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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PW: Did Philadelphia ambulance response time kill a woman?

In yesterday’s Philadelphia Weekly I shared the story of Vlad Glikman, who blames a failure in Philadelphia’s ambulatory system for the death of his mother.

Jan. 20, 2008: Glikman receives a frantic call from his 81-year-old father telling him that his mother, Adalina, is unconscious in their Somerton apartment in the Northeast. His father says a private ambulance company, Century, is on the way. Twenty minutes later, Glikman arrives at his parents’ home and finds his mother on the ground, still unconscious, with no ambulance in sight. His father calls Century again, but according to Glikman, the ambulance driver says he can’t get his engine started due to the blistering cold. Desperate to save his mother, Glikman dials 911. Fifteen minutes later—far too late by most national standards—a city-dispatched ambulance arrives just in time to pronounce her dead. Read the rest here.

While it focuses on Glikman, the story serves as an update from a May 2006 story by Mike Newall on Philadelphia’s poor ambulance response times.

Read the story, comment, then com on back, as always, and see what didn’t make it into the final story.

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Inquirer: Why are there so many aspiring librarians?

Susan Davis teaches a library-science class at Drexel, where enrollment in the program has grown more than threefold since 2000. Retirements are opening jobs for librarians. Photo by DAVID M WARREN.

Susan Davis teaches a library-science class at Drexel, where enrollment in the program has grown more than threefold since 2000. Retirements are opening jobs for librarians. Photo by DAVID M WARREN.

I try to tackle the contrast between contracting libraries in Philadelphia and a surge in library-sciences programs at regional colleges in a story for today’s Style & Soul section of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

You might think librarians are going the way of card catalogs.

After all, many of Philadelphia’s Free Library branches are on the chopping block come summer, and the number of public school librarians have dropped by half in the past 15 years.Yet local colleges tell a different story.

At a time when free access to Internet, books, movies and lectures is more important than ever, libraries across the country — where many librarians are graying and retiring — are seeking skilled information specialists, trained and college-educated in the library sciences. Library science programs here are filling the need. Read the rest here.

Go there, check out the story, comment and then come back here for the extras that didn’t make it into the full story.

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The cost of the phone interview for freelance journalsits: how do you charge, what do you use?

Updated: 3/9/09 at 8:56 p.m.

Newspapers and many magazines don’t cover freelance expenses, like telephone calls.

What gives? Doing some quick math – and the 15 cents per minute phone call I use from my cell-phone plan to charge those publications that do accept my charges – I expect to spend at the very least more than one hour on the phone per story. Yeah, that’s about $10.

Ten bucks isn’t a chunk of change in the eyes of even the most crippled newspaper, but that does mean I spent more than $100 in additional phone charges last month.

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Seven habits of highly effective freelance journalists

I have difficulty finding time to relax, freelancer Chris Hardwick says. (Photo by Sian Kennedy)

"I'll be honest: I have difficulty finding time to relax", freelancer Chris Hardwick says. (Photo by Sian Kennedy)

Chris Hardwick, a freelancer and contributor to Wired magazine, rocked out two popular self-help, time-management guides – the Four Hour Work Week and Never Check Your E-mail in the Morning – and broke it down for the average freelance journalist or writer.

Well, as a freelancer myself, I am often looking for better methods to save time and accomplish more. So, when I saw another noted self-help guide, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, was giving away a free audio-book, I nabbed it and put it on my Zune.

I thought I could break down Stephen R. W. Covey’s 1988 cult hit for you freelancers out there.

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Number of Views:5062