Tag Archives: Comment is Free

How to become a journalist: act like one

Every time someone asks me how IĀ got into journalism, I usually trot out the same words of advice: write, submit, write, submit, write…you get the picture.

My point being that no matter what your qualifications or experience, if you write an article and the editor you submit it to likes what he or she reads, then you’re in.

Formal qualifications do matter in some lines of specialist reporting (ie having a science degree clearly helps when writing for New Scientist). But if you have a talent for writing must read copy, then you’re most of the way there.

Students I speak to tend to stuck on the ‘submit’ bit of my ‘write, submit’ mantra. Pre-2000, I always recommended emailing, posting or faxing (remember that?) content in to editors for consideration. Since 2000, I’ve added forum posting and blogging to the list.

The power of how contributing to blogs alone can boost your career prospects in journalism is emphasised by people like Cath Elliott, who was first ‘talent spotted’ on the Guardian’s Comment is Free portal as a commenter. According to the Guardian, her comments has such insight and thoughtfulness that she was invited to become a contributor.

Of course, some may argue that Cath isn’t a journalist but a blogger. But what is a journalist these days? Two things might sway this debate: a) the blog platform is owned by a major national newspaper and b) at any time, her content has the potential to make it into the print newspaper or ‘official’ Guardian news site. So – is Cath a journalist?

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Business Week invests in citizen journalism and user engagement

Well, peel me like a beetroot and pickle me in brine – a publisher has woken up to the value of developing long term relationships with blog post commenters.
Backed up by a dedicated strategy and senior member of staff, prime commenters are to be cultivated and paid (yes, paid) to not only write articles, but also take part in wider news production. Hello user centred design!
I’m also excited aboout this content strategy because it has a good chance of taking off, thanks to the calibre of the commenters they’re looking to work with – namely high profile CEOs and directors. Users will actively seek out their content. B2B publishers should take note, as should consumer media owners: citizen journalism doesn’t begin and end with the Guardian’s Comment is Free.
Read more about Business Week’s citizen journalism content strategy [via paidContent]

Guardian Comment is Free and freelance writers

The Guardian may be willing to feature new and unknown writers as columnists on its blog platform Comment is Free.

Yes, that’s right, anyone who fancies themselves as a journalist / columnist can now send in their submissions to the Guardian’s blog platform with a real chance that their work will be considered for publication.

Understandably, some commentators are a little concerned about the precedent this sets – where ‘Content is Free’.

It’s still not clear how / if contributors will be paid, but this has been an age old practice. Most of the journalists I know got their break in the nationals by sending in work to a section editor. If it was good enough, they’d get published (and paid) or get some feedback on how it could be improved. No news or features editor is going to ignore a well written, genuinely engaging article just because the writer is unknown.

So why is this worrying? Well, many journalists are concerned by the proliferation of blogs because they believe freelance fees are being driven down. Content may be becoming commoditised now that editors are inundated with quality blog content, much of which can be published for free in return for a name check or link to a bloggers own site.
This may be the case for a site featuring brand new writers each time, but editors will need to attract, and importantly, keep quality writers, be they bloggers who write in their spare time or those who write semi-professionally.
Sure, the way writers are paid will change (e.g. an editor may agree to feature a prominent link to a bloggers own site as payment – thus increasing traffic and improving the bloggers own chances of gaining more online ads), but they will still have to be paid.
As I, and no doubt other editors have found, output from even the keenest of new writers will begin to slow if they feel they’re being exploited / not getting something in return.
Comment is Free is rarely out of the spotlight. This’ll go on and on.
Click on the keyword ‘Guardian’ below for more stories. You can also try ‘journalism’ or ‘Telegraph’.
Read more about the Comment is Free new writers story on journalism.co.uk