As I was preparing for two interviews last week I began mentally checking off the points I mentioned in the first part of this post. I had done my research, listened carefully, and proofread several times over before submitting my articles. But before, during, and after the interviews I began noting more things that writers should pay attention to when working on a story. So here’s part two!
Take five pens, a few pencils. Two notebooks. A couple of SD cards for your camera. Charge your camera battery the night before. And make sure you have something to record with. I list the recording device last because technology can not be counted on, only your handwritten notes can. One of the first stories I wrote for my school newspaper was almost botched because I relied almost entirely on my phone’s recording device — which had stopped working 10 seconds into the interview.
So make sure you have plenty of pens and pencils and more than one notebook. Camera equipment should always be charged and up to date. This will save you a lot of stress in the end.
Get there early
Always show up a few minutes early. This will give you time to get your items in order and calm yourself down if you’re nervous. It also makes a good impression on those around you. You care enough about your work to show up on time and be prepared.
Sometimes being early can even help you get in to the interview quicker. If your person of interest isn’t busy they may invite you to begin before your scheduled time. This means you could get done before expected, leaving you more time to work on writing the story out. Which leads into my next point.
Pay attention to deadlines
If your editor gives you a deadline, you must turn it in on time. Editors work under a strict deadline as well, and we hate being stuck at the office putting a page together four hours before it goes to press. Getting stories in to your higher ups on time allows them to proofread and begin working on publication.
With that being said, there are exceptions. Things happen, understandably. But if an interviewee flakes out last minute or you’re in a car crash on the way to your job (let’s assume a very minor one for example’s sake), you better be calling in to make your boss aware of the situation so they can come up with an alternative. And sometimes an event won’t be happening until after deadline. That’s okay. Let your editor know you will have the piece to them as soon as you write it. Which should be immediately following the event.
Sometimes you won’t be given an exact deadline. The two articles I wrote earlier this week are going into the Premiere’s September issue. My editor told me that as soon as I had them done he would work them into the layout. I had both stories and photos to go along with them done less than a week after he assigned them to me. His response?
“I’m not sure, but I think working ahead may get you kicked off this team. We are used to doing things last minute around here. Your help is much appreciated.”
Apparently he wasn’t expecting me to get things done so quickly! But it was an awesome feeling knowing I had exceeded his expectations and was working ahead of the game. So even if you aren’t given an exact deadline, work ahead and get your piece to your editor as soon as you possibly can. It makes you look good, and helps the team out a lot.
To be honest, this is probably close to the number one rule and should have been in my first post. The art of writing has been romanticized to the point where people believe an author/journalist works strictly from home in their favorite college sweatshirt and ratty sweat pants, cup of coffee in hand. Do not let that image carry over into your mentality when getting ready to actually go out for an interview. Wear whatever you please when doing phone interviews, but dress respectably and professionally while you are out in the field. A cup of coffee is still okay, just make sure you have gum.
During the school year while working for the newspaper, I didn’t give too much thought into what I wore. There was only one time I wore a sweatshirt to an interview, and while it isn’t a great excuse it was because I was sick. Other than that, I normally wore jeans, a nice top and whatever shoes I happened to throw on. Our school newspaper is accredited, but at the same time it was also a little more laid back. Many of the people I interviewed were not high up in the school’s faculty and therefore were very chill with what they even wore to an interview.
Once I began freelancing for bigger magazines in the area, I started paying much more attention to my dress. I was going to high society events and I needed to look like I belonged (even if I didn’t). This summer my wardrobe has evolved to where I can look like your typical college senior sick of class by day, and a top notch journalist by night. I own more dresses, trousers instead of jeans, I actually have a nice blazer, and practically all of my printed tees are gone (except for the Doctor Who ones. Those get to stay).
So when going out into the field, make sure your clothes fit correctly. Match your colors. Don’t show too much skin. You are an adult, and you should dress like one. You can tear off the frills once you get home and write the story in your favorite pajamas.
There it is! A few more tips to help out my fellow writers. These get easier to pay attention to the longer you’ve been doing it. I hope this set of tips coupled with the first really aid my minions when I start my job in a few weeks as news editor. Happy writing!