Archives for September 2012


Reporting, Writing—and Being Smart

 By Jack Limpert

A magazine editor usually works closely with a writer–the magazine editor is trying to figure out what will make the story something special, something that will make it interesting in six months.  Don Hewitt, the legendary top gun at 60 Minutes, once talked about finding stories that were based on an idea, not a subject. That made a lot of sense, and it was one way to decide whether to say yes or no to a story proposal.

So what kind of writer can do that kind of story?

10 Things an Editor Doesn’t Want to Hear from a Writer

I wrote a lot for my high school paper.

My favorite writer is Hunter Thompson.

I can write pretty much any kind of story.

I usually get $3 a word.

This will be an award-winning article.

Will you pay all my expenses?

I hope you won’t edit the style out of my story.

If I get sued, do you pay for the lawyer?

And then there’s this…

This isn’t the piece we talked about but I think you’ll like it.

I went a little over the word count on this one.

10 Things a Writer Doesn’t Want to Hear from an Editor

I’ll ask around to see if anyone’s seen your resume.

An interesting idea but another writer is working on something too much like it.

We did that story three months ago.

We’d look at it on spec.

Your piece didn’t make it into this issue but it might run by the end of the year.

We could run it on the website and pay you $25.

We had to trim 20 inches at the last minute and there wasn’t time to contact you.

When I said we pay a dollar a word, that’s a dollar a published word.

On Writing: My Private Dictionary

By Mike Feinsilber

“I have a correspondent whose letters are always a refreshment to me, there is such a breezy unfettered originality about his orthography. He always spells Kow with a large K. Now that is just as good as to spell it with a small one. It is better. It gives the imagination a broader field, a wider scope…”  —Mark Twain in a speech at a spelling match, Hartford, Connecticut, May 12, 1875.

On Writing: How to Cover Politics

By Mike Feinsilber

Writing Under Pressure: Capturing It All in 40 Words or So

By Mike Feinsilber

“Why, no. You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins and bleed.” –Sports columnist Red Smith when asked if writing is hard.

It was a prestige assignment, but a tough one. Reporters sat before computer screens at the political conventions and puzzled over how to come up with a first paragraph that would sum up what they and most of their readers had just witnessed. Writing a good lead under deadline pressure is always a challenge. Reporters who do it see scant exaggeration in Red Smith’s characterization of it as a bloodletting.