Every week we ask reporters and editors about their work, their career and what it takes to be a journalist in the 21st century.
Our guest this week is Susan Grossman, an editorial trainer and freelance journalist. She gives us insights into her career so far, and her role as a mentor to aspiring and professional journalists. Susan also runs 'Freelance Cafe' sessions, in which she gives support and feedback on work in progress.
What is your job title and what does that mean?
Freelance! It means I do what I like, when I like. Currently I’m an editorial trainer and mentor to journalists who want to earn more, or think they’re too old to get their heads around digital content.
I’m a qualified ILM Coach (Institute of Leadership and Management), and a visiting lecturer at three London universities.
How did you get started in journalism?
By accident. When I was 19 I went for a job as a researcher on Which? Magazines. Within a year or two I was representing the Consumers’ Association on TV talk shows.
Then they launched Holiday Which? [and] I said yes please. When I left I freelanced as a travel writer and became travel editor of the Telegraph Weekend magazine.
What do you most look forward to at the start of your day?
Turning on my mobile to check out news on Twitter – my Twitter Lists are my filing cabinet.
I go straight to top journalists, research organisations or experts in specialist subjects, then post news and jobs to my Facebook group JournoAnswers which now has 1.1k members.
What does a normal day look like for you? In emoji.
I don’t do emoji – hate them! I’m a bit like a grasshopper, no two days are the same.
I might be training a PR department in editorial skills, mentoring a freelancer via Skype, coaching the chief executive of a start-up or playing tennis.
What three tools or apps do you recommend for work?
- Zinio, to read 5000 digital magazines;
- COGI, brilliant for interviews as you can just press record for the bits you want;
- Google Alerts, to search for the latest information on the topic you’re researching.
I’d get myself a specific skill, like video editing, or broadcasting. I don’t think being a generalist will get you as far as having a niche. I’d also keep a note of everyone I meet.
What skills do you think are important to your role?
Listening and empathy, to enable me to help students challenge barriers to progress and progress their thinking.
What has your current job taught you about the industry?
Journalism is a tough profession. The paymaster and the platforms change continually but well-crafted words are always in demand. A good journalist can adapt his or her style to different audiences. Editors move on. Stick with them.
What would you say to someone wanting to go freelance?
Have another string to your bow or do shifts until you’re established. Network with everyone you have ever met and engage with people on social media.
Be proactive. Don’t just use press releases to find stories, go to sources from university departments to journalists on the front line.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Stop worrying about payments, spend the energy on getting more work. When you’re established you’ll start seeing amounts on your bank statement and won’t remember what you’ve done to deserve them. Register with Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society, and Gorkana for news and moves of other journalists.
Journalism.co.uk also has its own freelance directory journalists can join to advertise their services.
Check back next week for a new look into the media industry – in the meantime, have a look at our other weekly interviews with digital media experts.
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