Turning down the self-promotion

We are stuck in an echo chamber, a friend said to me recently.

While the digital divide is slowly lessening and more people are online all the time, there is a very small community that is always repeating itself  on whatever the social media of the moment is – lately that has been Twitter, of course.

I’m part of it, no doubt. Because our society today demands self-promotion, or so it seems. The echo chamber is so small and there are so many people talking – mostly about the same things – that it’s tough to be heard over it all.

Your post or your story or your A1 article is getting buried, surely a big part of why newspapers are faltering. The democratization of the Web has given megaphones to anyone with an Internet connection, so no longer does your daily newspaper have the same pedastal.

So, if you want to be heard, you flee to MySpace, or Facebook or Twitter or on your blog or wherever else.  I believe that you have to put yourself everywhere online if you want to compete in a media field of your choice. But it’s easy to cross over from active self-promotion to incessant self-indulgence.

I’ve done it myself, so here’s my pledge to do better.

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What is your blog's focus?

You should be blogging, even if casually and infrequently and briefly.

I’ve already said that journalists of all stripes, anyone interested in media, research or anything in which your writing, your name and your credibility is best served defended and re-defended somewhere it can be found.

One of the best reasons to traipse into this fad — and, of course, blogging is fad for now, fashion, perhaps, later, because we won’t know of its longevity for some time — is because there is no better way to develop a voice and a focus. These are, they tell me and tell me and tell me again, central qualities to all writers of note and consequence, indeed, even writers and speakers and thinkers of even relative success.

And it’s harder than you might think.

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PSPA: Eleven Ways to Improve Your Student Publication Today

Speaking to a few dozen high school newspaper staffers at the PSPA conference on Friday.

Speaking to a few dozen high school newspaper staffers at the PSPA conference on Friday.

On Friday, I was a highlighted speaker at the at the 76th annual Pennsylvania School Press Association conference.

Below I’ve shared the notes I handed out during my first presentation. I also shared ChristopherWink.com/Improve-Student-Newspapers.

I chose to speak on, “Eleven Ways to Improve Your Student Publication Today,” for the following reason:

I always think the best value of a conference like this, particularly for high school kids (I remember being bored out of my mind at these), is immediate take-away. I’ve collected some awfully simple, but delightfully practical items a student newspaper or magazine might implement right away and improve the product. I’m focusing on online promotion and dissemination, multimedia organization and Web presence.

Below see what I listed during my presentation.

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PSPA Conference speaker: Maybe I'm in over my head


A portion of the PSPA conference guide.

Today I’m in State College, Pa. perhaps making a fool of myself at the 76th annual Pennsylvania School Press Association conference.

I was thrilled when someone asked me in December if I’d like to speak to high school kids about multimedia storytelling and online publications. (Apparently people do read this thing!) I thought it even neater when I was e-mailed a draft of the conference guide.

Then I saw just below the first-page biography of keynote speaker Tim Harrower, an author and newspaper designer, two speaker highlights. The first is of Steve Manuel, a Penn State professor, former Department of Defense spokesman and, um, apparently a buddy of comedian Dane Cook.

The second name? Well, it was this young freelancer. I’m humbled and excited. See what I’ll be covering after the jump. If you’re there, well, gosh, let’s do lunch.

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Redundancy: the art form of the freelancer

"Redundancy" by Will Pate.

I wrote a story for Philadelphia Weekly on theatrical performance commissioned by the Village of Arts and Humanities. I also blogged it for uwishunu and pitched it to friends at KYW News Radio and the Inquirer.

Though KYW covered it on its own, and the Inqy will do the same for another round of the performances, I took a single story and group of interviews and sent out different pitches with separate angles on the same subject.

With a little more effort, I got more pay, clips and contacts — without needing fresh sources.

In the increasingly difficult game of freelance writing, redundancy is a skill you need to know and we all need to improve.

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Why I won't contribute to the Huffington Post and you shouldn't either

I recently finished a story on spec and had my editor balk at the story.

The general rule is freelancers shouldn’t write without a promise of pay, but it was a story I didn’t find particularly challenging, did find interesting and was for a new publication, some reasons that motivate me to take a chance. So, I was more – although perhaps wrongly – accepting of the demand that I write first before I elicited an agreement.

In telling my sources that I was shopping new homes for the story, I got a suggestion from one source, E. Jean Carrol, the venerable Elle magazine advice columnist.

“Send it to Huffington,” she offered, but, “They don’t pay.  It is ALL glory!”

For now, I’m choosing to sit on the story — one in a frustratingly growing class of stories I’ve written and then eaten. Huffington Post, the uproariously popular liberal news and opinion blog, is not getting my work, and it shouldn’t get yours.

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Down with cover letters: Why journalists don't need them

Don’t ask me to write a cover letter for a journalism job.

Right now reporting gigs are nearly impossible to come upon for the talented peers of mine looking for industry work – some have already moved on.

Some jobs may still be available, but really, despite their struggles and job loss, one newspaper department is as powerful as ever: human resources.

Below see how I think the job-hiring process should go.

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How to start a freelance writing career without writing samples

Suppose you’ve started a career in another field and look back somehow longingly on the print industry.

You want to freelance on the side, make some cash and rekindle the love with the sight of your byline by slumming it in the currently self-destructing print industry. But, of course, if you have any writing samples or clips they’re outdated, if not lost, irrelevant or, dare I say, embarrassing.

That doesn’t mean you can’t begin a freelance writing career today.

Get online, start small, aim big and try not to take any work from me, OK?

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The Franklin: what I learned from leading a high school student newspaper

The stairway of the Franklin Learning Center that I took to Mr. Sedwin's classroom each week.

You’re supposed to learn from teaching, or something like that.

I suppose with that knowledge in hand, I knew I’d learn something when, two years ago, I first walked into the Franklin Learning Center, a magnet high school in the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia.

I was there to help launch a student newspaper. I, too, was a student, writing for The Temple News, the college newspaper of Temple University.

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