I Hereby Resolve…

Contributed by freelance writer Eric Francis

Okay, we all know this one. It’s a gimmick, right? This is The Dead Week – no news but space to fill, so hey! I know! Let’s just rehash last year’s list of New Year’s Resolutions then head for the watering hole….

Fine. Be that way. But before you relegate this one to the (virtual) circular file, let’s go over a few things that every freelancer needs to be keeping in mind as they practice writing 2012 instead of 2011.

First off, how many full-time journalists do you know who lost their job last year? Close friends, former colleagues, bare acquaintances. A handful? Maybe a dozen? Now think about all the layoffs you heard about, not just in your market but your entire state, even your region. Scores? Hundreds?

Ladies and gentlemen, what are the odds that most of those folks are going to become freelancers, whether it’s for the long haul or only until they land another full-time gig? Pretty darn good, I can tell you from experience.

As freshly minted unemployed journalists, they have something you might be missing right now: Motivation. There’s nothing like losing a paycheck to make one desperate to find its replacement. Which means they’re going to be calling every potential client in your stomping grounds to see what assignments are available.

And every assignment they get is one you won’t.

That’s a conundrum. You don’t want to wish ill upon your unfortunate fellow journo, naturally, but you also don’t want anyone taking bread from your children’s mouths.  And that is why you need to be making some resolutions for this year.

For starters, forget your current definition of what your market is. If you’ve got a cell phone and an internet connection, the world is your beat. Check your current client list and see how far away, in miles, you are from the most distant publication you’ve written for. Then either take that number and double it and find a new client to pitch at the far end of the ruler, or (if you’re already selling stories coast to coast) orient your compass in a direction you haven’t looked before. Someone in one of those locales needs your work, and it behooves you to find them.

Here’s a variation on that theme: What’s the circulation of your largest client? Double it and find a new client in that range.  Pick one located in a place you used to live, or where you’ve visited, so you can demonstrate more than Wikipedia-level knowledge about the locale.  You might be surprised that new client is right in your backyard, or your favorite family vacation spot.

You can also go small. This country is full of little publications – local weekly papers, small-city websites, special-interest magazines. And yes, most of them won’t pay much. But if you own the rights to your past work and have a diverse collection of evergreen or easily updated stories,  you might be able to pick up some small checks with little or no new effort required on your part. Plus, you could earn the gratitude of an editor or publisher who will pass your name around their circle of friends, or up the command structure if they’re owned by a chain, which could lead to more lucrative work later on.

Finally, go for the Hail Mary pass. You know there’s a publication out there you’ve always wanted to see your byline in, yet you’ve never tested those waters. Make this the year you go all out to get in their pages. True, it might mean devoting a lot of time and effort to a project that may not see print if you can’t convince your dream date to take you to the prom, but odds are you’ll still be able to shop it around – or put it on your website to show what you can do.

Actually, there’s one more thing – track down one of the journalists you know who was laid off and offer to buy them lunch. Tell them what it takes to be a freelancer these days. Offer to help them shore up a weak spot in their skill set, or to pay their SPJ membership fee. Because this profession is going to be in turmoil for some years yet, and if we haven’t been in their shoes yet we might find ourselves there down the road. They may be in a position to return the favor one day, so there’s no harm in building a little good karma today.

After all, they may technically be a competitor, but they’re always going to be another journalist. And journalists look after their own.

Eric Francis is a freelance writer based in North Little Rock, Ark. His resolutions for this year include learning to build and manage a website, finding new clients in at least two other states, and teaching the cat not to sit in front of the keyboard.

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  • Keneke Manoa

    She also should be fired!!

  • John Truid

    Damn, Danny Bailey, you just got your ass handed to you! LOL!

  • Jack Dawe

    I’m sure ms. click has a bright future at Gawker, or Vox, or Buzzfeed, or Rollingstone, or the Huffington Post, or this list could go on for a long time.

  • Robert Riversong

    1) This was public space.

    2) The reporter was not “any person with a cell phone camera”, but a journalism student who was coverng the protest for ESPN.

  • Danny Bailey

    ….except faculty and staff. Which this woman was.

  • Danny Bailey

    http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/access-public-property

    Unless you are faculty or staff. Which this woman was.

  • Danny Bailey

    Public space that can limit access. http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/access-public-property

  • Danny Bailey

    It’s funny, I’ve gotten zero replies to my law review article that shows faculty and staff CAN and often DO limit public space at universities from the media. Y’all sure told me….exactly what I expected to hear.

  • AndrewMSeaman

    I’m not sure what you mean. Faculty and staff can’t stop people from reporting or protesting on campus. It’s public land. No one can stop people from exercising their First Amendment rights.

  • Danny Bailey
  • AndrewMSeaman

    Exactly…

    “However, some public property, even though it is open only for limited purposes, can take on the attributes of a public forum discussed above. A classic example of this type of property is public schools and universities. Although public school and university buildings are not wholly open to the public, some parts of a campus may be considered a public forum. If a school’s large open quad is accessed from public sidewalks and streets and freely used by the general public with no apparent objection from the school administration, then the quad may be considered “dedicated” to public use, and therefore more like the traditional public forums of the public park and sidewalk. Additionally, if the school opens certain of its rooms for non-school meetings that are open to the public, those rooms, during those times, will be treated as public forums.”

    They had been letting people protest for a month or so, which sets precedent. You can’t pick and choose freedoms from the First Amendment to allow.

  • Chuck Lenatti

    Where in the First Amendment does it say that faculty or staff get to restrict the press’s freedom of speech?

  • Chuck Lenatti

    People who rely on First Amendment freedoms need to tread very lightly on restricting the freedom of speech of others. For example, if a police officer pulls over someone for a minor traffic violation or a broken headlight and then summarily begins beating and shooting them, that officer can tell a person filming them that they are invading the officer’s personal private space and prevent them from filming the assault. Either everyone has freedom of speech or no one does. I suggest you educate yourself about the First Amendment of the Constitution

  • Brian Trosko

    If she was acting in her official capacity as staff of a public university in order to eject a journalist from a public event, then the university was acting in violation of the journalist’s first amendment rights and should be prepared to deal with a civil rights lawsuit.

  • Dino

    Here’s a reply, Danny. Your link points to “school administrators” being able to restrict access. Melissa Click is faculty, not an administrator. She had no right try to restrict access. Especially the way she did, by asking for “muscle” to forcibly remove the media. You are wrong on this, and the school’s administration took appropriate action against her.

  • Jay DeFee

    Sad that we are even discussing this mess. Much to-do about nothing. The blacks of yesteryear suffered severe discrimination.to the point of lose of life. Now they want no name calling/

  • Amy Westerbank

    Maybe you should read the article you linked:
    “owever, some public property, even though it is open only for limited purposes, can take on the attributes of a public forum discussed above. A classic example of this type of property is public schools and universities. Although public school and university buildings are not wholly open to the public, some parts of a campus may be considered a public forum. If a school’s large open quad is accessed from public sidewalks and streets and freely used by the general public with no apparent objection from the school administration, then the quad may be considered “dedicated” to public use, and therefore more like the traditional public forums of the public park and sidewalk. Additionally, if the school opens certain of its rooms for non-school meetings that are open to the public, those rooms, during those times, will be treated as public forums.

    Remember that because public schools are not entirely public forums, school administrators often have the discretion to restrict the entry of outsiders, particularly while the school is in session. Check in with the school administration before entering school grounds or you may be liable for trespass. Additionally, some states laws prohibit people from loitering within a certain distance while school is in session. These “school loitering laws” are mainly aimed at keeping sexual predators and drug dealers away from schoolchildren, but be aware that their language may be broad enough to cover lawful or innocent activity as well.”

    As there was a protest on, the pubic land became a public forum. As protesters were exercising their right to protest (Well, right to protest allegations that turned out to be false. Except that poop swastika), that made the land a public forum. Crick was punished by the school because they recognized that the area became a public forum and thus allowed for discourse. Further, since it became a fully public forum, that meant that press could cover it. What she did was objectively incorrect and Mizzous own actions against her show that they disagreed with her. She acted of her own accord and was called on it by the campus staff who outright said “She is incorrect and should be punished for limiting rights of others. We recognize this protest as a first amendment recognized protest and thus feel it to be a public forum.”

    Remember: She does not represent the campus staff. This is clearly seen in her being fired.

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