Ja’s Reporter Rules (Part 2)

In Ja’s Reporter Rules (Part 1), I said:

I’ve been an art reporter for a newspaper for three years, and now I’m a freelance writer. My last job was my first job as a reporter and my second regular job in my life. When I was new to the job, I had no manual on how to do things, so I just learned on my own. Whenever there was some new thing I learned, I’d write it down in my list of “reporter rules”. Here are a few of those rules:

So here’s the second half, and I still have more rules to write about, so stay tuned!

1.     Batch small tasks and do them all just once a week

When I was starting out as a reporter, I was terrible at time management (see The Time Management Matrix that Saved Me from 16-Hour Work Days). After a while, I realized that I spent a lot of time doing small and unimportant tasks like transferring the cd contents of press releases, camera photos, and audio files to my computer; cleaning out press kits; replying and cleaning out my email; etc. Of course, these tasks have to get done at some point, but, as a writer, it’s not that important to excel in the art of transferring files or emailing. Obviously, the more important thing to do is to actually write.

The light dawned on me when I read somewhere (I forgot where, sorry) about batching tasks. This is a technique where you allot a particular time to doing a certain kind of task. Every time one shifts to a new task, your brain sort of does a reboot, so you aren’t as fast in completing the task. But if you group all the similar small tasks together, it speeds you up. So instead of emailing every now and then, thereby disrupting my writing days, I make a decision to only check my email for 30 minutes in the morning and do extensive cleaning up and replying on Fridays.

2.     Designate one bag for new press kits and another area for used press kits

Whenever I go to a press conference, they give us a bag filled with papers and a cd. This contains the basic information about what the press conference is all about. In the past, I used to put them all in one place, but then whenever I have to look for a certain press kit, I have to rummage through all the ones I already used. So nowadays, once I finish writing an article, I take the press kit for that article and put it in another bag. I keep the bag of used press kits for several months, and then I start using them as scratch paper.

3.     Type, don’t write, your notes

In the past, whenever I’d interview someone, I’d write my questions down in my notebook. Then, when I’d write my article, I’d refer to these questions because they already have some pertinent information that I need to use in my article. So I’ll type up these questions and add what I needed to the article. This wastes a lot of time.

Nowadays, I write my questions on the computer. I sync it through Evernote and put it in my phone, and I bring my phone to my interview and refer to the questions on my phone. This way, the information in the questions are easy to copy and paste to my article.

4.     Create an article info file

When researching, I compile a list of facts that I will use for my interview and in my article. That file is ladeled as article info. I use this list of narrowed-down information as a basis for my questions, and I use the article info as my first draft. (Read more about this in: Why I Don’t Have Writer’s Block: A Comprehensive List of Tips and Tricks)

5.     Create a list of standard questions that you ask artists

Mine is: how did the idea for the exhibit come about? How did the idea evolve? Could you explain the process of creating this work? What materials did you use? When and how did you start using his material? What made you interested in this material?  What made you interested in this concept? What made you interested in these images?

More Writing Exercises and Adventures:

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All the opinions expressed in this page and in this blog are my own and do not represent the official stances of the companies, institutions, and organizations that I am affiliated with. I am a person. I’m not just a manifestation of corporate interests. I have an identity that is separate from my company because even if human beings are paid for a service by corporations, human beings are not owned by corporations.