Sarah Norris

Freelancers need to be ‘nice people’ and represent the publications they are writing for, the national editor of Broadsheet has said.

Sarah Norris, speaking at the Freelance Festival in Launceston, where she was giving advice on pitching stories and dealing with commissioning editors, said the pandemic had been a rough phase for a lot of media houses, but especially for a publication like Broadsheet where the journalists must nurture contacts in a social and entertainment-led industry.

“If you can write a concise story, informed quotes, a great headline, a piece which is a great read, and meets my commission, I will commission you again and again,” she said. “We look for people who can meet deadlines, are generalists and also who have a specific niche. It is important that the people who write for us are nice, friendly, and interested as they represent us.”

She added that Broadsheet went to great length to mentor freelance writers and maintain good communications with them.

“At Broadsheet, we have a dedicated team of editors who reshape the stories, headlines and the photos to maintain consistency,” she said. “We also work hard at creating a good feedback channel between us and the writers. We communicate well with them and tell them why a certain part of the story was re-written.

“This results in the writers getting better at turning up stories for us. We want the young writers to look back and think that this was a helpful experience for them.”

Norris said the pandemic had impacted jobs, and changed the way they worked.  

“We did face some job cutbacks,” said Norris, who, herself had to go down to four days. 

“Broadsheet is all about going out and experiencing the city. We call it the culture guide of Australia. But, If you can’t leave your house, what do you write about? But it became very apparent that even though, we couldn’t leave our house, culture doesn’t sleep. Everyone still wants to know what’s going on in the world.” 

Life went online, from real life experiences to concerts and zoom tours of museums.  

“We jumped onto it and covered what the world was responding to,” she said. “It turned out that there was more content than normal. We also felt that the weight of the world was on our shoulders because we got a lot of emails from restaurant owners, and we wanted to save them from falling apart.”

 Norris said being a digital organisation, Broadsheet gets a first-hand view of how people respond to its stories.

“There is instant feedback on who clicks on the stories based on headlines and photos. We know what suburbs to mention, the photos to put up for people to click on the link. So the data that we get is very important for us.” 

At Broadsheet she said there is a lot of re-writing that happens after they get a piece. At times, they find an angle to a story that is unique and fun to read and works for the readers.  

Norris added they keep a tight watch on the comments section to avoid potential defamations and take care of the way they present a new restaurant or a café.  

Main image by Krutika Kale of Sarah Norris being interviewed by UTS journalism lecturer Martin Newman.

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