i took some time off from this substack, in exactly the way in which i used to start a brand-new diary every christmas as a child and HARD abandon it by new year’s. but now schools are closing again (not indoor dining though! bc why educate children when you could eat a burger in a 25% occupied restaurant staffed by terrified people who make four dollars an hour!) and i, it seems, am back.
one nice thing about the last few months—and it’s a short list—is that i’ve been doing informal phone chats w young/starting-out journalists about the digital media industry. i always make sure to clarify on these calls that i am merely Some Bich, and a very privileged one at that, so my words should be taken with a heap of salt, but i’ve been so inspired by the ppl i’ve spoken to! and it truly is my pleasure to talk about my career path w them/go over pitches/occasionally do a little a media gossip, as a treat.
on the long-shot chance that it might be helpful, i’m putting some random bullet points i’ve honed after several of these calls below, so that you, yes, YOU, can benefit from my wisdom (lol) without having to hear my annoying voice over the phone.
make media friends you don’t hate. this isn’t to say you should start social-climbing—it’s possible the right number of media friends for you is zero! some people in this industry blow!—but try not to surround yourself w peers who are rooting against you, or vice versa. it is just so much easier and better to do this work when you feel like there are people you genuinely care for in your corner who also happen to understand what “lede” and “dek” mean.
have some corner of the internet where you’re doing the “content creation” (barf sorry) you really want to do. it could be twitter, substack, a podcast you host w your best friend where you rank every kind of bird, whatever you want! just have something you can point to in a pinch and say, this is extremely my shit, even if it doesn’t come w a fancy byline.
subscribe to study hall. if you’re a freelancer on a tight budget and can’t afford it, dm me and i will pay for your subscription (up to like 10 ppl i guess), bc it’s THAT good.
when thinking about a vulnerable pitch/story, ask yourself: “do i have enough distance from this to write about it yet?” sometimes the answer is “no, but i still want to write it”, and that’s fine and great! but writers who are marginalized in any way often feel tremendous pressure to monetize trauma, and it’s ok to want to find your way through something before turning it into published work.
when pitching, write “pitch: [proposed short/snappy hed] in the email subject line. yes it’s prosaic, but as a former editor, i was SO grateful for freelancers who took the time to pre-package a story for me in this way. that’s not to say an editor might not change the hed, but it’s amazing to start out w something clear and definitive.
don’t assume that your difficulty in placing pitches/finding a staff job/insert goal is because you’re not good or qualified. real camp counselor shit, i know, but “making it” in a broken industry is often way more a reflection of connections/privilege/sheer good luck than it is raw talent!
if you’re invited to a virtual book event, go, bc sometimes they will seamless you a gift card for lunch and you will get to eat free pad thai in your room. W’s all around!