freelance

PODCAST EPISODE #17: Ryan Shmeizer, on why we love lists

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I know you can’t help it.

I can’t help it, either.

I am a journalist by trade, a person who values the craft and importance of storytelling, and a big believer in complex, rich reporting … and I can’t help it.

I always click on lists.

You know the articles: “6 Great Moments in Seinfeld History”, “The 27 Best Foods for a Picnic”, “32 Reasons To Love Summer”. These days, lists populate the web.

That is because we click on them.

My guest on this edition of the Telling The Story podcast explains why.

Ryan Shmeizer is not a professional journalist. He is a venture capitalist in New York who only recently decided to display his writing for the world.

And on his first try, he scored big.

Writing on the Medium platform, Shmeizer wrote a piece called, 10 Reasons You Will Read This Medium Post”. One by one, he delineated the reasons why we click on lists and then read them to completion.

The article was quickly named an Editor’s Pick on Medium and proceeded to go relatively viral. I recently mentioned it as one of my 3 Great Stories of the week.

On the podcast, Shmeizer offers the same insight and analysis as he does in his writing. (more…)

The joys and perils of writing for free

As I write this entry, the sun has not yet come up on a Saturday morning.

This has become my habit. Typically, after a long workweek and a nice Friday night out, I fall asleep quickly and wake up early, seemingly before the rest of the world — or, at least, ahead of the sun.

I get up, write my blog entries for the week, and then begin my weekend.

And I do it all for free.

This, of course, was the choice I made when I started this blog. I did not have a problem with it then, nor do I now. Eight months in, I have truly enjoyed watching this site develop; as I Tweeted last week, it has now been read in all 50 states along with 88 countries. Meanwhile, I possess a steady, satisfying full-time job in journalism that fulfills me financially as well as in other ways.

In short, I do not feel cheapened by giving these entries away for free.

But then there’s this.

Last week Tim Kreider wrote an article for the New York Times entitled, “Slaves of the Internet, Unite!”. He bemoaned the number of writers and artists willing to do their job for free, especially when asked by others (not necessarily when self-publishing blogs). Kreider is a terrific writer in his own right, peppering his column with vivid imagery and painfully funny anecdotes. Here is a choice example:

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it.

Kreider’s column drew more than 650 comments and more than a few follow-ups from around the Internet. One such “Here, here!” came from my old guitar teacher, Michael Kovacs, who criticized a similar atmosphere in the music business:

I am not going to say that all new Music sucks. … I am not going to say that nobody goes to live shows … But I will say this: the value placed upon Music has, by all quantitative measures, reached a low point that nobody had seen coming. … No medium can truly grow when the makers of it are not given some affirmation of its value by the outside world.

This is the point I would like to examine.

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PODCAST EPISODE #9: Tomas Rios, paid-lance sportswriter

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Full disclosure #1: A month ago, I had never heard of Tomas Rios.

Full disclosure #2: I invited him to appear on my podcast off the strength of one article — a piece he wrote last month called “A Brief History of Bad Sports Writing”.

Full disclosure #3: I was very impressed with the result.

In the article, Rios takes aim at the “hot take” brand of journalism that has, he says, infested the sports media landscape. He traces it back to its evolutionary roots, bringing the reader on a journey from Grantland Rice to Dick Young to various modern-day writers, whom Rios willfully calls out by name.

Rios is my guest on Episode 9 of the Telling The Story podcast. We go deep into the discussion of modern sports journalism, and he holds back just as little in our podcast as he does in the article. Rios and I don’t agree on everything, but I admire the critical way in which he views the field, his work included.

But I also delve into another subject with the 29-year-old, whose work has also appeared on the Slate and Deadspin web sites, among others:

He talk about life as a freelancer.

Rios is a self-described “paid-lance sports writer” — that is to say, he is a freelance writer who no longer works for free. He began his career writing mainly about combat sports (UFC, MMA, etc.) and did so regularly until he found himself in a verbal showdown with comedian and UFC announcer Joe Rogan.

Or, as Rios puts it, “[Rogan] went on some crazy psychotic online rant and used some homophobic slurs against me and used his pull behind the scenes to cost me some work.”

Rios left the writing scene for a while but came back more determined. He says he has become an infinitely better writer today, and he says he has finally reached a point where he can give up his day job and actually make a living as a freelance writer.

His — like that of every freelancer, I suppose — is a unique story. It is worth hearing, especially for young writers trying to forge their own career path.

Among Rios’ other notable sound bites from the podcast:

  • On the influence of the “hot take”: “More and more reporting is failing to put things into the proper context. [It’s] putting them inside of these narratives that are easily digestible and allow us to make judgments about the people involved.”
  • On finding your voice as a writer: “I really don’t think about the audience very much. In my earlier writing, I felt like I had to pull back on what I wanted to say a little bit … and now, I just try to write as organically as I can.”
  • On his advice for young writers: “One thing they should be looking for in terms of their writing is good editing.”

Listen to the podcast at the top of the page or download it and listen to it later. And subscribe to the podcast – and rate and review it – on iTunes!

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Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com.