10 Things I Learned as an Arts/Entertainment Writer at the Ithaca Times

Not to brag, (commence bragging) but I know a lot about a lot of different kinds of writing. I mean, I was a writing major at IC. I took classes in feature writing, all different types of essays, personal, academic, you name it, professional/business writing, creative nonfiction, fiction, children’s literature, editing… I would say that I know what I’m doing when it comes to that stuff, more or less.

I’ve had experience in being an editor and in feature writing and in teaching writing and in writing copy, but something I found I was lacking in: skills in straight up journalism.

Journalistic writing is one of those writing styles that never appealed to me, but that’s also because I never really tried doing it. It’s so straightforward– it’s all facts. You have to be unbiased, and that eliminates most (if not all) of the creative elements that make writing fun.

I knew that I wanted to spend the summer in Ithaca — they say that you need at least one Ithaca summer, and this was it –so I started researching options for what I could do in my last few months here. I found that some of my fellow writing majors and copy editors I knew when I copy edited for The Ithacan (shoutout to Christie Citranglo and Jessica Afrin) had worked at the Ithaca Times, a local newspaper (print and online) that emphasized community and culture in Ithaca and Tompkins County. I love Ithaca and I thought that it would be worth it to expand my writing repertoire and look into the world of journalism.

With the help of Barbara Adams, director of the Writing internship program at IC, I sent an e-mail to Nick Reynolds at the Ithaca Times. Within two days I had a freelance job there as an arts and entertainment writer, and started writing for them in May.


My first day on the job.

It was a freelance position, and I learned a lot about journalism and what it meant to be a journalist. I sat in on editorial meetings. I drove all around Ithaca and Tompkins County and cold called/e-mailed people to interview them. I wrote exclusively in and refreshed what I knew about AP Style.

Journalistic writing is a multifaceted style of writing. While simple and less artistic than other kinds of writing I’ve done, there are a lot of different and important parts to it. For example, ethics really matter in journalism. So does accuracy in terms of facts and quotes. Clarity in your writing is so important– clearly communicating what you’re trying to say helps you reach your audience. Sometimes you get to have fun and be creative with your openers and closers. And it’s always really cool to see your name in print and know that what you write about matters to people.

Journalism isn’t just about a simpler style of writing– it’s about helping people access information they need or didn’t know they needed to know. It’s about public relations, in my opinion, especially when it came to the topics that I wrote about this summer.

This summer with the Ithaca Times was an extremely valuable experience. It taught me about journalism, networking, and all that Ithaca and Tompkins County has to offer, and made me feel closer to Ithaca than ever before.

Click here for a link to my article about States of Mind Literary Magazine.

Click here for a link to my article about Woofstock, an animal shelter fundraiser Americana Vineyards holds annually.

Click here for a link to my article about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Suzanne Bloom.

Click here for a link to my article about Vagabon, an artist that performed at the Haunt.

Click here for a link to my article about And the Sparrow Fell by Robert Mrazek.

Below I’ve written 10 things I learned from working this summer as an arts and entertainment writer at the Ithaca Times. Enjoy!

  1. You have to have at least 3 sources to write a full-fledged, all-encompassing article.
  2. Reaching out to people and not hearing back — especially when you’re under a deadline and you need a quote — is nerve wracking and stressful, but it’s always worth it to try.
  3. You! Have! To! Follow! Deadlines! Other editors and designers depend on you to produce content for a certain issue/date. It is irresponsible and unprofessional to let them down.
  4. Save all of the articles you write, whether that’s in print form, online link, or PDF. That way you can add it to your professional portfolio.
  5. There are lots of ways you can get creative with journalistic writing. You can write funny hooks to draw people in. You can switch up your angle so that people see a topic or a person or an event differently. You can add a creative closer/conclusion. You can add a title that grabs the reader’s attention.
  6. When interviewing, ask as many questions as you can. That way, when you write your article, you can switch up or change your focus with ease.
  7. Sometimes you can’t wait for your editor to assign you a topic. Be constantly brainstorming and thinking of ideas and things to write about.
  8. You should communicate consistently with your editor about photographing the event that your article is based on, deadlines, as well as article ideas.
  9. Make sure you’re getting compensated fairly for the work that you put in. Freelance is hard because sometimes it doesn’t pay very well.
  10. Stay connected to the community and get as involved as you can. That way you know what’s going on and have more things to write about.

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