Archive for December, 2008

Membership benefits?

Hi guys, got this message from John Huotari, chair of the SPJ membership committee. Please post your thoughts! Thank you! Amy

At our last teleconference, the committee members thought it would be a good idea for the membership committee to work with the freelance committee in trying to determine what membership benefits and offers might appeal to freelancers. This is particularly relevant as more journalists lose their jobs and some, presumably, become freelancers.

What kind of membership benefits or offers do you think might appeal to freelancers? The big one I wonder about is health insurance. I’ve been told that SPJ might have some sort of health insurance benefit already, but I haven’t checked out the details on that yet. Are freelancers looking for health insurance? Anything else?

Thanks for any response you can provide.

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Press badge?

Hi all, I got another interesting message from Eric Francis, a freelancer in North Little Rock, Ark. He writes, How do other freelancers go about identifying themselves as journalists when someone questions their credentials? I have business cards but was thinking about an actual press ID badge. However, our state press association (of which I’m an associate member) doesn’t offer those anymore. What are the ethics of creating your own ID badge?

I’d invite everyone to share their thoughts. Here is my experience.

The only press badge I’ve ever had as a freelancer is one for PEOPLE that identifies me as an “independent contractor” for the magazine. Mostly I use my talent as a journalist at being persuasive and aggressive at pushing for access to someone or someplace.

Once when I was reporting on fatal tornadoes for The New York Times I explained my situation, showed my driver’s license and SPJ membership card and offered to let the officer holding me back to talk to the editor on my cell phone. He let me through before I had to make the call.

While covering a high-profile court hearing for the Houston Chronicle I asked the editor to write a letter on Chronicle letterhead vouching for me. I folded up the letter and stuck it in a clear sleeve I wore around my neck so that the letterhead showed through. No one ever questioned me.

Mostly I’ve found the press badge to be unnecessary. Usually I find my word is enough, or I can be persuasive enough.

I would not recommend creating a press badge that in any way would lead someone to believe you are employed with an organization when you are not. My press badge for PEOPLE, given to me by the magazine, identifies me as an “independent contractor.” Don’t be dishonest. Editors can be touchy about freelancers leading people to believe they are staffers. Usually I identify myself this way, “Hi, my name is Amy Green, and I am a journalist working on a story for Newsweek about the election,” or whatever.

I have business cards, too, and often I end an in-person interview by leaving a business card with my Web address on it. That way if the person has any questions about who I am, the person always can go online and check me out.

What do other people think?

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