This is the first in a series of intermittent interviews on this blog with people who have interesting or unique jobs/life experience.
Interview #1 – What it’s like to be a Freelance Journalist
David Wilson (see photo) has written for the South China Morning Post, the International Herald Tribune, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sun Herald, the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian, the London Review of Books and New Statesman among other papers.
You can contact him at [email protected]. He has covered most areas but vaguely specialises in the Internet, books, travel and the weird and wonderful. He also had a poem accepted for broadcast on Radio 4 but the Gulf War intervened.
Neerav Bhatt: Hi David.
I’ll start by asking What did you work as before you were a Journalist?
David Wilson: I was basically a whore. I would do pretty much anything for money. Usually the work was dull, poorly paid and unglamorous. It often revolved around lifting heavy weights. Typically my tenure was short – a matter of days.
Neerav Bhatt: What’s the best thing about being a Journalist?
David Wilson: I have a low boredom threshold. Journalism caters to this. Commissions are usually over in a month and a good laugh to write. Also, I enjoy the tricky, mend-bending crossword-solving dimension that appeals to my Asperger’s side. Plus you get to meet strange and brilliant people then dis them.
Neerav Bhatt: What’s your #1 tip for aspiring freelance Journalists?
David Wilson: Don’t give up the day job. Editors will happily fail even to acknowledge receiving an article that has taken you a month of labour. Also, don’t be precious. Revise. Writing is revising. If you want to write better, write tighter. I subject some of my stories to as much as 30 drafts. Finally, you need to get the basics right: grammar, spelling, punctuation. If you fail to, that will erode your credibility. But, again, don’t be precious. There’s no law against using the word “get”.
Neerav Bhatt: How much does an experienced freelance journalist get paid? (eg: per word/per article/monthly retainer for a column etc. Ballpark figures of course)
David Wilson: Maybe 50 cents a word. There’s plenty of variation. If a publication pays more, expect more hassle – requests for an infinite number of rewrites.
Neerav Bhatt: Should prospective Journalists get a university degree in Media/Communications?
David Wilson: It helps, I reckon. I have a BA in writing studies from Middlesex University in London. Middlesex no longer exists. I’m doubtful about whether the course does either. But it gave me a bit more stylistic breadth and depth. You cannot beat just banging out stories day after day though. If you can get a job on a local paper, good. The money will suck, however.
Neerav Bhatt: What do you think the future is like for prospective Journalists?
David Wilson: Dark. Thanks to competition from publications such as this one.
Neerav Bhatt: Surely you jest David! I’m certain there are far fewer people earning a living by blogging like myself, than by being freelance journalists like yourself.
However in the long term you may be right especially when you consider remarks from people like former Fairfax CEO Fred Hilmer who has stated: I don’t believe they [quality journalists] can generate earnings growth and described the profession of journalism as simply content providers for advertisers.
Thanks for making yourself available for this interview.
To show just how good he is at writing, David answered all the interview questions within 20 minutes of receiving my email request!
If you’d like David to write a story for your publication feel free to contact him at [email protected]
What do you think about David’s answers and the future of Journalism as a career? Feel free to make a comment.