Need something proofread? Want to workshop story ideas? Or just curious about how newsrooms work? We’ll be here, waiting to help.
By Bettina Chang, City Bureau Editorial Director & Cofounder
** UPDATE APRIL 2019 — Editor Office Hours are now Wednesdays 3–5:30p.m. instead of Tuesdays as originally announced in 2018.**
One enormous challenge facing newsrooms today is that the journalistic process is overly opaque and inaccessible to the general public. When you don’t know how something works, you don’t value it. That’s why City Bureau hosts free weekly Public Newsrooms and runs the Documenters program — to open up our processes and invite folks to critique and participate within them.
Starting after Memorial Day, we’re taking it a step further by having our editors devote time once a week to one-on-ones for anyone who wants to visit our newsroom. We’re calling them “Editor Office Hours” and anybody is welcome to drop by, ask us questions, solicit feedback or (of course) get a piece of writing edited.
Why should you come to Editor Office Hours? Here’s a quick list of possibilities:
You want feedback on a story/cover letter/resume/college essay… basically any piece of writing!
You feel strongly about a news article that has been published and you’re not sure how to reach out to that news publication and get a response
You’re a freelance journalist with a story idea/pitch who wants some honest, no-strings-attached feedback from an editor
You have an idea for a story that should be told but are not sure who to reach out to about it
You want to research/learn more about a news topic but don’t know where to start
You are curious about journalism careers or about the media industry in general
How does this work?
Hi there — I’m Bettina Chang, a cofounder and the editorial director of City Bureau. Starting Tuesday, May 29, I will be sitting at Build Coffee (6100 S. Blackstone Ave. — right next to City Bureau’s office!) from 3 to 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday, with a handsomely made sign advertising my services. Stop by and say hi! I’ll be assisting folks on a first-come, first-served basis; you’ll be able to sign in and see how many people are ahead of you. If there is a waiting list, I will limit my conversations to 15 minutes each to ensure more people can participate. (If not, we can chat as long as you want.)
Why should I trust you?
Excellent — you’ve already learned lesson No. 1 of journalism, which is Always Be Skeptical. Journalists are taught to never trust a single source, and I would never tell you otherwise! However, I do have some specialized knowledge that makes me a reliable and trustworthy source of information as well as an excellent sounding board in editorial matters. First, I have worked in a variety of newsrooms, including city newspapers (including one that published five editions a day!), trade magazines, syndicated columns and national and regional magazines. I’ve won some awards. I’ve worked with a wide variety of writers, both professional and amateur. I am eager to share the information that I’ve learned through this work with you — and excited to learn from working with you as well.
What if I have a story idea and am worried about it getting stolen?
This is actually part of the reason we are starting this program. City Bureau understands the increasingly important role that freelance writers play in the journalism industry, especially in local media, especially in finding and pursuing big-picture story ideas. However, many freelancers don’t have editors whom they can trust to look over their early ideas without fearing that they’ll be stolen or scooped. And we’ve heard from many freelancers in our network that they don’t get adequate feedback from assigning editors at publications who are often overworked and under-resourced.
City Bureau doesn’t run its own publication and our editorial production revolves around our Fellowship, which has predetermined topics each cycle. So, there is no real way for us to “steal” your idea. However, I recognize that people are still hesitant to share, and therefore I’m happy to send an email directly to you confirming that we discussed a certain topic on a certain day so that you can use that email to name and shame me if anything untoward happens with your story idea after we discuss it.
Can I bring my 1,000-page memoir for you to read?
You certainly can … but I can’t guarantee I can read the whole thing. I’ll be limiting sessions to 15 minutes each if there are people on the waiting list. I’d recommend coming in with a few specific questions to make the most out of the time.
What if you can’t answer my questions?
I’ll help you the best that I can, but if you need additional resources, City Bureau has built an amazing network of journalists, coders, artists, activists, academics and more, who often go above and beyond to help each other out. I’m happy to connect you to that network and direct you to any of our wonderful partner groups who might have what you need.