June 9, 2010

There are a few standard ways in which reporters and writers are rewarded for their work:

  1. Pay
  2. Play
  3. And the freedom to generate more of the stories they want to work on.

All three are interrelated, of course, and it’s the journalist’s job to figure out how to do the best work and reap the most satisfying rewards. Let’s take, for example, the issue of “play.” Where does the editor decide to play the story and at what length? Does the story begin on the Sunday front page and stretch inside? Or does it run, without a jump, inside the local section?

Editors say they want more short writing. So why do the writers who write the longest still seem to get the best rewards, a fact reinforced by the most prestigious journalism contests, such as the Pulitzer Prize?

Here’s what writers need in the year 2010: Versatility. Versatile writers will always have marketable skills and will find a way to get their best work published. Versatile writers can write news and features and can write fast or slow, short or long. Versatile writers can write for legacy news media, but can adapt the process to serve the new needs of an industry in transition.

Short writing works for the Web, but so do enterprising investigations.

The key for the versatile writer is to know when to write short and when to write long, and to match story length to the mission and purpose of the work.

Please join us on Thursday, June 24, at 3 p.m. ET for a live chat on these topics. Bring your own ideas and be ready to share your questions and concerns with a community of writers.

Twitterers can tweet questions to #poynterchats before or during the chat. You can revisit this link at any time to replay the chat after it has ended.

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Roy Peter Clark has taught writing at Poynter to students of all ages since 1979. He has served the Institute as its first full-time faculty…
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