August 7, 2013 | 552 views
Learn to sell your story at the BPL
Hi. I’m Chris, the editor of the Baldwin Herald. I recently taught my first class at the Baldwin Public Library, and I wanted to share the experience with Herald readers. I’ll be offering the course, which is free, once again in the fall, so if what you read below piques your interest, give the library a call and sign up.
My class was called How to Be A Freelance Journalist, and it consisted of four, one-hour sessions focused on the business side of writing. Although writing was an inherent part of our coursework, my class wasn’t about producing quality prose. Our focus was on getting articles into magazines, newspapers and on websites. To that end we looked at how to form publishable ideas, track down editors, write compelling pitches and ultimately build the collection of clips and bylines that comprise the resume of a successful freelancer.
Before I took over at the Herald I was a freelance writer for 10 years. My focus was mostly on travel journalism, and I wrote my way to every continent on earth and more than 30 countries during that chapter of my career. When people used to ask me how I got the gig, I always compared freelance writing to being a white belt in karate; you walk into the school, sign up, and presto! You’re a white belt. (Even though you still can’t kick anyone’s butt.) It’s really the same thing with freelancing. There’s no job interview. There’s no experience required. Once you decide to do it, you’re in the club. The rest is up to you.
The reason I volunteered to teach at the BPL is that the people of Baldwin have access to a deep pool of relevant ideas that we at the Herald can’t access. People come up to me all the time and say, ‘Hey, you guys should run a story about this!” And I always say, “Great. Go write it.” Unfortunately, it is very rare that anyone takes me up on that offer.
How to Be A Freelance Journalist was my attempt to bridge the gap between Baldwin’s wonderful ideas and the pages of the Herald. The course wasn’t restricted to people who want to write about Baldwin, of course, but my hope was that by embracing the aspirations of a wide range of resident talent, I could instill a pool of local writers with the knowledge and confidence to approach the Herald with their ideas.