Publishing is migrating online. So, if you don’t want to miss out, then you need to adapt your writing for digital devices.
Building on ideas from the first workshop in October 2014 [pictured above], I will share my insider tips on how to get your story ideas published – and get paid for it.
But, in this three-hour session, I will look specifically at how to work online, including writing blogs, guest posts and online features.
It runs Friday, February 6, 2015 in Hawarden, near Chester.
By the end of the course you will be able to pitch, secure commissions and file great copy. We will consider the following:
Why do you need to adapt your writing style for the screen?
What style, structure and tone devices can you employ to make your writing stand out online?
How do you add worthwhile multimedia content to your work?
How can you build a community of editors and readers around your writing?
The morning starts with coffee on arrival, then three hours of personal tuition and exercises. You have the option to pick my brains informally over lunch afterwards (lunch not included in the cost).
I’m a freelance writer and independent media tutor with 15 years experience of making a living from selling words. My portfolio includes travel features for the Daily Telegraph, guest blogger for Visit Wales and online copywriting for various tourist boards and travel companies.
The cost of this workshop is £60 per person, including refreshments and e-learning support before the course.
The next courses will run March to May 2015 as part of the Monthly Masterclass series to be hosted at CHIC in Chester – watch this space for more details.
The real-time reporting of fast-changing events, posted to blogs and pushed via social networking sites, is the latest buzz in the high-octane world of online news.
I used to think it was a fad. But just as Twitter broke the story of the Mumbai terrorist bombings in November 2008, live blogging has this year been crucial to breaking news about the Arab spring.
Live blogging, characterised by its real-time invitation for readers’ comment, an ability to move the story on quickly and link to external sources for wider discussion, now makes rolling TV news look positively passé.
As Matt Wells, formerly the Guardian’s blogs editor, recently noted: “They [live blogs] provide a useful way of telling stories characterised by incremental developments and multiple layers.”
As a lecturer in multimedia journalism, I’ve encouraged my students to follow the rise of live blogging. But I’ve also started to see how it can feed directly into the classroom – and not just for journalism students.
By fostering a spirit of collaborative interaction rarely seen in a typical tutorial, it engages students in a new and dynamic way.
In March I made my first foray, live blogging the Guardian Changing Media Summit while my students posted questions and comments via Twitter.
Initially it was about leading by example. It’s one thing to tell students about differences between print and online journalism, but far better for me to post a living, breathing set of examples to my website.
Next I led a team of students live blogging a major event at the university. We posted the results live to the campus blog, combining news-led reporting with more chatty human-interest material.
This time it was about engagement and I was pleasantly surprised that the enthusiasm of students was palpable.
So what did I learn from this exercise to make live blogging work for undergraduates?
For starters, a live-blogging exercise works best with the students divided into teams – the first is charged with news gathering, the second takes a reporting role, writing live news stories.
Next comes a team to push the content. I asked a couple of web-savvy students worked on pushing freshly posted content out via social networking sites, such as Twitter.
Finally, we needed an editor and I took the role this time. It needs someone tied to the computer to cast a second-pair of eyes over everything before it goes live, add links, embed multimedia and caption images.
In hindsight, I would also suggest appointing an editor in chief to take the overview and maintain a strong sense of context throughout the exercise while everyone else is frantically running round, posting content, tweeting and downing coffee.
Live bogs can take on a confusing, stream-of-consciousness feel, so it’s important to keep a strong thread of progression through the blog.
From the students’ perspective, it fosters communication skills, improves working to deadlines and builds confidence about conducting interviews.
Our students ended the day with a new sense of professionalism. They acted as ambassadors for the university in the way they conducted themselves on the day.
Personally, I found that live blogging teaches students about leveraging the strengths of the online medium – links, image galleries and video to build a story.
It also demonstrates the power of building a community.
By the end of the day I was sick of staring at the screen. But I felt satisfied that students had a decent selection of cuttings for their portfolio.
And, in our own little way, we had made a little piece of history.
A PR company, tourist board or tour operator flies you to an overseas location. They put you up in a smart, often recently opened hotel. They may arrange free passes for attractions and provide a guide to show you around the best sites.
Sometimes they even leave a little gift pack in your room with some chocolates to take home as gifts and a bottle of some obscure local firewater to strip the lounge of its paintwork.
They expect little in return. Just some words and a link to their website in a fact box under the story. And, if it’s not actually a proper story, then that’s okay.
A lot of them don’t read it anyway.
So what’s the catch?
It’s a tricky one. The loneliness of the long-distance travel writer is hard to quantify.
I think it’s a feeling of dislocation from the real world, a bubble existence without normal rules or conditions, a slow-creeping weariness with the very thing that once inspired you.
Being away is a transient, ethereal experience. You find yourself in a new place, or a new district of a place you half recognise. You briefly meet people who welcome you like a new friend, then forget your very existence within five minutes of leaving.
You spend a lot of time alone. Whether sitting in a hotel bar, pretending to be engrossed in your emails, or eating dinner alone in a restaurant, surrounded by uncomfortable glances and feigning an important air while taking notes.
I used to embrace the otherworldliness of it.
I would retreat from the real world to my too-big-for-one suite in the city’s latest boutique hotel and gaze pensively out the window, clearing head space with views across a rain-lashed Northern European landscape.
I liked just being ‘away’. But age and children have shifted the parameters.
I’ve grown tired of arriving in off season to an up-and-coming region still waiting to come up, bored of workmen still fixing fittings in my room at the ironically hip new hotel as I check in, and weary of the prospect of another dinner a un with an elaborate six-course tasting menu and a swarthy waiter with a pitying look in his eye.
Not even the accompanying multiple glasses of carefully selected wines from the extensive New World list can numb the feeling that my assignment has turned into a cruel parody of travel-scribe clichés.
After dinner I sometimes venture out alone, gasping for non-air-conditioned breath, to consult the handy free map. I draw my self-important conclusions about the latest trendy pop-up bar in a previously derelict warehouse in a district that was, probably just a matter of hours ago, a complete no-go-zone.
In essence I have fallen out of love with what Dylan Thomas would recognise as “my craft or sullen art.”
I still go away, although less these days and on far more judiciously chosen assignments. I often take the girls with me and increasingly delight in lights out by 9pm after a couple of chapters of Fantastic Mr Fox.
I still love finding the best angle on the story, the craft of placing the perfect, essence-capturing quote at the perfect about-turn juncture of the feature.
But, for now, the loneliness of the long-distance travel writer engulfs me.
Theroux would scoff as he set off for nine months in Nepal. The teen bloggers would trample me in the stampede for the free peanuts in the airport lounge. And the retired hacks would roll their eyes as they opened their invitation to supper at the Captain’s Table.
Maybe one day I’ll join them. Or maybe I’ll try to re-invent my sullen art for a new era.
Either way, they would all probably think me a whining, ungrateful bastard. And they would all probably be right.
Can you relate to the ideas in this post? Post your comments below.
Sian Pari Huws (pictured above) has handled politicians, producers and people all across Wales as a reporter and presenter for BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru.
This week she faced second-year Broadcasting and Journalism students from Glyndwr University (pictured below) to offer thoughts and advice on going freelance in the fast-changing media climate.
Topics included stagnating rates of pay, the role of sheer luck and the advantages of a portfolio career.
“One of the biggest changes in my time relates to the skill set,” says Anglesey-based Sian. “I think I have survived so long in the industry as I have many strings to my bow. The more you can do, the more use you are to people.”
In recent years Sian has diversified from high-profile presenting roles to take on voiceover work and media training. Yet she retains the work ethic of a professional freelancer. She says:
“You can’t get away with having a bad day as a freelancer. You’re only ever as good as your last job.”
Sian also offered some practical tips for students. While writing and pitching is the day-to-day task, she explained, a key part of being freelance relates to running your own business, hence:
Get a good accountant
Always ask to be paid gross
Put 0.25% of all pay aside to meet bi-annual tax payments
Keep a reserve of roughly three months salary in the bank as a rainy-day fund
Following the press conference-style session, the students recorded individual video-journalism interviews to submit as part of a portfolio work about freelance life.