I’m a professional freelance writer, and I would like to write a
feature about mountain unicycling to submit to some national women’s
magazines. But are there any women involved in the sport? If so, I’d
love to speak to you about how you got involved and what it’s like to
take a mountain on one wheel.
> feature about mountain unicycling to submit to some national women’s
> magazines. But are there any women involved in the sport? If so, I’d
> love to speak to you about how you got involved and what it’s like to
Mmm, isn’t there something the wrong way round about this? I mean,
surely journalists should look at the world and write about what they
see, rather than deciding on a story to write and then going out trying
find the people that fit with the story?
I think that I will look upon newpapers and magazines in a totally
different light now, knowing that the author probably decided what he
was going to write about before he’d even found any of the people in the
I wouldn’t called this approach flawedl. The writer is simply researchng something they think might be interresting and article worthy for their magazine. Presumibly the author will meet some nice women who mountain unicycle, learn something about the sport from the female perspective and share it with their target readers.
On the other hand, if the author finds there is little interest in the sport with only a few responses from female riders they might drop the story and start reseraching some other story.
The collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or news articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts.
Material written for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for broadcast.
The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and magazines, consisting of direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation.
Newspapers and magazines.
An academic course training students in journalism.
Written material of current interest or wide popular appeal.
This happens all the time. Believe it or not, the vast majority of journalists I’ve spoken to about MUni stories, including this one, got the idea from reading the stories of other journalists. Hence they always tend to be about Kris Holm, as he’s the top and most visible rider. They would be about George Peck, until people find out about Kris Holm. They used to all be about George Peck, until Kris hit the scene (starting around the time of the '98 MUni Weekend or early '99).
Our author here is a freelancer, and she’s looking for a variation on the more “common” MUni article. Women would seem like an obvious variation, though there aren’t many of them. Articles like this will hopefully contribute to evening out the numbers! I already provided a picture of Julie Young to an author of a kids magazine a few years ago, who specifically wanted a girl.
Most of this article-triggering-article seems to date back to the Atlantic Monthly article from April of 1997, believe it or not! http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/97apr/uni.htm
That was a great article. I still run into people who remember reading it, or even who got into unicycling (or MUni) because of it. Even our author here was originally triggered by the Atlantic Monthly article. I’m glad the company keeps it live in their Web archives.
So what about the Atlantic article? Where did author Michael Finkel get the idea? Did he run into mountain unicyclists on his local trails? I don’t remember, though he contacted me early in his research, and I got him in touch with George Peck. I don’t think he ever actually met George Peck either. The interview(s) were done by phone and/or email, and George sent the pictures that were used in the article. I wish I could remember what got Finkel interested, because his article was one of the major origins of interest in this type of unicycling.
Michael Finkel and the woman who started this thread (she didn’t use her name so neither will I–I gave her the info to contact this newsgroup) are in the business of selling individual stories to magazines and/or newspapers. I’m not sure if the stories get written first, or if the story idea gets approved and then they get funding to go ahead with them. In either case, they have to make them interesting. This benefits us as well, as long as the stories are accurate.
So far we’ve done pretty well on accuracy, at least in the many stories I’ve read. Even the Weekly World News story from last year (that used my photos) was written by a freelancer and was 99% accurate.
Support the writers! In the case of the abovementioned ones, their purpose is to create interesting reading. As long as the facts are straight, if they start with an idea and then develop a story, that’s fine with me. Especially if it gets us more great articles like the classic Atlantic Monthly one.
Nick Grey wrote:
> mirekina <UNGAIUNEIWHM@spammotel.com> wrote:
>> I’m a professional freelance writer, and I would like to write a
>> feature about mountain unicycling to submit to some national women’s
>> magazines. But are there any women involved in the sport? If so, I’d
>> love to speak to you about how you got involved and what it’s like to
> Mmm, isn’t there something the wrong way round about this? I mean,
> surely journalists should look at the world and write about what they
> see, rather than deciding on a story to write and then going out
> trying find the people that fit with the story?
Nope, hypothesis precedes experiment.
> I think that I will look upon newspapers and magazines in a totally
> different light now, knowing that the author probably decided what he
> was going to write about before he’d even found any of the people in
> the article.
Nothing wrong with pursuing a topic.
Knowledge is power.
Study hard. Be evil.
Out of curiousity, why, rather than suggesting she just put out a request on this newsgroup, didn’t you suggest she search the newsgroup, using google for example, on mountain unicycling and women? In this way she would be made to work for her information and perhaps even serendipitously discover an original angle in doing her research.
What I find disturbing about this is:
a) Journalists shouldn’t be so lazy as to expect their subject matter to come to them
b) This journalist, by inviting her subjects to come to her rather than finding out about them and then contacting them herself, leaves herself open to her subjects presenting themselves however they like. Of course, this is just MUni we’re talking about, but what if this same journalist were doing an article on municipal officials attitudes towards public access to municipal documents and records?
Of course, now that I think about it, you didn’t say what you suggested she do only that you gave her the contact info.
Does anyone have a contact email address for Julie Young or Jock Young? If you do, please forward this to them. I’m not sure if they are still reading the newsgroup. Julie already had some of her 15 minutes of fame from an article back in '99, but more wouldn’t hurt.
R: both good points, but I’d caution against confusing freelance writing with journalism. The former is simply another version of the product salesperson, and in this case the product they’re selling is their words. There is no pretense (or at best a thin pretense) of objectivity. They’re writing what their target buyers want to buy. The great news here is that unlike product companies that just launch stuff to market and hope it sells, the freelance writer is always able to tune their product exactly to their customer’s needs.
You would hope they’d have more sophisticated research methods such as those you suggest, but keep in mind they’re also generally writing “on spec”. They get an idea, try to sell the idea to some publication before they write it, and failing that, may write it anyway then try to peddle the finished product. In between, they open their mail every day and read the rejection notices they’re received from their earlier submissions. It takes a long time of those types of swings 'n misses before they get to the point that publications start seeking them out to produce feature stories. In the meantime, they’ll look for any shortcuts possible on the subject research, since time spent on that is not time spent on writing and submitting ideas and articles for review and hopefully not rejection.
Journalists are no different from anyone else, in that they’ll do the easy ways first, and the better journalists will go beyond that.
It always amazes me when video production companies contact me, looking for MUni video. It happens all the time. I don’t have MUni video. You are a video production company. Why don’t you go make your own MUni video? They almost never do. So all we see are rehashes of the same old Kris Holm clips. Sure, they’re great clips and all, but where’s the people going out to make their own? I guess it’s not worth the expense. I’m still waiting for the “edited” version of the 2002 MUni Weekend video. This is the one the producers could potentially sell to a larger market, though probably not large enough to make a dent in their costs to make it.
My experience with journalists is that they want to talk to subjects directly. This works for subjects like MUni, where it’s not politically volatile or earth-shattering. I’m not sure how the writers quantify the truth of the information they’re getting from a person they may never meet…
Nick Grey wrote:
> Scott Kurland <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> Nick Grey wrote:
>> Nope, hypothesis precedes experiment.
> That’s a bad analogy, surely.
Surely not. Manners, boy.
> You’re not suggesting journalism is a science?
What do you think science is? The observation, identification, description,
experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of an object of
inquiry or study?Methodological activity, discipline, or study? An activity
that appears to require study and method? Knowledge, especially that gained
through experience?Knowledge of principles and causes; ascertained truth of
facts? Accumulated and established knowledge systematized and formulated
with reference to the discovery of general truths or the operation of
general laws? knowledge classified and made available in work, life, or the
search for truth? comprehensive, profound, or philosophical knowledge? Hmm?
>> Nothing wrong with pursuing a topic.
> You’re right, of course. The tone was all wrong in the comment I
> made, it was meant to be half-joking.
Knowledge is power.
Study hard. Be evil.
This is because as you say, it can be REALLY expensive to get good outdoors footage at Broadcast quality. Earlier this year I spent a week in Hawaii doing some riding for German Television, and I bet they spent around USD$50,000 to get what became about 5 minutes of edited footage.
Most of the TV news work I’ve done has involved some local trials riding at an accessible area, spliced with stock footage that they usually try to obtain for free- the fact that it has been shown before doesn’t ever seem to matter if it’s cheap.
Hopefully this will change a bit as the better DV cams get cheaper. Some of the amateur filming on here has been at least as good as any of the tv clips I’ve seen and it’s coming off DV, so is easily good enough quality for TV, even if not quite as good as the great big cameras the pros use. Also for unicycling the audio is often not very important, so handheld dv cam sound is probably sufficient. There was a film a year or so back that was playing at the cinemas round here that was entirely filmed on handheld DV cams and it looked okay on a big screen, done by some hollywood director who I can’t remember.