I’m happy to report that I got an article published a couple weeks ago in the Boston alt-weekly paper Dig Boston. The article concerns a visit by President Obama to Boston, where he attended a fundraiser for recently elected Senator Ed Markey.
But Obama’s visit wasn’t the main story. Rather, a group of protesters stood outside the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury to give voice to Obama’s wishy-washy stance on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Markey has been an outspoken opponent of the pipeline, which will deliver tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada all the way through the Midwest and into the Southern United States. Protesters claim that the pipeline risks costly spills to the communities which the pipeline will flow through. While Obama has signalled that he doesn’t exactly agree with the pipeline plans, he has been timid in outright opposing it. Many see this waffling as a disappointment, as environmentalists had thought that they had a partner in Obama. You can read the complete article here.
But I didn’t want to write simply in order to congratulate myself. I wanted to detail the steps that I took in order to get the piece published to show other writers how to get their work published. I was surprised with how easy it was once I got over the hurdle of putting myself out there.
First off, I recognized that I had met the editor of the Dig a few years ago when I worked at a summer camp. Who would have known that a completely unrelated job would lead to a writing gig? It goes to show you that opportunity can come from the most unlikely of places.
I got an email announcing Obama’s visit, both from a Democrat-based group and also from a environmentalist group, 350.org, that was organizing the protest. Another lesson here is get your name on as many email lists as you can. These can lead to valuable tip-offs to future stories, as well as contacts and sources for your story.
I realized that Obama would be coming to the Reggie Lewis Center, located minutes away from where I work. I figured that I could shoot down there, talk to some people, and still be out of there in time for work. I shot an email over to the editor of the Dig, asking if he would be interested in the story. As an alternative weekly, the Dig often covers environmental issues and other stories that aren’t covered in the mainstream press.
I assumed that I wouldn’t hear back. However, within an hour I got a response that the editor was indeed “very” interested in the story. It was on.
I got to the protest, which already had a good amount of people even though Obama wasn’t to appear until hours later. I talked to a bunch of protesters including the guy who appeared to be leading the group. In addition to interviews, I snapped a few photos of protesters holding up signs. Later that day I typed up a short story, about 500 words or so, did some fact checking and research on the Keystone XL, and within an hour and a half, had a story I was happy with. I sent it over to the editor and crossed my fingers.
I hadn’t heard anything in two days. I assumed that I had written a terrible story and they wouldn’t use it after all. That was until I checked my Twitter and saw a tweet from the editor, hyping the story. I hadn’t realized that a busy editor isn’t going to personally email to tell me that my story had been published. Welcome to the real world.
Even better was the next day. I was in the middle of moving so I needed some newspapers for packing. The Dig is free so I reached into the Dig receptacle to grab a stack. On a whim I opened up the paper and, there it is, my story on page 4! I was unwittingly using my story as cushioning for my pots and pans!
Seeing my byline was exciting and boosted my confidence. Going through the process and seeing how easy it was to get this story published was a huge learning experience. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get yourself out there. I wasn’t expecting a response, nevermind get published. It’s easy to be self-defeating and think your idea is “stupid” but you will never know until you try.
That’s one down, hopefully many more to go!