Gothamist Seeks Pitches for Long-Form Journalism

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With the growing popularity of tweets and blog posts and 30-second webisodes, many journalists have lamented the shrinking demand for long-form journalism. You know, those meaty, 8,000-word features that give a reporter the rare to chance to really craft a narrative, immersing the reader in carefully chosen, meticulously researched details.

Well, dear readers, now’s your chance to sink your teeth into a juicy assignment.

Now through Monday, October 31, Gothamist is accepting pitches for long-form, nonfiction features that will run between 5,000 and 10,000 words. The initial payment for the feature is $3,500, but according to their call for submissions, the profit split is 50/50 once they recoup initial costs. The call for submissions also says they’ll review pitches on any subject, but they believe stories involving crime or other mysteries especially lend themselves to this format.

Gothamist released its first feature as an ebook last month, a 13,000-word insider’s account of a rape trial written by juror Patrick Kirkland. Kirkland’s feature, Confessions of a “Rape Cop” Juror, is $1.99 and available for download in several platforms: Kindle, iBooks, ePub, and PDF.

Kirkland says he was fortunate that the timing of Gothamist’s first call for submissions coincided with the completion of the controversial trial. “I had a story sitting in my hands and I already knew I wanted to tell it and that I could probably do it in an interesting way,” he explains. (Kirkland had a full-time copywriting job at the time, so he’d write and research between 5 and 7:30 am each morning.)

Using his memory of the trial (jurors were not allowed to take their notes), the memories other jurors, and courtroom transcripts, Kirkland sliced together what he describes as a three-act story, cutting from the jury room to the courtroom noir-style. “I wanted to pitch it as a story, not somebody trying to clear their conscience,” he adds. That approach apparently worked, and Kirkland believes his pitch was chosen because of his focus on storytelling versus commentary.

Although Kirkland was fortunate to have a front row seat to a compelling courtroom drama, he encourages other writers to pitch stories of their own. “I strongly encourage anybody who thinks they possibly have an interesting story, even if there’s just a nugget, to piece it together and pitch,” he says. “It’s great to get that kind of space for a story. And on top of that, their network is huge. I’ve gotten a lot of conversations that I don’t know if I would have had otherwise.”

For more information, check out Gothamist’s call for submissions.

Image courtesy of graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Repurpose Print Stories for Radio and the Gear You Need to Do It

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Many journalists and investigative technical writers try to maximize their time by repurposing their stories for multiple publications. You can do the same for print to radio stories with some preparation, and you don’t need to know how to use Pro Tools sound editing software. You just need a suitable story slant and some decent quality recordings. Public radio shows like “Marketplace” work with print journalists all of the time so can assist with sound production and fine tuning stories for format.

Ideally, a two-track digital recorder with XLR inputs like the Marantz PMD 661 will work best for radio. It offers a stable, noise-free platform with a lot of recording options like the ability to use two lavalier mics. But you can get away with using an Olympus LS10 or newer LS11 which both have good preamps that are not too hissy when the recording gain is increased. Just using an external mic with any cheap digital recorder can drastically improve sound quality.

You want a recorder with sound levels that can be adjusted while recording. This allows you to keep the meter out of the red where the sound will “clip” or distort. You also want the ability to record uncompressed wav sound files with a sampling rate of 44.1 KHz. That’s the same quality as an audio CD. Even the cheap Zoom H1 has this capability.

Don’t use the internal mic since holding the recorder will pick up handling noise. And leaving the recorder on the table is too far from your source to get clean sound. Get a decent handheld mono microphone like the Electro-Voice RE50 , a Sennheiser MD46 or a wired lapel mic and practice using them. You want to learn how to cradle the mic in your hand to minimize handling noise.
A few tips:

  • Hold the mic close to the speaker’s mouth. The farther away you are from your subject, the more that you will have to increase recording levels, which will increase background noise and hiss. This is especially true in noisy rooms or with soft-spoken subjects.
  • Position the mic to the side or below the speaker’s mouth but pointed towards the mouth. This is called being “on axis” and it helps to reduce clicks and pops. A mic windscreen will help as well. Foam windscreens are cheap but fur windscreens work best.
  • Always keep your headphones on and listen to the interview through your recorder. I use the Sony MDR-7502 headphones (http://amzn.to/na31T5) but you can also use earbuds. Turn off automatic sound level settings and limiters, which will wildly fluctuate the volume of your recordings and make them unusable. Frequently check your sound levels and manually adjust them as needed. I find that interview subjects get louder as they get more comfortable.
  • Limit how much movement you make while holding the mic to minimize handling noise. Sit or stand close to your interview subject so that you’re not swinging the mic back and forth.

Record 20 seconds of background sound at the beginning and end of the interview session. This extra helps the sound engineer to make clean editing transitions.

Radio is actually a visual medium so record any extra sounds that are related to the story that can give the story more presence like milk bottles rattling if you’re doing a story on dairy farming.

How Freelance Journalists Can Find Sources Through Better Online Searches

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Nowadays, many journalists and investigative content writers do their research online instead of combing through the stacks at a library. However, the volume of online information makes it tricky to find what you need and filter out resources of questionable credibility. Here is our first Ebyline freelancer education video to highlight  some strategies to help you improve search results and streamline your research.

What are your tips for using online searches effectively? Let us know in the comments!

How to Diversify, Expand, and Broaden Your Freelance Writing Career

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Diversify, expand, and broaden. Do you notice that? Three different ways to say the same thing. Diversification is the antithesis of redundancy and the lifeblood of good prose, and so it is for freelance writers. Go ahead, don’t be afraid to mix it up. In today’s market, you have to dabble in everything from print media to smart phone apps and podcasts to keep your business viable, visible, and varied enough so you don’t die when one of your markets does.

Here are five tips for spreading your talents in various directions in today’s media climate.

1.    Look for the steady paycheck. This isn’t necessarily the job or jobs that are going to make you famous or fulfilled. In many cases, they are tedious, but tedium often pays well. Newsletters, web maintenance, and public relation accounts are three examples of steady work that could earn you a quarterly or monthly paycheck. Contact local companies, tourism bureaus, non-profits, and other organizations that already communicate regularly with their customers or the world. If they’re not already doing so, try selling them on the idea. Network: Join the local Chamber of Commerce and other professional organizations to mine this market.

2.    Forever query. I know, it’s my least favorite part of freelancing, too, but even when you’re too busy, you should be sending out queries… and not just to your steady markets. Make a goal of pitching ideas to one new market every month.

3.    Become an expert. Position and brand yourself as a top authority in one or more fields. How do you do that? In the old days, you wrote a book. That’s still a viable path, whether you find a publisher or self-publish. Just be sure to build eBooks into your business plan. Much easier these days is starting a niche Web site/blog. Although they don’t pay all that well, you may consider becoming an “expert” for the Web content mills such as Examiner and Huffington Post – short term anyway. Don’t forget to use social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, et al – to further broadcast your clips and expertise.

4.    Be fearless. Okay, so now you have your foot in the door with an organization or two, a print publication, and some Web sites, including your own. Don’t rest on the proverbial laurels. Look around. What aren’t you doing? Don’t use excuses for not knowing how to set up a blog, create a podcast, or write an app. Either learn or look for middlemen with the technology to help. Be willing to invest time and money to expand and keep up with the quickly changing world of technology. Talk to local broadcast stations to see how you can get involved in writing and producing. Don’t forget the value of a camera and video camera in diversifying your options.

5.    Be relentless. Make a monthly list of new projects to try. Set goals and schedule daily tasks. Study and research markets you’d like to broach. Then work until you’ve gotten there. Forever improve the visibility and marketability of your work. Steadily increase how you monetize. Read everything from techie magazines to pulp fiction. Consider writing fiction.

The possibilities are endless if you keep you set your sights on diversifying.

New Freelancer to Ebyline? Here’s How We Work!

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Are you a new freelancer to the Ebyline system? Are you a freelancer who has never used Ebyline? Either way, we want to give you a warm welcome to Ebyline!

We put together this video to give you the ins and outs of being freelance writer for Ebyline. Think of it as the welcome mat to a new home for freelancers. Just watch where you wipe your feet!

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