>Yesterday I wrote about the Christian Science Monitor canceling its daily print newspaper after 100 years to go almost totally online. Today, it was announced that PC Magazine is also ceasing its print publication and will be published only online. This thick mag used to be like the Bible for computer nuts. Although it doesn’t have the history of the Monitor, it certainly has the heft. This is scary stuff, my friends.
For more scary stuff, check out the blog Taking Notes, which I found because I wanted to start a new blog by that title. Scooped! But the author has a lot of hard facts about the state of newspapering these days. Take a look.
Yikes, right. But don’t throw away your pen or smash your computer. Journalism, whether freelance or staff, is not going away; it’s going online. Whatever medium it appears in, your writing is still going to be needed. With the speed and unlimited space of the Internet, you may find more opportunities than ever. I’ll be checking them out along with you.
You may or may not notice that I have added a plus sign to the title of this blog. If I stick to just newspapers, I can’t possibly keep up with the times. The media are changing faster than the price of gas these days. So we will look at other freelance outlets, as well as newspapers. Indeed many newspaper companies put out a media package these days, which includes not only the print publication, but an online version, a blog, extra online content, video, audio and whatever else they can dream up. If we want to succeed, we must keep up. So now it’s Freelancing for Newspapers +.
>I’m so behind on my reading that I am actually just now reading a March edition of the Christian Science Monitor. But today I discovered an announcement that the CSM, in print for 100 years as of Nov. 25, is scrapping its daily print edition and going mostly online. As of April 2009, it will offer a daily e-mail edition and a weekly print magazine. Why? You can read all about it in the Monitor’s Oct. 28 announcement, but essentially, it’s making these changes to save money, reach the growing Internet audience, and deliver news more quickly. Like many papers, they’re following the wave into the 21st century.
As a reader, I think this is a good thing. The Monitor is a wonderful paper, full of fascinating, intelligent articles with a worldwide focus. But with most of its issues distributed by mail, there’s no way it can keep up with other media, and it does have an old-fashioned look to it that probably doesn’t fit in modern times. But I worry that those thoughtful articles that dominate its pages will not be so thoughtful next year, that they’ll be rushed online without time to polish them.
As a writer, I worry about what this means for freelancers. Take a trip over to the http://www.csmonitor.com/About/Contributor-guidelines#written to check out the freelance guidelines. The Home Forum essays have always attracted me, but there are lots of ways to contribute. I suspect many of these will disappear. It wouldn’t hurt to shoot a few articles or queries to them in the next couple months, but after that, I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what the new Christian Science Monitor will look like and whether it will have room for us.
Although this blog, and my book, are called Freelancing for Newspapers, we freelancers must take advantage of all the various ways writing can be delivered these days. It’s not just the folded paper on the driveway anymore.
>I’m back from the East of Eden conference, where I taught classes on general freelance article writing and on freelancing for newspapers. The most frequent questions centered on money. One woman at the general workshop raised her hand and let me know she was only interested in writing for markets that pay at least $1 a word. I don’t blame her, but I assured her that few people start out at that level.
Bonnie, an old friend I hadn’t seen in over a decade, is getting ready to retire from her tech writing job and hopes to supplement her income from novels with newspaper articles. How many articles would she have to write to bring in $500 a month?
Yet another writer wanted to know if she could make enough to live on by freelancing for newspapers. That is the big question in every class I teach, often from people who have never published anything.
For all those eager journalists, young and old, you need to work your way up. Bonnie spoke of her sister-in-law, who writes for three publications at a time and is always looking for new opportunities. When she gets into a higher-paying market, she drops the lowest one off her list. Not a bad way to climb the ladder of success.
Can you get $1 a word from a newspaper? Not often, but it can happen. Meanwhile, I did some research in Writers Market online to see what papers are paying. Among the ones who are willing to disclose their rates, the pay varies tremendously. For community weeklies, rates seems to range from $25 to $75 per article. But you can get 25 cents a word at Community College Week and $50 to $500 at Metro, an alternative weekly published in San Jose and Santa Cruz, California. The San Francisco Chronicle, which takes freelance opinion and travel pieces, pays up to $500. The Christian Science Monitor, which has some of the most extensive online guidelines I have ever seen, pays on average $200 per article.
Even if you made $1,000 per article, consider how much it costs to pay your monthly bills and you’ll see that it’s hard to make a living just freelancing for newspapers, but it can be a darned good supplement to other writing, teaching, speaking or editing work. To make the most money in this business, write a lot, submit a lot, and aim for regular gigs with at least three publications. Choose ideas that have a lot of juice and reprint, re-slant and update stories until you have wrung every drop out of them. It’s hard work, but it can pay off with persistence and determination.
>Ohhh, now I get it.
That tends to be my reaction when I really study a market in depth. For example, I have been e-mailing columns to the Christian Science Monitor’s Home Forum page for years with no success. But did I ever really sit down and read the paper? Nope. Glanced through it at the library, but that clearly wasn’t enough.
I probably would have gone on that way if I hadn’t received an offer for a “professional discount” on a three-month subscription. It was only $13. I decided to go for it.
And you know what? Even though they have some of the best online writers’ guidelines I have ever seen–www.csmonitor.com/aboutus/guidelines.html, I’m learning a lot more about the Christian Science Monitor by reading it.
The CSM comes out every weekday, one compact section filled with national and international news, pictures, opinion pieces, features, and essays. The writers are listed as staff writer, correspondent, contributor or have no ID after their names. We freelancers fall into the last two categories.
Although the CSM is published by the Christian Science Publishing Society, it is not a religious rag promoting their beliefs. Each issue has one Christian Science piece, but the rest is non-religious.
The guidelines are detailed, so I’m not going to repeat them, but here are a few highlights:
* Basic pay is $200 to $250, although some pieces pay much more and some of the shorter items pay a bit less.
* They strongly prefer e-mail submissions over submissions by mail.
* The writing is formal, well-researched, balanced and thoughtful.
* Work by new writers is taken “on spec,” meaning they don’t guarantee they’ll buy it, but if they do assign a piece and you submit it on time, they will pay for it, whether it runs or not.
* Home Forum pieces are personal essays from 300 to 900 words. They also accept short poems, and on Tuesdays they feature work by children.
* They do not accept reprints, simultaneous submissions or telephone queries.
Reading the paper has given me much more insight into what they want. It’s difficult for me to put into words, so let me give you some examples: a Home Forum piece about the writer’s frustration with his car’s GPS system because the voice is telling him things he knows are incorrect; a feature on how resumes have changed since we baby boomers started working; an article about an Afghan woman teaching her countrywomen how to run businesses, and a fascinating back-page feature about African safaris on foot. Imagine being face to face with a lion without the protection of a vehicle?
I could go on and on. These articles are so much more interesting than what I read elsewhere. Publishing here would offer the elegance of a literary magazine with the pay and exposure of an international daily newspaper. If you haven’t considered the Christian Science Monitor as a market for your freelance newspaper articles, at least peruse the guidelines. Much of the paper’s content is published on its website www.csmonitor.com. Read and be inspired.