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How to get start as an. INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST. February 28, 2013 By: Karen Spring HSCI 825 Advocacy and Communication Simon Fraser University. Presentation Outline . Why be a journalist? Who can you write for? Six steps to writing a journalistic piece: - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


How to get started as an independent journalist

How to get start as anFebruary 28, 2013By: Karen SpringHSCI 825 Advocacy and CommunicationSimon Fraser University

INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTGood morning everyone. My name is Karen and

Today I will talking about How to get started as an independent journalist

1 Presentation Outline Why be a journalist? Who can you write for? Six steps to writing a journalistic piece: Step 1: Planning a story Step 2: ResearchStep 3: Making contact Step 4: The interview Step 5: Writing the storyStep 6: Dont get sued

** Tips along the way **

My Presentation is set up to get you writing your first piece Not writing an essay or a thesis. Getting over that writing paralysis or writers block 1) Why would you start writing for media or why be a journalism??2) Who you can write types of media to pitch stories to when youre first starting.

3) Go through the six steps that break down that writing process from the beginning to the end.Planning a storyDoing the researchSTEP 3: Making contact finding voices for your pieceDoing the interviewWriting the storyAnd the final step but very important: How NOT to get sued

Along the way, I will be giving you some tip and helpful suggestions that I have learned or others have shared with me. 2 Why would you start writing as a journalist? Advocacy strategy A way to get your work, experiences and viewpoints out there

A way to translate your research to the public

A great skill set

Why would you get started or what is it useful for?

Journalism great advocacy strategy reaching out to the public to advocate for a public health intervention A way to get your work, experiences and viewpoints out there

A way to translate your research sometimes its difficult to explain what youre studying or doing, journalism is a great way to express and explain your research so that many can understand. . A great skill set helps you write faster, explain things better and gives you perspective, not just writing a story but hearing feedback from your readers. 3For Who?

Independent Media pitching details on websites

Journalism skills is useful for many things: BlogsPamphletsNewslettersAgency websitesGovernmentNon-governmental organizations (NGOs)

Who can your write for when youre first starting?

Does anyone recognize or know any of the media names on the left?; Vancouver Media Coop; The Tyee; Canadian Dimension VMC, anyone can post their articles on their website once they are a member. All progressive, independent Canadian media online or print All are great places to get started or to pitch a story to

Pitching a story: See instructions on website a short summary of what you want to write

Keep in mind that these four and most media pay. The four I listed pay between $50-150 bucks per story and for main stream media, it can be quite a substantial amount.

Depends on 1) level of experience, 2) What type of story it is, 3) Who you are pitching it to.

Other reasons to write: Blogs (anyone have their own blog here?), Action alerts (the most useful for me), Pamplets, Newsletters, Agency website (you may be asked to write about what you ory our organization is doing, great skill set to have)4 Step 1: Planning a story Finding a story: Is it timely?Impactful?Relevant?Angle (community, local, national, etc) relevant to publisher?Whats the major tension?

Mapping the story

STEP ONE: Planning a story

Great way to find a story is to READ mainstream or independent media Is there a new drug? A new policy? A social determinant that is being ignored? Or an issue you are passionate about?

- Is it timely, impactful, relevant, what angle are you going to take, what is the major tension?

Press releases spark an idea Visit websites of health authorities, a watch dog or an NGO

Once you find what you want to write about

Mapping your story Where are you going with the story? Some write outlines- Some draw pictures Some bring out the big white board and start doodling away to figure out what angle they want to talk or what they will focus on. Remember: You dont have many words and space to get your views across.

There are two types of stories you can write: News of Features - differ in STYLE, VOICE, LENGTH

News: Who, what, where, when, why, how Good for hard news like a recent government decision or a specific action/intervention

Feature: Longer, more in-depth, narratives, dont have to be on something happening now.

Have to decide what kind of story you will be writing.

5 Step 2: Research Internet

Government & corporate websites

Advocacy groups

Health related organization - WHO, PHAC, CDC, etc.

*** Make sure they are verifiable ***

SOME PLACES TO GET STARTED: Canadian Think Tanks: - Canadian Centre for Policy AlternativesCouncil of Canadians well-reviewed studiesGovernment websites: Statistics CanadaParliament of Canada: Info on MPs, sessions of the House of Commons, Hansard (Debates)STEP 2: A step that we are all very familiar with but maybe in a different way. Step 2 is doing your research.

Starting your research generally forget academic journals.

Check out what is already out there on your topic

Internet obviousGovernment and corporate websitesAdvocacy groupsHealth related organizations World Health organization, Public health agency of canada, Centre for disease control, health authorities, etc.

Its important to make sure the sources are verifiable and that you can back up your claims.

The side chart are examples of some places to get started in your research just a few suggestions:

CCPA progressive think tank across all issues related to economics, healthcare and the environment. - Council of Canadians well reviewed studies and information on their websites Statistics Canada great source for quantitative data- Parliament of Canada MPs, Session of the House of Commons and the Hansard (transcripts of day to day debates in the H of Commons)- SEDAR information about companiesGuide to legal research in Canada will post link on website in case you need a legal angle 6 Step 3: Making Contact Finding a voice(s)Community or individual perspective: talk to those most affected

Do a call out using your networks, your friends, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Allow for different points of view diverging perspectives or the pros and cons

Step 3: Making contact or finding the voices that will be your quotes and sources in your article.

About a voice will shape what youre trying and what perspective to get across: Community, local or grassroots perspectives are often lost in main stream media always look to policy makers and politicians.

Use your own networks ask your friends, professors, organizations you have worked for good for investing in your network that is critical when youre a journalist

Allow for different view points doesnt mean you have to be balanced but recognize that there are pros and cons and diverging perspectives in any issues

Who is left out of the main stream media? Whose voices are often silenced? If this is particularly important to you. 7 Google the persons name with first 3 digits of area code or location- Government Database of experts (

Dont leave a message until youve called at least 3 timesBe persistent & firmMention if you have deadlines

Just show up

Try, if possible, & if needed to avoid the media rep (especially for investigative pieces)

Some TIPS on how to find interesting people and getting those GREAT quotes or sources that NO OTHER MEDIA WILL REPORT

Google the persons name Using Canada411; or govt database that lists experts

When you make contact via telephone Leaving a message might be a good thing but consider not b/c it gives people the option to ignore or avoid you. Be persistent and firm and MENTION if you have deadlines. People really respect knowing what time frame you are working with and will be more considerate in responding.

- Just show up Like those TV shows that just show up and put a camera in someones face catch them by surprise ESPECIALLY if they are ignoring you

- Try to avoid, the media rep Sometimes its good to go off the beaten path and talk to someone that hasnt been trained or isnt very very careful with their words. Its amazing how much really interesting quotes and NEW info Working on piece Drug Enforcement Administration Meeting that was set up last minute DEA official gave us soooo much information that we were able to publish that no other media outlet could get. Main stream media including the New Yorker and Al Jazeera were calling us weeks after we reqlized some of the quotes that he gave us. He was actually moved out of his position afterwords.

8Step 4: The Interview(s) Do your background research

Questions: Easy, open-ended and one at a time

How to end the interview 5 major ending questions:How do you spell your name?Do you have a specific title?Is there anything else youd like to add?Are quotes attributed to you or your organization?Is there anyone else I should talk to about this topic?

STEP FOUR: The interview **CHECK** Do you have to tell them that youre a journalist.

Probably the most nerve racking and difficult part of the process- getting what you need but being respectful.

- Before going do your background research about the issue and the person. Know their position and know what you want to ask or get to the bottom of

When asking questions make sure that you ask each, one by one avoid three part questions asking all at once

Dont interrupt if someone gets talking, let them keep going. You never know what they will say or reveal and it could be very useful to you.

Ask follow up and clarifying questions make sure you understand what they are telling you and if you dont understand something, clarify it.

When you have finished and are ending the interview, there are 5 questions that you should always consider to make sure you got what you need. 1) How do you spell your name? Misspelling someones name is not a good thing 2) Do you have a specific title?3) Is there anything else youd like to add?4) Are quotes attributed to you or your organization very important in case the person doesnt represent the organization or if they were sharing personal reflection and opinions. 5) Is there anyone else I should talk to about this topic? Great for networking !!9 Step 5: Writing the story Start: The Lede, a sentence or two that introduces your article. Opening paragraph: Who, what, where & when Middle: The Why and How Context and quotes

End: Dont summarize

STEP 5: Writing the story

Lots of people are familiar with writing we do it all the time for classes BUT because articles are generally much smaller and to the point than our research essays

Start: Articles open up with a Lede which is the introductory sentence or two that introduces the article or the topic. -Try to avoid opening with a quote. You want to set the scene so make sure you cover the Who, What, Where and when

Remember: not many people will read the entire article and generally the first paragraph will determine whether they keep reading or not.

Middle: The middle of the article is where you can get to more of the meat of the story.

This is where you get into the Why and How that puts the story in context.

Also where you include the quotes from your sources from Step 3 and 4 when you made contact and interviewed people.

END: Wrap up the story

Dont summarize Endings arent like conclusions of a 10 page paper so no need to summarize again. Either look forward or end with information that isnt as important

10 Step 6: Dont get sued! Libel Printed defamation Truth Fair comment Responsible Journalism

Doubtful? Consult a lawyer. Period.

STEP 6 and really important Dont get sued

Libel is the form of defamation that is published.

-Make sure youre telling the truth verify what youre saying if its questionable, have more than one source

Fair comment: Sometimes you may paint a picture of someone that that person doesnt like. If its accurate did not misquote someone and that the opinion you are expressing is one that a reasonable person would hold then you should be ok.

Responsible journalism: This is your best defense before the law if youre done your research, and prove that you acted responsibly, then you can argue on this basis.

Remember: Laws are different across the provinces. If in doubt, check with a lawyer ALWAYS. 11 Questions?

Thank you!12References

Paley, Dawn and Ling, Justin. (October 2011). So you want to write for the Media Coop? Vancouver Media Coop. Available at:

The Dominion. (no date). Write for the Dominion. Available at: