So You Want to Become an Internet Journalist?

 

So you want to become an internet journalist? What are some of the issues you can expect?

WITHOUT A PASSION FOR WRITING YOU ARE DOOMED

It is very possible you could write as a full-time occupation and not get paid for it. So if you think you’ll make a bundle writing for internet publications think again. So treat it as a hobby and face reality. As far as my 10 years of writing for internet publications your motto should be, “Low pay or no pay”.  So passion not compensation needs to be your motto.

TABLE SCRAPS AND PERHAPS EVEN MUNCHIES AND A CHEAP GLASS OF WINE

It is amazing how many table scraps can be thrown your way by service providers without any meaningful compensation your publicity gives them. Hotel chains, film production companies, tourist boards, publishers and even foreign governments may offer a free dinner and a drink while you suffer through a presentation and listen to your fellow tablemates complain that if they add their gas and parking costs to get to the event they are still in the red.

There are a few exceptions to this depressing scenario and they are usually the highest end service providers and you must really work those connections and you may be well compensated through covered expenses and paid travel but no cash. Consider governmental tourist boards.

YOU SEE THE CHEAPNESS OF THE WHOLE THING WITH BLAZING CLARITY

I am not going to name names here but I often receive PR notifications from travel boards and tour companies promoting these fabulous trips with a polite request you mention these trips in your article. So many internet writers are angry with this sort of communication. Internet publication writing involves a bit of you scratch your back and I’ll scratch yours. This does not equate with corruption but more along the principle if you want some publicity you’ll have to pay for it even if it is not cash but “comp”. Even if there is some financial incentive offered its like you’ll have to spend $2,000 to get a $650 discount. Hotel reviewing is a prime example of incomplete comp. Instead in most cases you’ll get a media discount.

You’ll have to develop your moral guidelines whether you write for comp and ignore the article if there is no comp for you. As a rookie you may have to write without being comped so you obtain exposure.

DEVELOP SOME SORT OF EXPERTISE

I primarily write about wine so I trained myself for a couple of years on writing wine articles, took courses on wine at a community college then went to the United States to obtain a Certified Specialist in Wine (CSW) certificate then started writing about wine or various internet publication. Then invites for wine tasting from foreign governments started flowing in. Then I was the first unpaid wine blogger to be admitted into the Wine Writer’s Circle of Canada.

This process cost me several thousand dollars but it gave me credibility. It has opened doors and enabled me to expand my writing to include reviews of hotels restaurants, film, theatre, art galleries and even health.

I think as a start you should try and limit your expertise to a limited topic. I started off with wine then moved on the related topics of reviewing hotels and wine service, then restaurants. It just sort of mushroomed into becoming more or less a lifestyle editor. Then a couple of health issues headed me into writing about a couple of limited health topics.

GET YOURSELF OUT THERE

Networking is essential but don’t forget some business cards with a snappy logo. Write as many articles as you can under your own name. Generally the more articles the more Google hits and credibility you generate. Ensure you are present in Facebook with friends that are connected with what you are writing about. Twitter and Instagram may help as well. You may even want to establish your own blog which has the advantage of you deriving some revenue from advertisements.

The broader your publication network is the greater the credibility you will garner.

IS THIS GOING TO BE A BUSINESS OR A HOBBY?

If you decide to make writing a business you get the advantages of tax deductions. Now deductions kick in on the assumption you have revenue to make deductions from! Our Canada Revenue Agency sometimes can be relaxed for a year or two but at one point it may investigate if you really are in business.

You also should check if your employer has a conflict of interest prohibiting you from establishing your own business or receiving income or benefits from third parties. If there are such prohibitions writing becomes an unpaid hobby!

NETWORK

So what if you think you are a writer. If no one else knows this how is that going to help you? This should not involve you being obsequious are overly aggressive but rather making yourself known in as friendly way to those centres of influence in the area that you want to write about. Your message should be is that you are interested in what they do and you’d like to help them by writing about what they are interested in accomplishing.

There are countless articles on the techniques of networking so I’ll leave you to review those so you can hone your networking skills.

BE PREPARED FOR POOR MANNERS AND REJECTIONS

Even if you are lucky enough to be writing for an internet publication you need subjects for your articles. You need access to goods and services and to people of interest. This mean you may spend your time making requests most of which are ignored and many rejected. I once talked to a hotel manager in Halifax. I had really wanted to do an article on the hotel and had sent him an e-mail with links to some very high-end hotels I had reviewed in the United States and Europe. He never replied and when I asked why he said he receives over 5,000 requests a year from internet writers. He just did not have the resources to send out rejections.

BEWARE OF SYNDICALIZATION SERVICES

Great idea. Write an article for your internet publication and then have it syndiclaized! In my case what was syndicalized was ripped off by internet sites. My agreement with the syndicalization service was I had to defend may own copyright. Beware of pirates!

Oh and the syndicalization service charged a premium fee for upgrading how many articles you could submit for publication and speed up their review process.

GET TO KNOW WHO YOU ARE WORKING WITH

If you are a socialist there is no use in writing for the “Capitalist Daily”. You’ll get an idea of the tenor of the internet publication by simply reading it. Very importantly can you write in your own style or is your end work can to be massively edited? Are there deadlines? Wordcount limits? Conflict of interest policies? Prohibited vocabulary? Who is defending your copyright?

WRITING IS EASY BUT EDITING CAN BE GUESOME

I can usually bang off an article fairly quickly but the editing can drive you mad. Of course, the more the editing the less the creativity and enjoyment. Consider it a necessary evil.

ARE WE IN A TRANSITION PERIOD

Newspapers and hardcopy books seem to be in peril. It is not long before they will be irrelevant. Post Media seems to be sinking quickly. Will advertisers flock to internet publications and cash be freely dispensed to internet writers or will the tradition of “No pay and low pay” continue indefinitely.

Internet publications exist because hardcopy journalism contains yesterday’s news. Cost cutting by national newspapers has ravaged local news coverage and let down the local community. Millennials are too screen addicted.

Internet publications are the way of the future. How will writers be treated in this future. I get the distinct feeling it will be like the press in portrayed in a 1940’s movie where they are all crowded in a room shouting out their stories on the telephone to their editors. A dog eat dog world. And to think one day I wanted to enroll in Carleton University’s renowned school of journalism!

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write." Email Robert Stephen