Some might wonder if this venture is my reaction to one or all my former clients when I was an independent (or, freelance) reporter.
The opposite is true for me.
Certainly, it’s happened many times before where a writer or editor leaves one publication in anger and starts one to compete and “show them.”
And the freelance life is full of frustrations, plenty to give reason for throwing up one’s hands.
But, I see this effort as an important extension of what I learned along the way over the last several years.
Before starting on the journey of learning how to be a credible reporter, I was a public-school teacher. Eventually I became an education issues blogger.
The raw world of effective blogging is not just one of stating an opinion, but opinion-shaping. And it’s a world where commenters feel perfect freedom to lash out, sometimes in emotionally brutal ways. It’s nerd fight club.
Perhaps more out of a survival strategy, I started to see that I needed credible news sources to do the best job of influencing the conversation.
I started to understand better just how hard reporters work to get the story right, and to be fair.
Eventually, I wanted to be one of those credible sources. I took early retirement from teaching and started freelancing.
It was tough making the transition from academic writing to reporting. It’s also been one of the most interesting and fun things I have ever done in my life.
I have done the most freelance work for three publications here in OKC. Each of my editors and fellow writers at those publications helped to hone my skills and develop a framework for writing and reporting.
In no way am I a finished product, but I would be much further behind if not for them.
At Red Dirt Report, an online news site, I learned how to identify, write and photograph stories. I learned journalistic standards of fairness and getting the story right. It was there that I had to park years of experience in academic writing and focus on telling the story simply, accurately and fairly.
With the Oklahoma Gazette, I had to learn about space and holding to word limits because its primary medium is print.
And the Gazette is weekly. Thinking deeper into a story became a necessity to keep from being pre-empted by TV or daily publications.
Writing for the Gazette was also a good exercise in learning how to best collaborate with some of the top photographers in the city.
Eventually adding the slick and beautiful 405 Magazine to my client list was an even deeper dive into time and space constraints. I had to learn to think months ahead and how to see what was evergreen about every story.
But the editors for each of those publications are who I give the most credit to if I have anything at all to offer.
Andrew Griffin at Red Dirt Report, Jennifer Chancellor at Oklahoma Gazette, and Heidi Centrella at 405 Magazine all showed extraordinary patience and willingness to coach. Each one came from very different lines of experience in the business, but all were highly skilled at the craft and had the depth of wisdom it takes to keep a publication going.
Their influence and coaching is why I have been able to even develop Free Press and so far, not go crazy in the process.
They are why this is such a blast.
So, I’ll see you at the next thing.
Probably ask you some questions.
Likely take your photo.
And, I’ll probably smile a little in the process.