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Legendary Journalist Belva Davis Dishes on Interviewing the Greats

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Belva Davis, the first female African-American TV reporter on the West Coast, has paved the way for the likes of Tamron Hall and Soledad O’Brien. She is a true pioneer, a self-taught journalist whose incredible career has spanned print, radio and television.

In our latest So What Do You Do column, Davis talks about how she landed her fig gig at Jet, the reason she never turned down a story in the first decade of her career and why some of her memorable interview moments stand out for the wrong reasons:

I interviewed Jim Jones, who was someone I never wanted to talk to, and I had a poor interview with W.E.B. Dubois because I was young and didn’t know the significance of his importance. As time went on, I was interviewing Muhammad Ali one day and in the presence of Malcolm X the next. I did one of many interviews with Huey Newton in Cuba. Celebrities were open to me because I’d been on radio. I just pulled out some files the other day: interviews with Ella [Fitzgerald], Nancy [Wilson] and Lena [Horne]. But I think it was my first interview with then-Governor Reagan because it was unusual that I got past the Republican barricade. That was because of a co-worker and mentor named Roland Post, who became my co-anchor on a political talk show.

To hear more from Davis, including her experiences with sexism during the civil rights movement, read: So What Do You Do, Belva Davis, Pioneering Broadcast Journalist, TV Host and Author?

Paul McKenna on What Makes a Great Interviewer

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Paul McKenna has worn many hats during his eclectic, impressive career. He’s an international best-selling author, a hypnotist, a self-help guru and, now, a TV host.

On his new show McKenna (currently streaming on Hulu) he interviews media moguls like Simon Cowell, Ryan Seacrest, Harvey Weinstein, Rachael Ray and Randy Jackson to find out “what makes them tick.” In our latest So What Do You Do column, McKenna gives advice to up-and-coming media pros and shares his thoughts on what makes a great interviewer:

I’m not a journalist. So I haven’t come from conventional journalistic training, which is to go for the jugular, you know, sneak one question in under another, try and get the other person [to] expose something. I’m just fascinated and curious. I think 25 years in the trenches, working with the most challenged of people you can imagine, has given me an ability to have a politely inquiring manner, I hope. I think you get more from people if they feel that they’re being genuinely listened to and understood, and that they don’t need to be on guard.

For more from McKenna, including how a chance encounter on Simon Cowell‘s boat resulted in his latest gig, read: So What Do You Do, Paul McKenna, Best-Selling Author, Hypnotist and Host of Hulu’s McKenna?

Join Us Tomorrow for a Career Lunch Hangout with a Veteran Freelance Copywriter

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Be sure to tune in tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET for our latest Career Lunch Google+ Hangout! Mediabistro managing editor Valerie Berrios and MediaJobsDaily editor and career expert Vicki Salemi will be chatting with Kim Taylor, a veteran freelance copywriter and MediabistroEDU instructor.

Taylor has worked for a variety of agencies and brands, including David Levy, Brand Jam and American Express Platinum Travel. She’ll share her best advice for freelancers, on everything from managing your time wisely to scoring new clients and more.

Join the conversation with your questions and comments on TwitterFacebook or Google+ with the hashtag #mbhangouts.

Marcy Bloom on How She Became Condé Nast’s Youngest Publisher

Marcy-Bloom-ArticleMarcy Bloom is a publishing veteran, having worked at numerous glossies like Self, GQ, Teen People and Lucky. After taking a year off to volunteer abroad, Bloom hit the ground running with her current gig as senior vice president and group publisher of Modern Luxury.

In our latest So What Do You Do column, Bloom talks with Mediabistro managing editor Valerie Berrios about the changing landscape of modern advertising and how she became Condé Nast’s youngest publisher while at Lucky:

One [reason was] putting a lot of pressure on myself. [Having] a lot of amazing mentors, and quite frankly, Condé was such a great experience for me. We loved what we were doing at GQ. I learned a ton from the brand and my bosses there. And when you’re loving what you’re doing it’s easy to grow and work hard, and so with a lot of support from my management and the corporate management — they really put me [in that position at Lucky]. I think if you work hard and your intentions are great and you know what you’re looking to accomplish, people respond.

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Boy Genius Report’s Jonathan Geller on the Benefits on Anonymity

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Jonathan Geller has already lived an incredibly full life, and he’s not yet 30 years old. The founder of Boy Genius Report (the uber-popular mobile tech site) dropped out of high school his sophomore year to pursue a career in the music industry, which eventually led him to write an anonymous column for Engadget. This, in turn, led to the creation of BGR.com.

In our latest So What Do You Do column, Geller talks about writing for Engadget at 17, almost being sued by Cingular and the benefits of anonymity:

I stayed anonymous because at the time I was doing both music and [writing], and I didn’t want to be known in both worlds. I also liked the hype and marketing opportunities and uniqueness of being anonymous. I was this 17-year-old kid running the site, and the head of AT&T thought there were 1,000 people behind it, and he’s trying to come after me. Everyone in the tech industry feared me. By the time BGR got acquired by PMC, I decided to finally out myself. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I wanted to be a visible figure and the public face of my brand.

For more from Geller, including his advice for people starting a career covering tech, read: So What Do You Do, Jonathan Geller, President and Editor-in-Chief of Boy Genius Report?

Jeff O’Connell, Veteran Editor of Men’s Mags, Shares His Celebrity Interview Techniques

Jeff-O'Connell-ArticleJeff O’Connell, editor-in-chief of Bodybuilding.com, has had an illustrious career in fitness journalism. Starting off as a staff writer at Muscle & Fitness, O’Connell eventually worked his way up to EIC. He also served as executive writer at Men’s Health, has co-written a New York Times best-selling workout book with LL Cool J, and penned his own title, Sugar Nation, in 2011.

In our latest So What Do You Do column, O’Connell talks about the inauspicious start to his career, how he finds his most fascinating human-interest stories and his advice on interviewing celebrities:

So much of it is making the other person comfortable, especially if you do a celebrity interview. They’re so on guard, they’re so wary to begin with. I’m a very laid-back person, so I think that helps me, because sometimes people relax when they’re with me… whereas if you’re kind of intense and aggressive, they tend to recoil from that. Something that I thought would be a liability when I got into this business, which was being kind of shy and quiet and a listener, in many ways has actually helped me along the way. Don’t assume what you think are your weaknesses won’t help you at some point.

For more from O’Connell, including his best writing and editing tips, read: So What Do You Do, Jeff O’Connell, Award-Winning Writer And Editor-In-Chief of Bodybuilding.com?

Pitch Smart Articles on Child-Rearing to ParentMap

ParentMap-ArticleParentMap, the Seattle-based parenting pub, is on the lookout for fresh new writers. The mag, which bills itself as the ”intelligent, trusted, essential resource connecting Puget Sound parents and community,” offers a full-spectrum menu of parenting content.

The mag is 80 to 90 percent freelance written and editors say they are open to both new and seasoned scribes. Pitchable content ranges from parenting essays to articles on health and education. Here are a few sections to focus on:

Every month ParentMap publishes a parenting essay in a section called “Voice”; it typically runs from 700 to 800 words. Then there’s the “Ages & Stages” department, which includes 800-word essays on children, specific to their age range: baby, toddler, preschooler, elementary age and teen. Articles in the “Wellness” section cover health topics that impact kids or families (they also run about 800 words). Features or cover stories tend to be about 1,600 to 1,800 words.

To hear more about the mag and get editors’ contact details, read: How To Pitch: ParentMap.

The full version of this article is exclusively available to Mediabistro AvantGuild subscribers. If you’re not a member yet, register now for as little as $55 a year for access to hundreds of articles like this one, discounts on Mediabistro seminars and workshops, and all sorts of other bonuses.

Bevy Smith, Host of Fashion Queens, on Her Magazine Career

Bevy-BlogBevy Smith, host of Bravo’s Fashion Queens, has worn many hats during her varied, impressive career. She started off in magazine advertising, working with big-name glossies like Vogue and Vanity Fair. She later became Rolling Stone‘s senior director of fashion advertising.

Smith’s career took a 180 after leaving the magazine world and she hasn’t looked back since. In our latest So What Do You Do column, Smith talks about becoming a TV personality, how Andy Cohen became her champion and how her networking skills helped kick off her career reinvention:

When I quit Rolling Stone, I quit with the idea that I was going to pursue TV and I was going to write. As soon as I quit, I went to South Africa, Zambia, Brazil and Costa Rica for three months. I had an amazing time and cleansed myself of my corporate life.  When I came back, I got a phone call from my dear friend Mimi Valdés, who at the time was the editor-in-chief of Vibe. She said, ‘We would love to have you back.’ Whenever VH1 or BET needed someone to come on and talk about the fab life of XYZ R&B or hip-hop star, I wanted to be the person from Vibe that went on. So I did that and I built up my reel, and that’s also how I started writing.

For more from Smith, read: So What Do You Do, Bevy Smith, Host of Bravo’s Fashion Queens?

Join Us Tomorrow for a Career Lunch with a Veteran Health/Fitness Journalist

Career-Hangout-ArticleIt’s that time for another Career Lunch! Join us tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET to watch SocialTimes editor Mona Zhang and MediaJobsDaily editor and career expert Vicki Salemi host a Google+ Hangout with veteran health journalist and Mediabistro instructor Sarah Burns.

They’ll chat with Burns about her extensive experience in health and fitness reporting — she’s been published in Prevention, SELF and Woman’s Day, to name a few — and her time in the digital realm (she’s held editorial positions at iVillage.com and About.com). Burns will share tips on ramping up your LinkedIn profile, how to manage a freelance business and more.

Join the conversation with your questions and comments on TwitterFacebook or Google+ with the hashtag #mbhangouts.

Life Refined Seeks Feature Pitches on Luxury Travel, Style and Culture

Life-Refined-Article1Life Refined is a luxury lifestyle mag with a twist: you can’t pick it up at a newsstand or the grocery store. In fact, you’d have to be a high-end company with wealthy clientele to get your hands on a copy.

This private pub’s content is 70 percent freelance written and editor-in-chief Marlene Srdic says she is always on the lookout for talented new writers. And submitting high-quality images with your story is a plus, since the magazine is photo-heavy. Here’s a snippet of what to pitch:

Life Refined runs about six to eight features per issue that range from 800 to 1,200 words. There’s no front-of-book, so shorter, newsy pieces won’t have a place in this magazine. However, interviews with well-known experts are game. Feature topics include luxury travel, style, home/design, food, wine and spirits, and art and culture. You can also pitch stories related to outdoor hobbies, such as golf, polo and skiing (a recent story described the art of bamboo fly rods).

For more pitching tips, read: How To Pitch: Life Refined.

The full version of this article is exclusively available to Mediabistro AvantGuild subscribers. If you’re not a member yet, register now for as little as $55 a year for access to hundreds of articles like this one, discounts on Mediabistro seminars and workshops, and all sorts of other bonuses.

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