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On beat reporting

On beat reporting
By Jewel Wicker • Issue #16 • View online

Jhené Aiko - Born Tired (Official Video)
Jhené Aiko - Born Tired (Official Video)
I’ve told this story on social media before but when I was in college, I went to a networking event and mentioned to a prominent broadcast reporter that I wanted to entertainment to be my beat. She offered me a piece of advice that has stuck with me in the years since, but not for good reasons. “Don’t tell anyone you want to be an entertainment reporter,” she said. “It sounds like you just want to party with celebrities.”
Aside from the fact that I’ve always been pretty introverted and have never really enjoyed “partying,” my intentions at the time were to work for a trade publication like Billboard where I could cover music business. The assumption that entertainment reporting only existed to produce vapid coverage is simply…ridiculous.
When we treat beats as if they’re one-dimensional, we do our readers a grave disservice. Being a skilled entertainment reporter requires a knowledge of covering breaking news, doing show reviews and offering expert analysis, and having an understanding of other beats including business, race and politics. We should be trained the same way any other reporter would be trained.
If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot afford to look at reporting in these fragmented ways anymore.
These are a few organizational tools that worked well for me last year.
I track my hours in Toggl for both billable and non-billable (admin) work so that I can better set my rates. It’s a really useful way to gauge the scope of certain assignments and make sure I’m being paid well.
This service is free and it’s user interface is really simple and easy to navigate. I use it to track my invoices, expenses, etc.
I keep a detailed spreadsheet called a “Freelance Planner” for each year. This spreadsheet (which includes various tabs) tracks everything from my assignments, pitches, branded work, press, scheduled time off, etc.
For each assignment, I keep track of whether or not I negotiated my rate, word count, per word rate and per hour rate. I mark each line a pale yellow until I’ve sent off the invoice. And, I highlight new publications in green so I can look back on how many new clients I’ve worked with at the end of each year.
Minimalist to-do lists
Based on my YouTube watching, the youth really seem to be into color coding their handwritten notes on their iPads and in their doodle-filled bullet journals. I don’t have the patience or the artistic ability for any of this, and that’s probably why I stick with a traditional notebook. I’ve found I’m the most consistent when I stick with basic daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists.
If I don’t write it down, it won’t happen. After years of forgetfulness, I’ve finally started to use Apple’s reminders app religiously. I’ve created folders (home, health, groceries, Eleanor, etc.) and set reminders for even the smallest recurring tasks.
  • Binged Power Book II: Ghost and P-Valley
    2020 was a hard year and I really struggled to digest new material. I knew I needed to watch P-Valley but, after an assignment on the series got killed, I procrastinated on watching it until I was off last week. You don’t need me to tell you it’s phenomenal because hopefully you’re not as behind as me.
  • Slept in as much as possible
    (…at least until Eleanor sat in front of my bed whining each morning…)
  • Organized my house
    Do I understand the issues with The Home Edit’s style of organization as an “aesthetic”? Yes.
    Am I still on a mission to make my pantry look like a mini grocery store? Also, yes.
    I’m so sorry. I’m still a work-in-progress.
  • Watched a lot of YouTube hair tutorials and vlogs
    When I’m unwinding on the weekends or at night, I love to watch YouTube instead of traditional TV. This past week “Get productive with me vlogs” by AmandaRachLee and hair tutorials from Janae Mason were the perfect mindless content to have on in the background as I lounged around or cleaned my house.
  • Planned to take more time off
    We talked about this in a previous newsletter issue, but I really solidified my Out of Office plan during my time off last week. I structured it similar to my PTO and holiday time at the AJC, my last employer. Obviously, as a person who is self-employed, I can be flexible with this, but this exercise was really helpful in setting a framework and implementing time off into my annual financial goals.
DISPOSSESSION by Tayari Jones (Audible exclusive)
It’s no secret that I absolutely adore Tayari Jones, not just as a personal friend but as someone who memorializes southwest Atlanta in a way that I admire. Gabrielle Union voices this short story.
Always read Soraya McDonald. Always.
What is frustrating is that even after a deadly attack on our nation’s “citadel of liberty,” as Biden called it — one enacted by people brandishing Confederate flagsfascist tattoos and at least one “Camp Auschwitz” T-shirt — there are white people who remain immune to the truth about our country.
This is a great historical read about the ways in which mob violence has played out here in Atlanta.
I don’t love that they allowed the main subject to be anonymous here, but it’s still a very worthwhile read.
What Parler saw during the attack on the capitol by Lena V. GroegerJeff KaoAl ShawMoiz Syed and Maya Eliahou and othersfor ProPublica
This is an excellent database that compiles hundreds of social media videos from Parler to provide a look at Jan. 6.
This was a fascinating read about the ways in which people are imagining a world with less policing.
Jazmine’s Tale by Hunter Harris for Vulture
OK, this week’s reads are all a bit heavy because, ya know, the country recently experienced an insurrection. But let us not forget our beloved Jazmine Sullivan dropped a new project and that ABSOLUTELY sparked joy.
**I spent a good bit of the past two weeks thinking about Carol Anderson and her amazing book White Rage. You should read this book if you want to understand how our country got here (and by here, I’m referring to the Trump era and, more recently, the day white supremacists flew the traitorous confederate flag in the U.S. Capitol).
Did you enjoy this issue?
Jewel Wicker

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