>Hey, I got my first royalty check for my book Freelancing for Newspapers, and it’s a big one. Thank you to everyone who has bought the book. I appreciate it. If you haven’t bought it and are curious, you can find it at the usual online and brick-and-mortar bookstores.
Enough for the commercial. Are you sending things out? I got two stories in the e-mail last week. Fingers crossed. I also, gasp, applied for a full-time newspaper job. My family situation makes it important to haul in some regular cash, and this opportunity is too good to pass up. If I get it, will I stop freelancing? No, never, especially when jobs are so rare and so shaky these days. Whether I get it or not, I’m going to keep up the submissions, and I hope you do, too.
The Oregonian just announced another round of cutbacks. Part-timers are history, and full-timers are taking a pay cut. The Portland-based paper has already laid off or early-retired over 100 people. North of us, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer made good on its threat to stop publishing a print newspaper, putting out its last issue on March 17.
What does this mean? Well, the news business is not ending; it’s changing. Keep your eyes open for opportunities, especially online. To that end, there’s a cool website called cyberjournlist.net that has lots of good information about writing for online publications. Check it out.
That’s it for me. Let me know what you’re up to.
>I wouldn’t ask you to do it if I didn’t try it, so I analyzed two daily newspapers for freelance opportunities. Why two? The first one didn’t offer much hope. Here’s what I got:
The Register-Guard, Eugene, OR–medium-sized town and paper:
Sunday paper uses a little staff writing and a lot of wire service copy. Some of those wire stories are freelance but written for the Washington Post, AP or the New York Times. The only real freelance piece was a guest editorial about Iraqi refugees written by someone with experience in the subject. There was also an op-ed by Garrison Keillor, but he’s famous, so does that count? I’m sure the same piece must have been syndicated nationwide. So the Register-Guard is not a very good market for freelancers.
The Oregonian, Portland, OR–This is our big-city daily, which always annoys me because it ignores the coast, where I live. Its world revolves around Portland. However, it does have one freelance correspondent who covers something like three counties. She didn’t have anything in this issue, so no coasties. Here’s where I found freelance:
Opinion: The cover story on study-abroad courses was written by an Oregon State professor. I don’t know whether she got paid or not.
This section also has something called “Short Takes,” opinions written in 35 or fewer clever words, definitely unpaid.
I also found an op-ed piece by a University of Oregon law professor on recent Supreme Court rulings. Probably unpaid.
There was an interesting invitation on the front page of the Opinion section inviting writers to submit resumes and samples and become part of a select group to do a series of pieces. They would not be paid, but I’m going to apply. The exposure and clips would be fabulous.
Parade: This magazine is inserted in lots of Sunday papers. The articles are freelance or syndicated, but this is a tough market to crack. Try it if you dare and remember the stories need to have national interest.
Homes and Rentals: Yeah, I know zzzz, but lead story about condo developments with great views was freelance. The rest was syndicated.
Travel: This section sometimes has a lot of freelance, but this week, it was limited to the second story on page one, an essay about the memories souvenirs hold for the writer. Wish I’d thought of that.
“O”–Life, Arts, Books: One weekly freelance column by the delightful Chelsea Cain
The real opportunities are in book reviews. Four freelancers, two of them regulars, did six reviews in this section. The section also publishes one short freelance poem every Sunday.
Advertorial: These are special sections, sponsored by the advertising department. I can tell you from experience that they might be slightly sleazy but you can make big bucks and do a lot of fun stories, so don’t dismiss them. Once you get on their list, these can bring steady work. This Sunday has two such sections, one a guide to an upcoming home and remodeling show with five features by “special writer” Jan Behrs and two staff-written articles. The other section, “Learn On! A Guide to Higher Ed 2007,” includes five freelance pieces by Stephen Teater.
The Oregonian also publishes a big arts and entertainent section full of freelance reviews and features on Fridays and it has weekly neighborhood sections with lots of freelance for areas around Portland, but that’s not part of this study.
So that’s my report. What did you find?
>Freelancing for Newspapers, the book, arrived on my doorstep yesterday afternoon. I stayed up late into the night examining its pages just as one would examine a newborn baby to make sure it’s all right. I found 11 proofing errors, most of which will not be apparent to the casual reader. So, because proofing your own work is so important, here’s a challenge: Find at least eight of those errors and I’ll send you a free copy.
Here’s another challenge: let’s all get some queries out there before the Fourth of July holiday.
>Sometimes when I interview people, it seems as if I can’t mention any of the best stuff. For example, my last interviewee is secretly living in her shop. She’s a married lesbian in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage, and her associates have even more interesting things going on, but I can’t mention them. I can only write about her work. She wanted to see a proof. I said no, as always but assured her she had nothing to worry about. It’s a puff piece; let’s be honest. I’m filling my space, and she’s getting free PR. Later she called to make sure I wouldn’t mention that she’s in AA. Well, you would not believe how many people I interview are in 12-step groups, mostly AA. They all stress anonymity. I assured her I would not write about that. It’s irrelevant; in fact, it’s so common these days it’s not even interesting, unless perhaps she makes wine or bootleg whiskey for a living. But the other stuff, ooh, rats, if only I could write about it.
Here the first Freelancing for Newspapers challenge. What can you tell, and what must you not, even if the person doesn’t specifically say it’s off the record. How do you decide? If you can’t put it in the paper, can you slip it into an essay or a poem or a short story with no names? I’d really like to know what people think.
P.S. My Freelancing for Newspapers book is being printed as we speak.