Freelancing features for a future in magazines

As much as I love The Pendulum, ultimately, I hope my future lies in magazine journalism. I am more naturally drawn to the long, in-depth feature story and magazines offer the type of writing and environment I have always wished for in my journalistic career. So, how does a student whose journalism education is rooted in newspapers get a job in the magazine industry? I was quite worried about this one, admittedly, but after attending “How to Transition From Newspapers to Magazines” this morning – led by Mark Mayfield of the University of Alabama – I feel a bit more confident about my future.

The key advice given by Mayfield in the session? Write. No matter what medium, writing as much as possible is vital in building the skills to be a good journalist and a solid writer. For those who hope to break into the magazine industry, Mayfield encouraged feature writing. Even in newspapers, feature writing must be narrative, illustrative and use a clear storytelling voice, which are tools implemented in the magazine world. Additionally, many skills are learned organically in the newsroom, such as meeting deadlines and the importance of accuracy. And while Mayfield ultimately ended up in the magazine industry, he said his 10 years working at USA Today and other newspaper publications was a primary reason for his success and taught him skills he would not have learned otherwise.

Something in Mayfield’s session that stood out was his anecdotes about his start in magazines. Before landing a full-time position at a magazine, Mayfield would write freelance, which gave him the practice and portfolio builders he needed in order to be successful. As features editor of The Pendulum, I plan on continuing to write as many stories as I can in my section, as well as taking every chance to write freelance in magazine-style publications. Mayfield’s session made my dream of working at a magazine not seem as daunting and unattainable as initially perceived: I just have to remember his advice to “not take ‘no’ for an answer” as I hit the pavement running with my summer internship search.

Some other points I found particularly helpful from this session include the following:

  • Reporting and writing are essential, no matter what journalism career.
  • Go beyond “just the facts” and the five W’s.
  • A lede will go from specific to general.
  • Focus on a person, scene or event that illustrates the main point of the story.
  • Have an ending that refers back to the lede.
  • A great feature story can begin very simply and should give the readers a sense of place.
  • Learn as much as possible about graphics, design and photography.
  • Write, write, write.
-Ashley Fahey
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