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Mona Zhang

Mona is the editor of SocialTimes and social media coordinator at Mediabistro. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and East Asian Studies. Before moving to NYC, she lived in Beijing, London, Madrid and Chicago.

Writing Advice from Producer of The Tudors, History Channel’s Vikings

Just in time for the upcoming premier of Vikings on the History Channel, Michael Hirst, the show’s writer and producer, talks about his writing process in the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do? series.

“The key for me with historical characters is they’re interesting because they’re human beings,” he said. “A little bit of Hemingway goes a long way here, but journalists and writers should honestly look at their material and have a real interest, a real passion in what they want to write, and they should also have a lot of knowledge, as well. You don’t write police procedural stuff unless you really know that beat, but it’s ultimately not the procedure that makes the show work — it’s the people. The more real they are, the better.”

Read more in So What Do You Do, Michael Hirst, Creator of The Tudors and Vikings?

Editors Are Hungry for Pitches at Relish

Half of all freelancer pitches get the green light at Relish, and editors are always hungry for more. Launched in 2006 to celebrate America’s love for food, the pub enjoys a large readership thanks to its status as a newspaper-distributed magazine.

Now that its parent company has a new CEO, “We are looking towards being a total multimedia company, not just print,” said editor-in-chief Jill Melton.

Relish tells stories of the people, places and things behind the food, and editors like queries with national appeal and a good sense of place. Think you’ve got a great idea? Get more details and editors’ contact info in How To Pitch: Relish. [Mediabistro AvantGuild subscription required]

NYT Veteran Gives Tips for Journos Who Want to Write a Book

It’s a pretty big accomplishment for a first-time author to land on the New York Times bestsellers list, but Isabel Wilkerson definitely deserves it. The Pulitzer-prize winning journalist spent 15 years researching and conducted over 1,200 interviews for The Warmth of Other Suns, an account of the men and women who lived through the Great Migration, when 6 million African-Americans moved to the North.

In the latest Mediabistro feature, she talks about her writing process and gives tips to fellow journos who want to write a book. Below, an excerpt:

You interviewed more than 1,200 individuals. What skills do you possess that made people feel comfortable sharing their stories and information?

I always go into interviews with a great sense of gratitude for the courage it takes to share one’s story, particularly one so painful and heartbreaking, things that they had deep within themselves and had just gotten to the point of being able to share. So I think being an empathic listener, someone who was truly wanting to understand what they had endured — those are things I think they could pick up and sense in me. I also think they felt I had a sense of connection with them.

For more, read Hey, How’d You Write a New York Times Nonfiction Bestseller, Isabel Wilkerson? [Mediabistro AvantGuild subscription required]

Girls’ Life Wants Writers With the Right Voice

When EIC and publisher of Girls’ Life Karen Bokram was working for Seventeen, she approached her boss to suggest that the magazine add a section for younger teens. Many girls younger than the pub’s targeted audience wrote in, but the EIC wasn’t into the idea: “We make magazines for advertisers, not readers,” she told Bokram. So she struck out on her own and founded the Baltimore-based tween mag Girl’s Life, which has been going strong for almost 20 years.

What types of articles keep tweens coming back for more? “Girls are always going to get their period, girls are always going to be freaked out by bras, girls are always going to think their parents are embarrassing and girls are always going to be confused by guys,” Bokram said.

Get more guidelines in How To Pitch: Girls’ Life. [Mediabistro AvantGuild subscription required]

How to Land a Journalism Fellowship

Scoring a fellowship can not only boost a journo’s career, but provide valuable resources to carry out a project in this cash-strapped industry. From year-long stints at Ivy League schools to short-term projects, there are many options for those looking to enhance their skills. In the latest Mediabistro feature, veteran journalists and fellowship directors give tips on what you can do to make your application stand out. Here’s an excerpt:

Come up with a doable project.

Some projects sound great but are far too ambitious, dangerous or simply not feasible to pull off within the confines of a fellowship program.

“Sometimes people have this idea that if they just come to Stanford there’ll be computer science geeks falling over to work on their project, but that’s not necessarily the case,” said Jim Bettinger, director of the John S. Knight journalism fellowship program at Stanford. “You have to show in your application that you have the skills to do what you’re proposing and that you are the right person to carry it out.”

For more, read 6 Tips for Landing Journalism Fellowships. [Mediabistro AvantGuild subscription required]

How the Founder of Pitchfork Made It Big

Way back in 1995, Ryan Schreiber was a high school graduate working as a record store clerk. Finding little on the Internet about indie music, he decided to start his own Web page and launched Pitchfork. With no publishing experience, the site eventually became the online authority on indie music, and nowadays a review there can make or break a career.

In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do? series, Schreiber says that aspiring entrepreneurs should “be willing to put in the work for a long period of time for just the love of it.”

“Today, more so than any other time, it seems really difficult to make a living in the media, especially in the music media,” he explained. “It’s just so crowded, and at this point the publications that are really able to establish themselves are the ones that are the most passionate and the most relatable. I find that the publications I tend to connect with most are ones that are, in many cases, written by a single voice, somebody who has a really interesting viewpoint or perspective.”

Read the full interview in So What Do You Do, Ryan Schreiber, Founder and CEO of Pitchfork?

Land $2 Per Word at Ladies’ Home Journal

Freelancers can land a cool $2 a word with a successful pitch to Ladies’ Home Journal. The mag underwent a redesign for the digital age in March of 2012, incorporating much more reader input in its editorial content. Though editors mostly assign stories to their stable of freelancers, many of them started out with a pitch.

“We welcome pitches because we’re always looking for new [writers],” said Lorraine Glennon, senior books and articles editor.

To go along with the redesign, editorial content has shifted towards first person stories, like “The Divorced Mom’s Guide to Online Dating” which told the story of a newly divorced mother of two who decides to venture into the online dating world.

So, how can you land a byline in this newsstand staple? Get all the details and editors’ contact info in How To Pitch: Ladies’ Home Journal. [Mediabistro AvantGuild subscription required]

MSNBC’s Tamron Hall on What Really Happened During That Tim Carney Interview

From interviewing world leaders to hurling water balloons during a lighthearted segment, Tamron Hall is as at home reporting on the world’s pressing issues as she is doing what “some people would see as fluff.” In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do? interview series, the MSNBC anchor and Today substitute co-host gives her thoughts on objectivity and talks about her infamous on-air ‘throw down’ with Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney over Mitt Romney’s background.

“I just handled a situation that wasn’t best for my audience and my viewers,” Hall recalled. “We were having a conversation and I was asking a legitimate question, and I felt at the time that we were cheating the viewer with what was just political gamesmanship. I’m not here to judge anyone’s opinions, but I would like to have a question answered. So, for me, it was not about admonishing him or creating a moment or trying to be controversial. My job is to ask questions and get to the bottom of the story or the issue at hand, and I felt that we were being unfair to the viewer in having a conversation that was not about the issue at hand.”

Read the full interview in So What Do You Do, Tamron Hall, Anchor of MSNBC’s NewsNation?

Dave Karger on How Journalists Can Land TV Appearances

Dave Karger made quite a splash when, after almost two decades at Entertainment Weekly, he went to work for Fandango as chief correspondent. Now that he’s settled into the role, he tells Mediabistro what he’s been working on lately and offers up some advice for print journos looking to transition to TV. Here’s an excerpt:

How can someone position themselves for TV appearances of the kind that you make regularly? For a writer looking to get into that, is it just about getting the right job (where producers come to you), or is it about actively pitching yourself?
I think the important thing is just to know what you’re talking about and really study it. Find something that you’re extremely interested in, so that becoming an expert in it doesn’t feel at all like a job or a chore. If I didn’t have the job that I have, I would still be obsessed with the Oscars and I would still know who Quvenzhané Wallis is. It just happens to be that this is what I get to talk about for work.

I feel like all the great stuff I’ve gotten to do over the years, whether it’s the Today show or being the Academy greeter, it was never a calculated plan. I just tried to be comfortable in front of the camera and really develop an expertise. I think the fact of the matter is that I’m really interested in this, and that just shows when I talk about it or in the past when I have written about it.

For more, read So What Do You Do, Dave Karger, Chief Correspondent for Fandango?

All Sections of Ebony are Open to Pitches

Historically, most journalists writing for Ebony have been black, but it’s not a requirement to score a byline. The pub has recently run stories by writers who aren’t black, and also hopes to reach beyond the black community by tackling key issues from a wide variety of viewpoints.

The magazine is enjoying the fruits of a well-executed redesign spearheaded by editor-in-chief Amy DuBois Barnett, who works with CEO Desiree Rogers and Chairman Linda Johnson Rice. Barnett told NPR she’s working to balance fashion, entertainment and news that is empowering “and also still very rooted in the coverage of social issues and political issues that Ebony has always done so well.”

Bonus? Over 50 percent of the pub is written by freelancers. Find out how you can win over the editors in How To Pitch: Ebony. [Mediabistro AvantGuild subscription required]

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