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Questions on freelancing

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Kurt Evans, Oct 7, 2006.

  1. Kurt Evans

    Kurt Evans New Member

    Hey, folks. I've got a few questions to ask...

    I'm a sports blogger with very limited experience writing for the press. I'm interested in trying to do some freelance work for newspapers, but I'm not exactly sure about who to contact or what to say. I have written an article about MLB teams and their relationships with blogs, in which I contacted and interviewed officials from more than a half dozen teams in the league, as well as the MLB front office. But what do I do now? How do I get the attention of a newspaper? Am I wasting my time?


  2. joe king

    joe king Active Member

  3. Kurt Evans

    Kurt Evans New Member

    Ah. Thank you for your candor.
  4. joe king

    joe king Active Member

    Ah, it's just a gag. Fetch me a beer, newbie.
  5. joe king

    joe king Active Member

    Seriously, are you trying to work locally or nationally? Locally, you contact the sports eidtor of your local paper and tell him or her that you'd like to do some stringing and to let you know what might be available. With your limited experience, they might make you go through some kind of trial run, and you won't get glamorous assignments (if you get any), but you might get started.

    Nationally? My original answer stands until you get some experience and some clips.
  6. Kurt Evans

    Kurt Evans New Member

    I figured you were playing bait the newbie. Better to go "thank you sir" than to get pissy.

    Locally, I live in Toronto. I might be able to get some sort of gig with a small press paper, but I would be shocked if the Star or Sun gave me a chance. The thing is, I've researched and written the article I mentioned in the first post. I want to sell it somewhere. Last resort, I put it on my blog but that's not really going to help me get any sort of stringer job.

    Something I've thought about doing is taking some of my better blog articles and sending them to a sports editor just to get my name out there. Of course, I realize that a blog is a considerably different beast than a newspaper and the style can be drastically different, but it would at least show that I can write a coherent sentence and story.

    Is it worth going the route of mailing or E-Mailing sports editors my stories?
  7. sartrean

    sartrean Member

    If you want to be a stringer for your local paper, joe king summed it up, and I'll add many weekly newspapers are oftentimes in need of stringers to help cover prep sports.

    And generally speaking, if you're lucky, you might get to cover a girls basketball game in which one team blows out the other team 78-20. Or you might get a boys soccer game that ends 15-1. Hey, that's prep sports for you.

    In those situations, you'll need to dazzle your SE, and really look for something interesting rather than using 350 words to say Hometown High whipped the crap outta Podunk High. Then he or she may give you some games that have the potential to be good games (I'd say 75 percent of all high school sporting events are lopsided).

    But if you want my advice, stringing is a great second job, and really easy money. Since you're a part-timer, you probably won't get the 25 or 30 nasty emails a day like the SE at the local weekly gets. You also don't have to design your pages, or edit photos, which can take forever, and you don't have to listen to a pile of garbage from your publisher who's raking it in on the sweat of yours and others' labor.

    But if you're looking to break into the sports writing for newspapers or magazines, I'd strongly suggest you go to law school or go to college and get a degree in computer programming, because print media as an industry is on its deathbed.

    Short answer: great part-time job, you'll be penniless and insane if you do it full time, and you can say goodbye to any kind of normal life if you get into print media as a career or regular job.
  8. sartrean

    sartrean Member

    What you should do is find a potential local story, it could be a newsy or a feature story (the latter is easier to find), write 400-500 words on it, get a photo, send it to a local SE at either a daily or weekly, and they may contact you to run it. Give them the first one, then if they like your writing if they need some help, they'll contact you about being a regular stringer. At that time you can wow them with your national, pro sports stuff.

    Years ago, I had a guy contact me who did a feature story on a local kid who made good, he was pitching in the major leagues. I'd been at that paper for about six months and had no idea that pitcher was from that area. the guy did a great feature, and had quotes from the kid (by then an adult, but all athletes are "kids" to me).

    I contacted that writer, paid him for the story, and he was my main stringer for like six years. He was very dependable and one of the few stringers I've ever had that did features. Most want to go to games and watch Hometown slaughter Podunk 168-0.

    When I first got the dude's feature story, I figured it was just some crap from some local hack that was about 90 percent opinion and the rest blather, but this dude knew how to write and he was a local lawyer as his regular profession.
  9. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    when he says dazzle, he means write something that doesn't suck on deadline for starters. if you can do that, you'll have the opportunity to dazzle ... but oh is it going to take time. i have a shitload of stringers to choose from. i have them listed in my "stringer" file starting with the one that sucks the least to the one the sucks the most.

    i think you can see where i'm going with this. if i need something, i start at the top and ...

    and btw, your one clip is just that, one clip, accept that and get over that now. also, is it even a clip?
  10. Kurt Evans

    Kurt Evans New Member

    Thanks for the advice, sartrean. I'm not particularly interested in being a full-time journalist, although being a stringer would be an interesting experience. It's a little too late for me to go to college and grab another degree, I already have one in communications. I am also not a great web designer (yet), but my photoshopping skills have landed me part-time work with a Chicago paper called the Heckler, so I have that going for me.

    My basic long-term plans have little to do with sports writing, although I really enjoy the work I do right now. I definitely plan to keep my work in electronic media as a second occupation. We believe our blog will pull in at least 10k next year from advertising, and a partner and I are working on a non-sports site that might be able to generate a lot more cash than that, which really isn't bad for part-time work.

    But basically, I get the feeling that I'm not going to find a buyer any time soon. I'm probably putting the cart in front of the horse. I'll give stringing a try.
  11. Kurt Evans

    Kurt Evans New Member

    TP - I haven't said anything about having a clip, although I've started to do podcasting which, again, is not the same thing. Unless you mean something different from the "web media" term, which means having an audio or visual file to go along with a print story.

    Just a random question. If I applied for work at a small-town paper, would my blogging experience carry any weight with the editors?
  12. sartrean

    sartrean Member

    I'd suggest sticking with that web site stuff. It's going to take off. Just be patient. More people, in my opinion, read web based sites nowadays because who the hell wants to actually buy a subscription to something?

    Different parts of the country are different than others, and I'm guessing you're not even in my country -- but up there in the land of Anne Murray and where they call ham "bacon."

    But in my neck of the woods, ad people tell me they can't sell web based ads to save their lives, even when they have the numbers of how many times sites are visited. But I bet that is different elsewhere, and I'd venture to predict that web based ads will eventually take off everywhere, especially with wireless becoming more available and loading speeds growing faster and faster.

    and Joe again hit the nail on the head, but in my world of weekly print media, I've never had many stringers. Once they find out it's like $50 an assignment and there's actual work to it, no one wants to do it. The ones who do usually suck at it, meaning they don't want to have to talk to people, but just write their opinions ad infinitum. I've always had a bunch of high school kids wanting to be stringers, but their writing sucks and they do it once, and then you never hear from them again. I've always had a hard time finding good stringers.

    Now that I'm soon to be unemployed, I'm going to work as a stringer, provided I can get paid cash and it won't screw up my unemployment check. I already know of one prep sports site that's eventually going to pay qualified writers and reporters to send in feature material. I also know of a few independent papers in my area that need good stringers, I just hope they'll pay cash.
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