Module 1: Introduction
Your first and most important steps to becoming a published freelance journalist – how to enjoy your course –
how to proceed with your assignments – about your tutors and how they will help you – a six-point plan to
make your course a complete success.
Module 2: Making A Freelance Journalist Out Of You
An important truth for all freelance journalists – deciding where and when to write – avoid overworking – how
to start writing – writers’ block, how to overcome it – basic equipment – keeping a cuttings file – how to
organise yourself – using a trained eye – what you should write about – start with what you know – how to
use rejections to improve your writing – your educational background – qualities that are necessary to be a
successful freelance journalist.
Module 3: The Role Of The Journalist
An introduction to the newspaper office – the changing face of journalism – the job of the journalist explained
– what is news? – how news is changing – what makes a hardhitting news story – where news comes from –
how to gather news and generate stories – hard news and soft news explained – the difference between
features and general interest articles.
Module 4: The World Of The Freelance
The role of the freelance journalist explained – how to beat the competition. Hard news or soft news, which is
the right one for you? Using your specialist knowledge – how to survive as a freelance journalist – the pros
and cons of freelancing explored – cultivating a professional attitude – what pay you can expect – making
sure you get paid. Opportunities for the freelance journalist.
Module 5: Understanding the Newspaper Market
The importance of knowing your market – a potted guide to weekly papers, evening and regional morning
papers, the nationals and trade press. Analysing papers as part of your market research – tailoring your
writing to different publications – why timing is essential – when to contact the newsdesk – exploiting
opportunities – taking advantage of the editors’ slow periods.
Module 6: Material for The Freelance To Target
What the freelance should avoid. Tip offs – how to make them profitable – getting paid. Getting started – best
categories for the freelance to tackle – sports reporting – a subject not to overlook – local history, how to
research and bring dull facts to life – advertising features.
Module 7: Setting Up Seriously As A Freelance
Finding a regular supply of work – getting inside information on newspaper and TV organisations. Making
contact and talking to editors. Breaking into the magazine market – the importance of market research –
analysing the contents of magazines – article analysis – tailoring your work to their requirements. Equipment
needed by the freelance: car, phone, answer machine, word processor, personal computer, camera, taperecorder,
fax, filing cabinet and reference books. The need for an office/study. How to organise yourself – how
to keep records – the importance of keeping your finances in order – joining the NUJ or the Institute of
Module 8: Tracking Down Stories And Finding Facts
Developing your news gathering skills – the telephone calls you should make – which stories to look
for – developing your story – covering all your markets – the importance of contacts – how to
cultivate and use them – who makes a good contact – your contacts book – useful tips for running a
contacts network – the importance of acting quickly. A good source for information and story ideas –
monitor other media – make the most of advertisements. Researching your story or feature – the
importance of current information – who to speak to – a list of useful contacts – how to use cuttings
– always check quotes – using the Internet.
Modue 9: Putting Together A Story
Writing an effective news story – information to include – helpful guidelines – the 5 Ws – the
journalist’s mantra. How to stucture your story – the news story pyramid – an example – analysis of
a news story – getting your introduction right – ensure accuracy – facts not opinions – using quotes
– avoding hype. Tips to help develop your writing style. Putting together a feature – the introduction
– the main body – the sign off. Planning your writing – the importance of revision.
Module 10: Selling Your Work
Step-by-step guide to selling your writing including finding an angle, writing your story and devising
your sales pitch. Multiple angles – turning editorial competition to your advantage – selling hard
news and soft news – using your initiative – follow up stories – spotting and exploiting story
opportunities – using photographs – timing is critical – speed writing and the 5 Ws. Selling features
and articles – how to write your query letter – a typical query letter – outlines explained and
illustrated – how to submit your copy – layout of your manuscript – learning from re-writes – pen
names. Selling to the world – how to find markets outside the UK – market research is essential.
Module 11: How To Write Readers’ Letters and Fillers
A wide open market – opportunities for a regular income – who publishes readers’ letters – turning
your experiences into cash – personal anecdote letters, further comment letters and controversial
letters explained – how to start – the value of market research and how to tackle it – assessing the
competition – tips on writing a successful reader’s letter – developing your writing style – how long
to wait for publication – tips on increasing your chances of publication. What makes a filler –
targeting your subjects – quizzes, brain teasers, crosswords and questionnaires – the importance of
humour – Reader’s Digest and how to approach it – other good markets – good sources for ideas –
how to submit fillers – your copyright – multiple submissions – payment.
Module 12: Writing Reviews
A good place to start – the reviewer’s role and responsibilities – what you should include in your
review – your attitude – how much you can expect to be paid – building your portfolio – a word of
warning. How to review and write up stage shows including: plays, musicals, concerts, opera, ballet
and comedy. Reviewing amateur dramatics – a danger to avoid. Reviewing books – who to sell to –
a checklist of what to include in your review. Tips on reviewing CDs, films, TV and computer games.
Eating out reviews – the pitfalls – key points to include – an example of a fact file. Reviewing cars –
what to include – example of an auto file – a useful reminder.
Module 13: Articles For Women’s & Men’s Magazines
Section 1: Writing for Women – Opportunities for the freelance – market research is vital – what
editors want – the changing face of women’s magazines – front page teasers – men writing for
women’s titles. How to tackle the triumph over tragedy article – how to write the confessional article
– celebrity profiles and the freelance – who to interview – how to contact celebrities – the interview,
how to approach it and what questions to ask – the importance of preparation – how to get an
original quote. What makes a ‘Happy Days’ article – health articles, who can write them – the
personalised piece – the role of photographs. Articles for the feminist press – subjects to cover – a
structure to follow. Writing your preliminary letter – who to send it to and what to say – packaged
Section 2: Writing for Men – the new contents of magazines for men – speaking the lingo –
market research is essential – the big six – what editors will pay for – who should write for men’s
Module 14: How To Write General Interest Articles
The market – important differences between articles and features – subjects to avoid – opportunities
for the freelance – sources for ideas. Researching your market – important facts to include. How to
begin your article – using the same idea for a variety of markets – finding a ‘peg’ – when to submit
articles – the value of careful planning – using topicality – keeping one step ahead of the competition
– being in the right place at the right time. Seasonal articles – when to submit them – be organised –
how to look for different angles for different markets – more sources for ideas – making your hobby
or pastime pay. Writing for the colour supplements – writing from your own experience – keep on
Module 15: Travel Writing
The reality uncovered – huge opportunities for freelances – what a travel editor is looking for – what
to avoid. The secret of a good travel piece – tips on finding a fresh angle – the importance of
knowing your market – getting free or reduced travel – the value of preparation before travelling –
how to gather your information on location and how to use it – tips on how to sell to more than one
market – the importance of taking your own photographs – a danger to avoid. How to write the travel
article – what to include and what to leave out – gripping introductions – sidebars – an example.
Using your locality to your advantage – where to find information. Contacting and writing for the top
travel markets. Opportunities in the overseas markets and in-flight magazines – subjects to write
about and those to avoid. What rewards to expect from travel writing.
Module 16: Writing For The Trade Press
Another huge market – the importance of market research – the stories editors are looking for – the
importance of in-depth research and accuracy – your writing style – avoid jargon. Expanding into
features – how to break into the trade press market – becoming a local correspondent – making
your contacts – where to find ideas – how to cash in on trade fairs – some practice projects – inhouse
magazines – sponsored magazines.
Module 17: Writing For Children’s & Teenage Publications
What children read – why write for youngsters – what to write about – language matters – style and
presentation – the value of talking to children – selling your work – what not to write – what to
include in activity articles. The teenage market and opportunities for the freelance – youth culture –
subjects for the freelance – old favourites discussed – using humour – the boy/girl divide – true
confession stories, when to use them and how they should be written – some taboos in writing for
the teen market.
Module 18: How To Write Humorous Articles
Where to find humour – using humour in your writing – using humour effectively – finding your niche.
Different types of humorous writing including personal experiences, irony, satire, strange but true
stories and general interest. Using humour in fillers and readers’ letters – how to find humorous
ideas and use them in your writing – your humour file. Funny quizzes – subjects to avoid – an
important piece of advice.
Module 19: Religious & Inspirational Writing
Who can write for this market – faith and facts – understanding the market is vital – be sincere.
Subjects to cover – news – people – places – practical advice – humour – anniversaries –
devotional/spiritual – personal opinion – reviews – personal experiences. Readers’ pages –
homes/gardens/cookery – writing for children – payment. Inspirational articles – the New Age market
– dos and don’ts. The American market – finding markets – list of UK publications.
Module 20: Ethics
The moral maze journalists face every day – advice on overcoming ethical problems – the
journalist’s first responsibility – handling the ‘no comment’ statement – what your editor will expect –
when you can ethically use ‘unavailable for comment’ – avoiding libel – investigating claims – where
to place the denial in your story. The industry’s two main codes of conduct listed and discussed.
When a story is in the public interest – the invasion of privacy debate – a list of don’ts – what is
good taste – avoiding bias – a reminder of where your loyalties lie.
Module 21: Essential Law
Libel, why you should avoid it – what is libellous – defamation, identification and publication
examined. Defences against libel – justification – fair comment – accord and satisfaction – offer to
make amends – absolute and qualified privilege – a last word on libel. Handling complaints – who
should handle them – your attitude – a danger to avoid. Copyright – how it protects others’ work –
protecting your own work – on the Internet – borrowing photos. Protecting your sources. Court
reporting – British law – criminal law and civil law explained – the journalist’s role in court reporting –
types of offences – where different offences will be tried – the Crown Prosecution Services.
Reporting remands – ten things journalists can safely report – when restrictions don’t apply. How a
trial is conducted when a defendant pleads guilty or not guilty – punishments. Contempt of court –
guidelines on avoiding contempt of court – crime reporting, before, during and after the trial. The
Criminal Justice Act 1925 – when you can take photographs. Identification of juveniles – jigsaw
identification. Coroner’s courts – reporting inquests – treasure trove.
Module 22: Local Government
Why you need to understand local government – council responsibilities explained: protection and
safety, the environment, housing, welfare and education, sports and culture. Different types of
councils – two tier – single tier – parish councils – who’s responsible for what. Greater London –
how the GLA works. The changing face of local government. How councils operate – the difference
between councillors and officials, mayors and leaders of the council. Items for discussion and their
sources – debate – declaring an interest – journalists’ access to meetings – qualified privilege
explained and when it applies. Local government finance – local government ombudsman.
Devolution – the wider scene.
Module 23: Behind the Scenes At A Newspaper
The people who make up a newspaper’s staff – who’s who on the board of directors – who’s really
in charge – the editor’s position discussed. The roles of the different departments are examined –
production – circulation – promotions – advertising – accounts. How they keep the paper running
Module 24: Inside The Editorial Department
How the newsroom is organised – the chain of command illustrated – the roles of the editor, deputy
editor, associate editors, the news editor, chief sub-editor, sports editor, features editor and the
picture editor examined. The daily editorial conference and its function – the news list. Copyflow –
how a news item goes from an original idea to a printed story.
Module 25: Life As A Staff Reporter
How a staff reporter is expected to work – the discipline of news gathering – the role of the
newsroom diary – how the newsroom is organised – the importance of gathering background
information – night work and unsocial hours – the role of the specialist and district reporters – the
benefits of working at a branch office. Responsibilities of a reporter – dress code – your behaviour
and attitude – punctuality – keeping your cool – determination – reporting fairly and accurately. How
to cover events – checklist for preliminary stories – questions to ask and who to talk to – on the day
– the follow-up story – keeping a positive attitude – finding a new angle. How to cover meetings – be
prepared – who to talk to – tips on how to remember who’s who – where to place yourself – an
important warning. Reporting speeches – finding the best news angle – the importance of accurate
quotes and how to achieve them.
Module 26: The Role Of The Sub-Editor
The importance of the sub-editor’s job – what the sub-editor does. How a sub-editor judges copy –
placement of a story – the sub-editor’s responsibilities – being held to account – protecting the
paper’s reputation. The sub’s department – the role of the chief sub-editor, junior subs and
copytasters – copy subbing explained. Writing headlines – avoiding ambiguity – news/advertising
ratio – the influence of advertising – ‘the book’ explained – planning. The importance of timing –
localised pages. The theory of design – visual appeal, logical layout and design definitions. Bill
posters. A health warning!
Module 27: TV & Radio News
The rapid pace of changing technology – a guide to the main TV broadcasters – a guide to radio
broadcasters – the styles of the BBC and commercial stations examined. Opportunities for the
freelance – giving tip-offs – when to contact the newsdesk. Working as a radio reporter – what
makes a radio story – how sound is used to create atmosphere and effect. How a TV newsroom is
organised. Working as a TV reporter – how to maximise the impact. TV, radio and print reporting
compared – video journalists – what the future holds.
Module 28: Going For A Staff Job
You’re now one step ahead – the competition – what editors are looking for and how to provide it –
finding a job – where to look – taking the initiative – how to contact editors. Your early days on staff
– what to expect – further training – the role of the NCTJ – unconventional ways to break into
journalism. Opportunities in TV and radio – initial contact – pre-entry courses – the BBC’s News
Training Scheme – independent local radio – commercial TV. Looking ahead – time to specialise –
best wishes for the future.
Spelling, Punctuation & Style by Diana Nadin
Getting the Most From Interviews by Ian Pattison
Profit From Your Photography by Hugh Graham