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Top journalism tips from the team behind Dazed

At Tuesday’s Making It Up As We Go Along event, our fashion, beauty, music and arts editors told us how the site gets written and commissioned

The second Making It Up As We Go Along, the monthly programme of educational events put on by Dazed editors, was a journalism crash course. We put on a panel in the Dazed Space at 180 The Strand featuring some of the people who keep the website running at furious pace: fashion features director Emma Davidson, beauty editor Alex Peters, arts and culture editor-at-large Ashleigh Kane and music editor-at-large Natty Kasambala. In case you missed it, here are five takeaways from the night. 

GET YOUR START ANY WAY YOU CAN

Not everyone works for a major site straight away. Duh. “I used to write for some random fashion blog, and then I got my first internship at Dazed, which was… the receptionist’s intern,” said Ashleigh. “And from there, there was an opening. I thought less people would apply for that role than the editorial internship!”

NO, REALLY

“I started off as a copywriter for TK MAXX – very glam,” said Emma. “It was essentially data entry!” The digital fashion features director then spent around six years working in e-commerce. When the company she worked for folded, she started pitching her features ideas all over, which lead to her first commission at Dazed, and eventually a writing job at the magazine.

COMMISSIONING DOS!

The editors shared their best practice for pitching. For Natty, this means being clear on what you want to say and why it is interesting. (“If you’re saying ‘I want to be on a zoom call with Mitski, what you should be saying is ‘Here’s what I want to ask her that nobody else has,’”).

Also, who are you and why should you tell that story? Is the email short? Get to the point really quickly! Offering an editor the path of least resistance is the best way to get through to them directly.

COMMISSIONING DON’TS!

The editors were all very specific in saying writers need to tailor their pitches for whatever publication they’re pitching to – don’t just send out a blanket email to different sites. “I want to read a pitch that shows someone reads Dazed a lot and understands what we want,” said Emma. “If you’re pitching it in our formats, I know you read the website.” 

Alex agreed, saying “Tell me why it would be perfect for Dazed Beauty, and that you understand what our site is about.”

As for Natty, she said that sending a DM asking if you can pitch is another no-no. “It’s a free country, you’re already here!”

MAKE IT EYE-CATCHING TOO

The photographs matter too, obviously, when pitching a story about images. “Find out what press images are available from the PR, and when those images are available, also that there’s not an embargo,” said Ashleigh. “All those little details are good to find out.” 

BE HUMAN WHEN YOU INTERVIEW PEOPLE! 

Preparation is key: something all the editors talked about! “If somebody’s been interviewed a hundred times, don’t go and ask them ‘how they got started,’” said Emma. “I still get nervous before an interview, but just remember the person is probably also nervous too!” If you’re in doubt about what to do, go away and read as much as possible on them before the interview. 

“I always try to preach an empathetic interview style, which I think can be controversial,” Natty said. “Some people like a critical standpoint, but I write about things I love, so I go into the interview treating that person like a human being first and foremost. How do you introduce yourself? Have you asked them how they’re doing, told them your name, broken the ice? Be aware of the normal reactions people have in conversations.” That’s how you make a safe environment, and get the most interesting answers they haven’t already said to everyone.