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Take part in Frontline Club survey on freelance safety

February 23rd, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Freelance, Journalism

The founder of the Frontline Club, Vaughan Smith, is asking freelance journalists around the world to take part in a survey about the physical risks of their work.

The survey is aimed at freelance camera operators, video journalists, photographers, stringers and other independents anywhere in the world.

Smith says:

I believe that there is an opportunity, post embed-free Libya, for a practitioner-led initiative to move the industry forward on news safety.

In April this year the Frontline Club will host workshops, bringing management, practitioners and freelances together to discuss the issues.

It is my view that freelance interests have suffered in the past for lack of representation. Opinions on these matters outside the mainstream are broad and no freelance can confidently speak for another.

I intend to take a first step to address this by using the data from this survey to inform the debate on safety. The results will be published but not the names of any contributors.

The survey, which should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, can be found at this link.

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Video: Freelance foreign correspondent discusses reporting from Yemen and Libya

February 2nd, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Freelance

GRN, an agency for foreign correspondents, has posted a video interview with freelancer Portia Walker.

In the first in a series of interviews from GRN, Walker talks about her year covering the Arab spring in Yemen and Libya.

A former TV current affairs producer with Al Jazeera English, Walker explains how she moved to Yemen just before the Arab spring began.

She speaks about the “baptism of fire” in reporting from Yemen for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Washington Post and the Economist as well as GRN’s TV and radio clients.

Expecting to spend time in Libya researching features, she found she was spending her time “daily news reporting” which “did not go down well at some times with the authorities” and led to her arrest a gun point.

You can find out more about GRN in this Q&A interview and read guide on how to become a roaming reporter.

The video interview is below.

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SplinterNet: How to get to the top of Google News

December 5th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Freelance, Search

The SplinterNet blog provides an interesting insight on how news organisations can increase their Google News ranking.

Writing on the blog, Oliver Conner explains that “Google doesn’t divulge the secrets of its trade – so it is up to the SEO specialists to try and work it out” and links to a September study which asked the top SEO practitioners of major news organisations what they thought were the most important factors.

He highlights some of the “most important/interesting considerations” – and the terrifying suggestion that one spelling mistake can “blacklist your site”.

1. Category authority – if you keep writing optimised stories about a topic then you will gain authority in that area;
2. Keywords in headline and page titles;
3. Domain authority – the news organisation domain has lots of quality inbound links’;
4. Social sharing – lots of tweets, Facebook shares and Google+ mentions. This is set to become more important, as it has recently been announced that articles that your friends have G+’d will be highlighted;
5. First to publish the story – this will increase the amount of inbound links;
6. Citation rank – the number of high quality sites that link to (cite) a news story;
7. Unique articles;
8. High CTR (click through rates) – the more clicks a site gets from either Google News or other Google SERPs (search engine results page);
9. Quality content – Google evaluates the quality of the content and looks for things like typos and copied content. Apparently, one spelling mistake can blacklist your site!
10. Use of Google News XML sitemap – a way of structuring your news site in a way that Google can easily understand.

The post “Getting to the top of Google News” is worth reading as it also includes other important factors to consider when thinking about optimising your news site for Google News.

Journalism.co.uk has a couple of handy guides on search engine optimisation:

Journalism.co.uk’s news:rewired – media in motion conference for journalists will have a workshop on SEO for journalists. The agenda is at this link.

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – reporting on violence panel discussion

November 24th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Freelance, Top tips for journalists

The Dart Center blog has audio from a panel debate discussing the difficulties of reporting on “violence and tragedy” as a journalist, which according to this post, features journalist Marianne McCune and a former winner of a Dart Award Rob Perez.

Tipster: Rachel McAthy

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at Journalism.co.uk email us using this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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Tips for freelance journalists on National Freelancers’ Day

November 23rd, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Freelance

Today is National Freelancers’ Day. We have compiled a list of 10 things every freelance journalists should know.

We crowdsourced and gathered advice for freelance journalists from fellow freelancers and editors.

Here are some of the responses:


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Ten things every freelance journalist should know

November 23rd, 2011 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Freelance, Lists

Image by monkeywing on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

To mark National Freelancers’ Day we have been gathering advice for freelance journalists. Here is our Storify of curated tweets of advice for freelancers.

Our 10 tips include thoughts from freelancers and editors who responded to a request for advice from @journalismnews on Twitter, and we have added advice gathered over the years.

1. Don’t be afraid to pitch to editors (by email)

Commissioning editors positively encourage you to approach them with ideas and pitches.

 

 

2. Recognise that it is tough to go it alone

Make no mistake, it is not easy to start out as a freelancer. It requires you to be a great journalist, sales person, book keeper, networker and you need to be able to manage your own time. There may be periods when you are working long days on multiple features, at other times you may have too much free time.

Journalism.co.uk has a number of must-read guides, which can help if you are just starting out.

This updated feature on how to get started as a freelance journalist is an essential.

You can also take tips from this guide on how to effectively diversify as a freelancer, plus there is a two-part guide on how to make a successful transition to freelance journalism.

It may be hard, but believe in yourself and don’t give up.

3. Get a handle on your finances

Some freelancers advise getting an accountant, others manage their own accounts and submit their own self-assessment tax return.

It is wise to put away one third or one quarter of what you earn. That way you will have a lump sum ready when the 31 January deadline comes round. Alternatively you can set up a standing order to pay HMRC monthly so that you don’t face a large bill in January.

Self-assessment tax returns are relatively simple to fill in. You can make the process much easier by keeping expenses and receipts in a series of envelopes, one for every month of the year.

4. Invoice, politely remind, and then take action

Invoice after you have submitted your story, and give publishers a deadline, perhaps 14 or 30 days.

If you do not receive payment, telephone the accounts department and ask that the bill is settled.

Freelancers can feel awkward about hassling publishers for payment and may fear not being commissioned in the future. However, you are entitled to that payment, your own rent or mortgage needs to be paid and it is likely you won’t have a large cash flow.

If the publication delays, £2 + VAT will get you a legal Letter Before Action from a debt collection agency such as Thomas Higgins. An official letter will no doubt encourage slow payers to speed up.

This Journalism.co.uk guide on how to get paid on time has some excellent tips, advice on setting your own terms, chasing payments and threatening legal action.

5. Do not let others steal your work

Simon Crofts, a former lawyer who is now a photographer, has written about claiming damages for breach of copyright on EPUK (Editorial Photographers UK).

The article, published last week, details copyright law, what you are entitled to claim from an infringer, and how to assemble and present a claim. Although aimed at photographers, nearly all of it is relevant to writers who have had their articles ripped off.

6. Be strict with yourself

There is a danger of working too hard or not putting in enough hours and therefore losing potential commissions.

7. Think pictures

Consider selling your stories and photographs as a package. You could partner with a photographer or source your own images.

Selling a words and pictures package can make a story more appealing to a busy editor, and it could boost the amount you earn.

8. Consider syndicating abroad

This is not relevant for every type of content but there are various agencies who can sell on features for you, providing you have the rights to sell the story outside the UK.

This Journalism.co.uk guide details how to syndicate freelance articles abroad.

There is also a recently launched Canada-based platform called MediaCooler that maybe worth uploading content to. Journalism.co.uk has published a question and answer interview with MediaCooler’s CEO.

9. You need help from others when going it alone

Working from home and not having an employer to support you can be lonely and challenging. There is no editor or colleague to turn to for advice, there is no social contact, no post-work drinks or office Christmas party.

In order to learn from others and benefit from a support network, join a local freelancers’ meetup group, become a member of Journalism.co.uk’s freelance directory, which not only provides exposure but also gives you access to other freelancers with years of experience and those just starting out.

Also, set yourself an annual budget to pay for yourself to go on training courses (Journalism.co.uk runs one-day training courses, and has links to other short courses), attend journalism conferences (such as our news:rewired event where you can learn about the latest trends in digital journalism), and go to networking events.

10. Take advantage of the quiet month

The second half of December and first half of January is deadly quiet for many freelancers. You can either twiddle your thumbs and worry that you will never land a commission again or you can take advantage of the freelance life and go on holiday for a month.

For more news for freelancers, bookmark the freelance news section of Journalism.co.uk.

  • The freelance database on Journalism.co.uk contains hundreds of members from all over the world. A listing includes an individual page on the site where you can post links to your work, as well as a branded email address – yourname@freelancejournalism.com and access to the freelancejournalism.com group. You will also be able to purchase discounted training courses run by Journalism.co.uk. Sign up as a freelancer here.
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Ten technical Twitter tips for journalists

So you think you know Twitter? But do you know how to archive tweets, set up an RSS feed of a Twitter stream or have private group chat?

Here are some practical, technical tips to help you:

1. Learn to love Twitter’s own advanced search. Since being updated earlier this year, Twitter’s search options have become much more powerful than they once were. You can use the advanced search page, but it’s worth learning a few shortcut commands you can use on the Twitter homepage. For example,

Type to: in the search box on Twitter’s home page to get messages sent to you or to a particular username.

Find local tweets using near: and within: This is a tip sent by journalism student Jeroen Kraan @KraanJ when we were discussing Twitter tips on @journalismnews.

There is a list of more Twitter advanced search commands here.

2. Search tweets using Topsy. Topsy is Google for social media, a search engine that allows you dig part way into the unimaginably vast Twitter archive.

3. Get to know other search tools. Search tweets using Snap Bird. This is a really handy tool that allows you to search a user’s timeline or your own account. Try PostPost to search and “strip search” your timeline. PostPost will ask for your email address, send you a link and then you can dig deep within your timeline, searching for a specific hashtag or user.

4. Set up an RSS feed. You can set up feeds of your own or any other user’s Twitter updates.

To add a feed of tweets from a user copy and paste the following, replacing xxxx with the user name.

http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/xxxx.rss.

This method doesn’t work for Google Reader but is compatible with RSS readers such as NetNewsWire.

To set up a keyword RSS feed use the following URL, replacing Journalism.co.uk / journalism jobs with your search query.

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=journalism.co.uk

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=journalism jobs

There’s also this really handy tool from Sociable.co. This allows you to set up an RSS feed for a username, Twitter list or keyword.

5. Archive your tweets. You can archive a hashtag or tweets sent from your account or another user’s account using Twapperkeeper. This is a particularly useful way if you want to search for a tweet you sent some months or even years ago.

6. Verify tweets. The HoverMe browser extension for Chrome is useful for verifying Twitter sources. Once installed and you hover over a Twitter profile photograph, you can see what other online accounts that user has and although not fool-proof, it will give you some idea of whether they are a real person with LinkedIn, YouTube and Delicious accounts and, helpfully, a Klout score, which measures online influence.

7. Here’s a tip for TweetDeck users who share the management of a Twitter account. One limitation of TweetDeck is the inability to be able to create a column of tweets sent from your account, something you can do in other applications such as HootSuite. The workaround is to set up a new Twitter account, follow the one (or more) account you manage and set up a TweetDeck column for “all friends”. This is our solution at Journalism.co.uk, where several people respond to tweets.

For this to work you must always use a character before the @ as tweets beginning @username can only be seen by people who follow you and that person.  For example, use .@joebloggs and not @joebloggs when writing tweets that begin with a username.

8. Have private, group chats by starting tweets with !b. New Twitter tool !blether allows you to start a group, private chat with people who follow you. After authenticating this tool you can use !b at the beginning for a tweet to begin a conversation. Useful for chats during conferences.

9. Monitor Twitter lists. How often do you make use of other people’s Twitter lists? Journalists seem to frequently overlook these existing lists where people have already done the legwork for you in terms of collating lists of useful people to follow. For example, a journalist following a story such as an uprising in an Arab country, a financial story or celebrity gossip can simply follow a list someone else has created.

Did you know that Journalism.co.uk has Twitter lists for UK regional journalists, UK broadcast journalists, UK press public relations, UK consumer journalists, etc? Send us a tweet if we have missed adding you to the correct list.

10. Familiarise yourself with how to read and send tweets via SMS. You never know when you might need to send or read a tweet via SMS. Even if you have a smartphone you may find yourself unable to use a 3G or WiFi signal. The number you need to save in your contacts is 86444 (for UK Vodafone, Orange, 3 and O2 customers). (Other country codes are listed here.) The command you need to remember or to save is ON. Text ON to the above number and you will be able to follow the commands to receive and send tweets.

Helpful links:

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – advice on freelancing in TV

The BBC College of Production produced a useful podcast earlier this month which looked at working in freelance in the television industry, asking how to find work, the “insecurity” of looking for the next job and also how to “balance the books”.

The podcast features interviews with freelance TV producer Barney Newman, freelance production manager Jude Winstanley and David Thomas, who owns a business which offers training in communication, broadcast and business skills.

Tipster: Rachel McAthy

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at Journalism.co.uk email us using this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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Cuttings.me, a new portfolio platform for freelance journalists

October 24th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Freelance, Handy tools and technology

When freelance journalist Nicholas Holmes wanted to upload and share examples of his work could not find the ideal platform – so he built one.

Cuttings.me, which was launched earlier this month, allows freelancers, journalists and trainees to create an online portfolio with a simple, clean and effective layout.

You get your own URL (cuttings.me/nicholasholmes, for example), can upload your own background image and select from a couple of different layouts. Holmes promises more customisation options will be available in the near future.

It takes just a few minutes to create a portfolio, complete with biography and links to your blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, and then you can start bringing in your cuttings by adding links or uploading PDFs.

You can see examples of journalists’ Cuttings.me profiles at cuttings.me/simonrobinson and cuttings.me/momtaz.

There is currently no index of users so although profiles are technically not private, no one will see your page unless they have the URL.

“It’s possible that in the future I will introduce a feature where I can browse other people’s profiles,” Holmes said, explaining that he would inform users before making changes.

Holmes, who is British but lives in Switzerland, is tourism editor at France-based leisure newswire AFP/Relaxnews “and a bit of a geek on the side”.

“As well as doing my day job for the newswire I am also pitching for freelance stuff,” he told Journalism.co.uk.

What I found is that I was always having to send different URL’s in emails. It all got a bit messy when I was trying to remember the best bits that I had done and found I had the need for a single place to put all of this stuff and wanted the ability to direct people to that single page.

There are lots of resources online where you can hook up your Twitter feed, your Facebook URL and your LinkedIn URL but there was nothing specifically designed for journalists and so I thought I’d have a bash at developing it.

Cuttings.me is now in public beta and Holmes is looking for feedback, which you can give by tweeting @cuttingsme.

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Ten incredibly useful browser add-ons for journalists

Browser extensions for Google Chrome, add-ons for Firefox and Safari extensions can be very powerful and incredibly useful to journalists.

Here is a list of some that can help you find and search, verify sources and speed up picture annotation.

Some of the extensions in this list are our tips and the rest are suggestions submitted to us after we sent out a tweet asking for nominations.

1. HoverMe (Chrome)

Verifying Twitter sources can be testing. When this browser extension for Chrome is installed and you hover over a Twitter profile photograph, it will enable you to see what other online accounts that user has and although not fool-proof, will give you some idea of whether they are a real person with LinkedIn, YouTube and Delicious accounts and, helpfully, a Klout score, which measures online influence.

The downside is you have to use Twitter’s own website rather than a platform such as TweetDeck and it does depend on users using the same email address to link their various profiles.

2. Awesome Screenshot (Chrome and Firefox)

An incredibly useful Chrome and Firefox extension for online journalists who spend time annotating screengrabs in Photoshop and other graphics packages.

First you click the button on your browser to take a screen shot and then you can crop the image, circle or blur an area and save it.


3. Greplin (Chrome)

Greplin is an incredibly useful tool and has a handy browser extension which allows you to search your own private files from Chrome. It’s like Google for your email, calendar, Dropbox and Delicious. After you have signed up to Greplin and added the extension you can then type ‘g’ in the url field and search for a keyword or phrase and find references to it from your Gmail, Facebook and Dropbox accounts, plus in several other platforms.

4. Delicious (Firefox, Chrome, Safari)

Delicious has various add-ons to help users of the bookmarking platform. You can post a URL directly to Delicious and see your tags to allow you to easily find archived bookmarks.

Tipster: @the_claus

5. British English Dictionary (Firefox)

If your CMS, such as WordPress, has a default US spelling setting, this is one way of switching it to British English. Install the add-on, select several rows of text, right-click and change the language.

6. Firebug (Firefox)

This is a handy extension for journalists to “edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page”. By clicking on the installed add-on, you will be given a screen which shows you the code. Handy for spotting bugs.

7. Zotero (Chrome and Safari)

Zotero is a tool to help you collect, organise, cite, and share your research sources. Click on the add-on and you can file any web page into your Zotero library and manually add additional notes and information. There is a video here that explains how Zotero works.

Tipster: @onlinejourno

8. ScribeFire (Chrome and Safari)

ScribeFire allows you to blog from your browser, without opening the CMS or platform. You can post to platforms including WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, Windows Live Spaces, Tumblr, Posterous, Xanga, and LiveJournal.

You can edit and update existing posts and also schedule posts for the future (if your blog allows that). You can also delete posts, save drafts, tag, categorize and upload images, and post to multiple blogs at once.

Tipster: @onlinejourno

9. WikiTrust (Safari and Firefox)

Journalism students are no-doubt told never to rely on information form Wikipedia. This handy add-on goes some way to help you understand the online reputation of authors and content, however. Click the installed tab (within Wikipedia) and the intensity of the colour highlighting the text will tell you the degree to which it has been revised by high-reputation authors.

An orange background indicates new, unrevised, text, white is for text that has been revised by many reputed authors.

Tipster: @the_claus

10. Greasemonkey (Firefox)

This Firefox add-on allows you to  “customise the way a web page displays or behaves, by using small bits of JavaScript”. For example, use other people’s code to do things like remove the Facebook side ticker.

Journalist Mary Hamilton, who recommended the add-on said she uses it to automate really simple tasks and auto-refresh web pages.

Tipster: @newsmary

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