Each month we reach out to journalists and media professionals to chat with them about their experiences in the industry. For our latest ‘Questions for Journalists’ we had the opportunity to interview Josh Dehaas, a freelance digital journalist based in Toronto. He writes mostly about politics for CTV News, education for Maclean’s, and real estate for Toronto Life.
Freelance digital journalist
As a freelancer, how do you decide what to cover?
For the most part, I don’t. I think many journalists fantasize about being freelancers so that they can write more about their pet interests but that’s not reality. Freelance budgets have been decimated so most of the work I get is from editors who know me well. Usually, they are overseeing a particular section. So when I’m at CTV and not covering the breaking news of the day, I pitch mostly politics. At Toronto Life I only do real estate because that’s what they have a budget for and that’s what my contact handles. At Maclean’s I’m focused on finding stories that fit in their education issues — again, because the freelance budget is there and the editor trusts me.
What tips would you give someone pitching you?
Pitch a real story. In most cases, it’s only a story if it’s showing the reader/viewer/listener something new or surprising. (As in, if the editor does a Google search and their competitor already covered it, they will probably pass.) Also, try to provide contact information for someone who can be interviewed right away because a lot of the less obvious stories are done simply when a journalist has a few hours to spare. If the journalist has the contact info handy, it makes it far more likely that the editor will select that story.
What advice would you give to PR professionals about working with journalists?
Don’t be offended if we don’t get back to you — and keep at it if we don’t. I’m a very non-important person and yet I get about 350 emails per day related to CTV alone. Come to think of it, I don’t even open many of my emails so that makes the subject line all the more important.
Thanks for chatting with us, Josh!
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