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How to get published on the mainstream web

By Builder in Media
Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 12:22:02 PM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

I've been following some stories and the reporting on them on Kuro5hin for some time now. As my interest is in technical things, the stories I have been following have been about things like the DMCA, the CBDTPA and so on.

While many of these stories have been of average quality some have been very good. Take for example the recent front page story on the CBDTPA. This was well written, well researched and covered issues that the average man in the street would have found interesting. Some of these issues may even have prompted this man in the street to do something about this heinous infringement on his freedoms.

The problem with this article and many others, is that the man in the street won't ever read it. Most of the k5 readers are already aware of many of the issues raised in this and similar articles. From reading the comments, I am led to believe that most people also agree with the sentiments being voiced. So publishing this here is simply preaching to the choir.

Lets change our target audience for a moment from the man in the street, who probably cares less about these issues, to the average net-savvy homebody. I'm talking about the kind of person who doesn't really care how all the bits work, but they really love their new mp3 player because they can have dozens of cd's ready to listen to at any time. This is the kind of person who's going to be very upset about what is currently being done to us by the entertainment industry and their pet senators. How do we reach this person ?

From what I can see, these stories would be more widely read, and hopefully acted on if we could get them onto sites like Yahoo!, BBC News or CNN. Even sites like ZDnet would help, but in this case we are once again targetting the choir.

I'm not sure who retains copyright on anything published on Kuro5hin, but I'm sure that Rusty wouldn't mind if such stories were posted out there as long as Kuro5hin received attribution. Heck, it could even be good advertising.

The copyright issue aside, the trick is getting the issues out there. I've contacted The Register, CNN and Yahoo! in the past to find out what their process for publishing things is. Of these, I found that The Register was about the easiest site to get published on. They already have syndication deals in place with several other sites and are generally willing to help. From the others, I never did get a clear response.

One of the things that I firmly believe in is that members of a community should help each other when possible. With the diversity of the readership of K5, I'm assuming that someone out there knows about getting things published. If not the main stream web, then the local news paper.


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Related Links
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How to get published on the mainstream web | 47 comments (23 topical, 24 editorial, 0 hidden)
Usually only reporters can publish in newspapers (4.50 / 8) (#1)
by Delirium on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 07:10:50 AM EST

Most newspapers publish articles mostly from either their own reporters or syndicated stories written by reporters at other major newspapers. Places like CNN publish exclusively their own reports. Yahoo I believe just runs a newswire where they republish Associated Press and Reuters reports.

The only exception to this that I'm aware of is in op-ed pages, but those aren't easy to get published in either (except letters to the editor, which aren't too difficult to get published). Most newspapers have an editorial staff which writes op-ed pieces, and then the rest of them are a combination of syndicated editorials from other newspapers' regular columnists and issue-specific editorials from prominent figures and organizations.

The ability for an "average person" to get published in a major newspaper without actually being hired as a journalist is rather non-existent.

Not true... (5.00 / 3) (#2)
by dipipanone on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 07:19:01 AM EST

The ability for an "average person" to get published in a major newspaper without actually being hired as a journalist is rather non-existent.

It isn't easy, but it isn't non-existant. The truth is, all media outlets are always looking for material that meets their requirements, and the vast majority of them use freelancers, at least occasionally.

The question then becomes, how do you get to become a freelancer if you haven't had any specific journalistic training? And the answer is to develop specific expertise in a particular area, so that you can recognize good stories in that field before they have had any exposure in the mainstream press.

I've had no journalistic training at all, and nor is journalism what I'd call my primary profession, but I *have* sold stories to most of the UK broadsheets, and to major magazines in the UK, the USA and Japan. It isn't easy, but it *is* doable if you develop the skills that you need to be able to compete with the other people who are doing this on a daily basis.

Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
many journalists don't have academic training. (5.00 / 2) (#31)
by joshsisk on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 12:57:12 PM EST

My girlfriend is a columnist for the Washington Post. She went to an Agriculture school (of all the odd things to go to school for).

Her roomate is a reporter for another DC area paper. She got her degree in Russian History.
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]
To be fair.. (none / 0) (#39)
by katie on Thu Apr 04, 2002 at 07:11:21 AM EST

I think the basic logic is that after you've completed a degree, you've written /something/ at least - especially in a subject like Russian History. She'll have write an essay with a wordcount in 5 digits about something, so she's at least some idea of how to write things and how to do research and so on. Those are quite important skills...

[ Parent ]
agreed. (none / 0) (#42)
by joshsisk on Thu Apr 04, 2002 at 02:39:45 PM EST

Yes, I think that is their thinking, too. Plus you have to show them writing samples and/or start out as a copy editor, which requires a copy-editing test.

Also, there are lots of places non-journalists can get published. Today on WAMU in DC, the Editor of Washington Monthly was on telling listeners that they used almost entirely freelancers.
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]
Evening classes. (none / 0) (#40)
by katie on Thu Apr 04, 2002 at 07:22:22 AM EST

Seriously - colleges do evening classes in Journalism. The uni I attended does a lot of courses in things like that, including a year long certificate in journalism: this term's module is "Broadcast Writing/Programme Presentation". They don't cost a huge amount, but they demonstrate to a potential employer that you're interested in the subject, because you have to go out of your way to do them...

[ Parent ]
Writers Bureau (none / 0) (#41)
by Builder on Thu Apr 04, 2002 at 08:47:11 AM EST

In the UK there seems to be an organisation that might help polish up my writing skills. They are called the writers bureau and the offer a correspondence course.

My main issue with taking this course is that only 2 modules cover journalism and the rest cover things like fiction writing and stage writing, which I have no talent for or desire to do. (and no, I'm not interested in comments saying that based on this article I have no journalism talent either, thank you very much!)

So I'm thinking about it... My problem with doing a proper journo course is that next year I want to start studying by correspondence and I want to do math. I'd like to do something this year, but all of the local correspondence uni's run from February to October, so it's too late. It looks like an independent bunch like the writers bureau will be my only option to do anything this year :(

Be nice to your daemons
[ Parent ]
Not always (4.66 / 3) (#3)
by onyxruby on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 07:33:21 AM EST

I wrote in the the Inquirer when they had a story about a HP printer issue last year. Not only was my email responded to by Mike Magee, but he posted it as a front page story. While this isn't truly a story in the real sense of the word, they did published my take on the issue, and put it on the front page (that counts for something right?). Generally I would agree with you about being difficult for non-reporters to be published, but it is certainly doable.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.
[ Parent ]

I believe it's a good idea (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by rodoke3 on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 08:17:35 AM EST

I think that publishing some of our discussions would be a great idea. Besides getting the to the "man on the street", i believe these discussions encourage opinions that mainstream media will never mention(mostly because we can be fairly anonymous). I mean, what would you do if someone on TV said that they were glad princess Diana was dead?

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky

My story (5.00 / 3) (#19)
by Silent Chris on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 09:09:29 AM EST

One of my other stories (on how to become a freelance game reviewer) is pretty much along these lines - of course, a lot less serious publications. Still, it can be used as a guide to get into any mainstream publications, as some other people have told me. You may want to take a look.

The mainstream media (4.40 / 5) (#25)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 10:25:28 AM EST

Anyone who thinks the mainstream media will publish his work, 'just for the heck of it' is mistaken. The mainstream media is a farce - a far-reaching conspiracy of corporate influence and liberal politics (well, WorldNet Daily is a far-reaching conspiracy of corporate influence and right wing politics).

Observe how news has become entertainment, Tom and Nicole have become news, and every major media outlet is owned by a multinational corporation. There are a million 'journalists' who have been trained to deliver the exact capitalist message that the corporations want. What will make them choose you instead, someone who (supposedly) thinks for yourself? You mentioned CNN, owned by AOL Time Warner.. I doubt they'll go out of their way to support your views on the CBDTPA, since they are in the entertainment business.

The news business is driven by advertising dollars. You can criticize politicians all you want in print.. but paint advertisers in an unfavorable light and see how long the 'real governments,' the corporations, stand for it. Any appearance of objectivity in journalism is just for show.

How else does Bill O'Reilly get an hourlong rant-fest on Fox, about "The Corruption of the American Child?" Any viewer with something above the brainstem could peg it as the same old scaremongering you'll see on your 11 o'clock news.. yet they aired it, and they got advertisers.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.

O'Reilly's Rant Fest (none / 0) (#44)
by bodrius on Thu Apr 04, 2002 at 10:36:42 PM EST

I think a good portion of O'reillys market watches the show, whether they think of it in those words or not, for the same reason I do: it's fun.

News has indeed become entertainment, and Fox networks shines on this.

Fox Networks is to CNN what "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is to both "Interview with the Vampire" and "Dawson's Creek" (ok, Buffy gets bonus points for planning on being a joke).

While depending on your sense of absurdity in order to be enjoyable, both manage to be, in all their bias and cheesiness, somehow more substantial than what they're trying to parody.

It is sad, very sad, but it's also hilarious.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]
O'Reilly (none / 0) (#45)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Apr 04, 2002 at 11:35:44 PM EST

Something about him just gets to me. I suppose I take him more seriously than most people, because I hate him and I'm afraid people will fall for his crap. His 'no spin zone' is a load.. he dictates his own rule for how a conversation should go, and uses it to badger a guest into making misleading statements.

O'Reilly: "Let's cut the crap, I think all our viewers just want to know if you've stopped eating babies."

Guest: "I never.. but.. I don't."

O'Reilly: "It's a simple question! May I remind you that you're in the No Spin Zone?"

He's just another conservative who gets himself viewers by convincing people he thinks independently of party lines.. but take a tally of the amount he criticizes Bill and Hillary vs. the amount he criticizes George and you'll see a different guy.

Personally I haven't watched him once since last fall. I saw him on his show 'debating' with a fellow right-wing reactionary (so much for opposing viewpoints). He asked, 'Don't you think that the people who are questioning the war in Afghanistan should have a little more respect for the families of those who died on 9/11?' I can't even count the logical steps that were left out of that argument.. to suggest that questioning US foreign policy is somehow disrespectful to victims of a terrorist attack.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

O'Reilly (none / 0) (#46)
by bodrius on Fri Apr 05, 2002 at 12:58:43 AM EST

O'Reilly has a beef with the Clintons, but let's face it, who doesn't?

The fact is that the Clintons were a scandal factory, and that's also why their presidency was so much more entertaining. Obviously there is much more to criticize after two terms of baggage, versus a recent president whose many failings are, I'm afraid, comparatively boring.

I've seen enough O'Reilly to think that he's too full of himself to think along party lines. It's just that it's easier to gain his leniency by chanting a particular brand of cheese versus another. But he's really a jerk to everyone, and it's great fun.

Following logic is not exactly O'Reilly's strength. It is, after all, the most informal show in the network, and you could probably make a drinking game out of counting the logic leaps.

As I said, the fact that every once in a while he makes you stop and think 'crap, in his insane idiocy, this particular nut was more objective this time than the real journalists!' is very, very sad.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]
+1 FP (1.75 / 4) (#26)
by suick on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 11:03:12 AM EST

While I personally think this article is horribly written with errors in both grammar and structure, I personally know of several people who skim k5's frontpage at work, and I really want them to see this article.

Also, even though this article would give fits of laughter to any serious editor, I feel that when it becomes FP we should send it to as many publications as possible.

order in to with the will I around my effort sentences an i of more be fuck annoying.
Stupid question... (none / 0) (#29)
by Builder on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 12:08:12 PM EST

What about the article would lead a serious editor to fits of laughter? I'm trying to get some hints from here so that my next article is a bit or hopefully a lot better.

Be nice to your daemons
[ Parent ]
Here we go.... (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by spcmanspiff on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 04:08:15 PM EST

Local paper: Depending on the size of your market, easy. Some papers (I worked at one) will even run press releases word-for-word as 'news;' submitting k5-type writing as op-ed should be simple. I've actually seen some DCMA rants in my local paper every now and then written by a guest columnist.

Major-market paper (eg., New York Times, Denver Post, etc): Good luck; you'll need it. If you're recognized as an expert or controversial figure (or represent a controversial group) they may listen to you if you volunteer to write an op-ed, but only if they are interested in the material. Geek outrage, no matter how appropriate, probably won't cut it.

CNN or Yahoo: No way. Yahoo doesn't carry and original work: everything comes from syndication, as far as I know. Furthermore, CNN/Yahoo/The Associated Press/etc are really news-only outfits, and it is only a very sloppy, very small organization that will accept outside work and run it as news. Op-ed, yes, news no.

Another option would be to work into developing K5 / a section thereof into something more like Salon or Slate: High editorial standards (and a formal editing process!), excellent writing, sometimes mainstream and sometimes marginal positions, etc. Eventually, the reputation of the site itself could open doors for writers to be easily accepted in other venues.

Finally, to quote you: "my interest is in technical things." This is a huge obstacle. Whenever you attempt to get your foot in the door at a publication, the editor will always have to ask themselves "Is this writer so compelling that her work will win over some of the 99.9999% of readers that couldn't give a shit about computers?" Without a minor miracle, the answer will be no, every time.

Will code for climbing gear ? (none / 0) (#34)
by Builder on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 04:30:12 PM EST

Now _THAT_ I can approve of :)

I see what you're saying with your comment, but I think that it misses the point somewhat. It pretty much covers the sites that I listed. What I'm hoping to see here is alternatives to these sites. Alternatives to the big name papers.

What I'm really hoping to see from this article is some kind of brain fart that might just work. It may well be something that hasn't been tried before or it may be an established practice that I just don't know about. But I really want to see some new avenue to try and reach the masses.

Be nice to your daemons
[ Parent ]
Actually, I'm coding for money these days... (none / 0) (#35)
by spcmanspiff on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 04:51:40 PM EST

But it pays for the gear. (and holy cow, it's been quite some time since that site was updated!) Still, I haven't sold out too badly.

As far as your comment:

I really want to see some new avenue to try and reach the masses

I can tell you that articles probably won't cut it: they help people who've already been reached. This is true no matter what the issue is.

As an example, where do you think more young liberals come from (pre-university): Noam Chomsky, or Ani Difranco and Rage Agains the Machine?

I'd suggest maybe you write, or contribute to some politicized music-sharing software (compare and contrast v. the current crop of commercialized software like Kazaa, etc). Instead of "buy this now!" it would constantly be reminding you of the real issues.

Or just start wearing t-shirts that say stuff like "Fuc^H^H^HReam the RIAA." Get your friends to wear 'em. Start a trend. Make some music -- on your OWN label. Volunteer for a non-RIAA label/band to help 'em out.

People pay a hell of a lot more attention to stuff that's cool than they do to things that they think is interesting, anyway.

Hopefully all that rambling is a bit helpful... I need to go get some more coffee now.

[ Parent ]

Some general suggestions. (5.00 / 3) (#36)
by orlkorrect on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 05:07:05 PM EST

This strikes me as one of those situations where it is incumbent on you to take the initiative. Which is to say that waiting around for editors to tell you what it takes to be a reporter - or columnist, or critic, or whatever it is you seek to do - is ill-advised.

I would start by actually writing a few "articles", and passing them around to people whose opinion you value. Listen to their suggestions and revise accordingly. Repeated revisions never hurt, so if your friends or colleagues are still your friends and colleagues after the first reading, ask them to take a second gander. The point of all this is that you want your piece to be good. Yes, yes, yes - no one aims for bad prose and boring subject matter; more often than not, however, those are the end results of the early forays into "professional" writing. And you will ever be your own worst judge.

Barring completed pieces, start keeping a list of ideas for pieces. Flesh them out as best you can, create outlines, list possible sources, note what it is about the topic that would make for an interesting read. The items on this list are your "pitches". Armed with a pitch, you can contact editors at appropriate publications (obnoxious overstatement: don't pitch an article on Apache security holes to the editor of BMXPlus). Make the case for your article and then, well, I guess then you're in the cross-the-fingers camp.

Good luck to you.

More on the mainstream (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by genezip on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 06:05:30 PM EST

From a longtime traditional journalist, a couple of tips:

1. If you want to disseminate information through a mass medium, try to interest a mainstream journalist in your story. Though many news outlets use free-lancers, getting information into print, on the air, whatever, is easier if a professional (staff member of the news outlet) does it.

1A. Traditional means of creating interest include but are not limited to: emphasizing conflict; human interest; pocketbook issues.

2. If you want to disseminate your opinion (as opposed to the traditional definition of news as objective information), the easiest way is to write a letter to the editor.

I wish you luck; it's a noble goal.

Better Yet (none / 0) (#38)
by Niche on Thu Apr 04, 2002 at 12:01:46 AM EST

The best thing would to goto a site that is up and coming. Get involved and stay invovled. They want you stuff, and they want your support. I mean there are so many up and coming sites people dont know about, its a shame they dont get credit. Sites like monolinux.com, and gamefu, and so many others that I am missing. You will have the glory of saying I was there from the begining. There is the thrill of getting something you submitted posted on /. or something, but I bet its and even bigger thrill to wake up everyday and just work on a website (pardon me but that sounds REALLY cool).

K5 vs Mainstream (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by Swashbuckler on Thu Apr 11, 2002 at 02:16:59 PM EST

It's not just K5 content that needs to reach the general public. User contributed / user moderated journalism needs to become mainstream. Part of the reason why geeks are increasingly politically engaged is "news-innovation" like the architecture of this site. This is not a technologically deterministic argument - its not just about the technology - its more about social worth and openness (virtue #3 and #4 of "The Hacker Ethic").

*Note* - this comment contains no inside K5 humour because inside K5 humour is only for/by K5-wankers. Media does not = "community."
How to get published on the mainstream web | 47 comments (23 topical, 24 editorial, 0 hidden)
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