to make them available easily. Don’t wait for an internship, award or job-posting deadline.

Any other advice or thoughts on your clips?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia.