Advice to up and coming journalists that THE GOSSIP GAME won't teach you

Last night I attended the New York City premiere party for The Gossip Game. If you haven't heard it's a new VH1 reality show that follows 7 media personalities in different stages of their careers. From radio personalities to editors of well-known publications and even bloggers who they are portraying as the bottom of the barrel in the media industry. Many were hoping that the show would showcase the hustle and bustle of what it takes to be in this industry moreso then drama but let's be real.. if Mona Scott is involved did you really think ethnic women were going to be on TV looking intelligent? I think not so let's just move on.

During the premiere there was a scene with an "up and coming" print journalist where she was making a pitch to an editor of a well known print and online publication. This is what sparked this post. It couldn't be the furthest thing from the truth. No way is an up and coming journalist that hasn't written anything for any credible publication before going to get the opportunity to sit down with an Editor at a well known magazine to pitch an article. Hell you can barely even get them to return an email when they aren't familiar with you so since this show is only going to give you a sensationalized view (because they are wearing more make-up then 10 seasons of cast members on RuPauls' drag race) of what's in like to be a woman in media in New York City, I felt the need to give some advice. If Editors had time to sit down and take verbal pitches from writers they wouldn't have any time to edit any pieces.

Since the show was announced loads of college journalism majors have been tweeting about the show hoping it will give them insight on how to get their feet wet. Granted I've only seen one episode but it doesn't seem like it will be that. I also get loads of messages on my linkedin inbox asking how I got my start and some advice on how they can get in.

Now in no way, shape or form am I a print journalist and I never wanted to be one. I don't even feel like I'm a good writer most days but that doesn't mean I won't know how you can succeed if that's what you want to do so here goes.

  1. Get a writing mentor. This is the first thing you should be doing if this is what you really want to do. Whether it is one of your professors, the editor of your school newspapers, or if you have access of getting to one of your favorite journalists that's even better. You should never be pitching to editors when starting out without other eye balls seeing your work before the editors because if you send them something terrible the first go round, the possibility of them opening your emails in the future is slim to none.
  2. Have an interesting or compelling perspective with an angle. The couple pieces I've written for online publications I never had to pitch. The editor knew of my work and wanted a raw opinion about a particular subject matter so they came to me. With a world full of writers you have to make an editor feel like they need your perspective to make their publication pop. Think outside the box. And really know the publication you are pitching to. Just because the ideal publication that you wanted your piece to go turned it down doesn't mean it won't be a good fit for another. Never take the first no as the definite answer.
  3. Do not just send a potential article to pitch emails. Do your research and find out who the editors are and cc them on your pitch. If you can't find their email anywhere online search for anyone's email from that company. I'm sure there is at least one person there that has their email online somewhere. Then you will know the prefix in which the publication uses for their email and can plug in the correct information for the edtior you are trying to reach. Find anything like the below online and it's just as good as having anyone in the company's email as long as you know their name. or
  4.  Read, read, and read some more. You should be constantly reading articles by your favorite writers that write about the subject matter you want to write about. Whether it's relationships, music, lifesttyle, beauty etc you should have favorite writers. No one can be a great writer that isn't reading themselves.
  5. Be prepared to have a real job as well. The life of a freelancer is a tough one and often times you won't know when you will get paid for your pieces. Some publications are great and you're paid within 2 weeks. Others you will have to chase them down four months later because you still haven't received your check.
  6.  Have an online resume of your work. Whether it's starting a personal blog or just posting links to pieces on your linkedin account. And if you feel a piece is really good and no publication picked it up still post it online. You never know who is watching and you always have to let some things go for free before getting paid for them. 
  7. Last but not least, network, network and network some more. Via social media, take writing workshops, go to conferences like NABJ, etc. Be at all the places that people who have the job you want will be. Have business cards and plenty of questions prepared when attending. But don't think you have to be on the scene all the time if you are in a big city which is what The Gossip Game seems to portray. Real writers don't have time to be out and about at events all the time being seen because they are on deadline.

1 comment

Anonymous March 31, 2013 at 1:29 AM

Thank you thank you thank you!
I hadn't heard of this show yet, but glad I seen your post first. Definitely taking notes off your post.

with love,

an aspiring writer.

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