Archive for the ‘“Quill”’ Category

I was recently appointed to the Freelance Committee of the 7,800-member Society of Professional Journalists, and the committee just opened a blog discussion on how we can weather these troubled times.

Member Bruce Shutan encourages fellow freelancers to “specialize” in narrower fields, aim for more lucrative trade magazines, and enjoy “recession-proof” employability. To which freelancer Ruth E. Thaler-Carter responded that she has lots of different interests and, fortunately, a large stable of clients.

My two cents was to propose a third way, a middle road:

“I’m no financial adviser, but I’ll borrow their phrase ‘Diversify Your Portfolio.’ I think it’s still important to have your safer investments: your anchor clients, the ones who provide regular work, pay better, pay regularly – and hopefully you rather like the work as well. Those safer investments enable you to mix in some riskier investments: in this case, the kind of journalistic topics you feel passionately about, but are less frequent, more difficult to place or time-consuming to pursue, and perhaps pay less –yet offer greater ‘return on investment’ because, gosh darnit, you love writing about the stuff.”

This is the way it is for me today: fortunately, I enjoy the regular teaching and training that I do. But they also allow me to take my three-to-five foreign-reporting trips a year for my newspaper clients – trips that, in Bruce’s words, “doesn’t even begin to pay the bills.”

At least, not like they used to.

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QuillLogoBy Michael J. Jordan, August 2009 Issue

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA – Every foreign correspondent has a tale of their big break: the story that, in the eyes of editors back home, suddenly transformed them from a dreamer who only talked about the overseas reporting they wanted to do, into someone who’s proven they can deliver the goods.

My break came in Spring 1995, amid the wars that ravaged the former Yugoslavia. My story: the babies abandoned by the Bosnian Muslim women whom Serb paramilitaries had raped. Rape as a war crime.

My journalistic journey had actually begun years earlier. I was the son of Cold War refugees from Hungary and Egypt, and my professor father often took us along to international conferences. I, too, wanted foreign adventure.

There are essentially two ways into foreign correspondence: Climb the ladder at a major newspaper, win awards and seniority, await the vacancy of a plum post overseas. Or strike out on your own, push through the back door.

I chose the latter. (more…)

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