Selling The Words of Your Passion
Have you a passion that you would love to write about and get paid by magazines and newspapers to do so? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to be a celebrity journalist interviewing Hollywood stars such as George Clooney, Jack Nicholson, and Jennifer Aniston?
James Swanwick, creator of ‘Insider Journalism Secrets’, set his sights on being a celebrity journalist and with just a phone directory as his contact list he was sitting in a hotel room in LA with Jack Nicholson interviewing him for one of the UK’s top selling magazines. Two weeks after that he was interviewing Arnold Schwarzenegger. It developed into a five-year career.
“Just before I moved to Los Angeles in 2003 I was in London, so what I did was I phoned up the movie studios publicity departments in London – so that’s Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers.
“I literally got the numbers from the phone book – this is before I used the Internet – and I called them and I said let me talk to the publicity department and one of them called me back. It was a woman from Sony Pictures and I said I’m moving to Los Angeles, I want to interview movie stars – how can I help promote your movies in the UK and in UK magazines?
“She basically told me how the whole thing worked, and that was if I convinced the magazine to let me interview a movie star for them she would then give me access to the movie star to interview, which would in turn help promote their film. So, before I left I went to Loaded Magazine in the UK, which is like a man’s version of Maxim or FHM, and I met them and I said I am moving to Los Angeles, I’m going to interview movie stars and they said, yeah, yeah, yeah whatever, nice to meet you, but they didn’t really believe me.
“I moved to Los Angeles and sure enough two weeks later I got an email from the same woman that I had spoken to at Sony Pictures saying ‘James we’ve got an interview opportunity with Jack Nicholson for the movie ‘Anger Management’ in two weeks in Beverly Hills, would you be interested in interviewing him? If you can get Loaded Magazine to publish the story, then I’ll give you access to Jack Nicholson.’
“I said, ‘Yes, absolutely, of course.’ I then contacted Loaded Magazine and said, ‘What if I interview Jack Nicholson for you, would that be okay?’ They said yes, absolutely, and so two weeks later I found myself at the L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills interviewing Jack Nicholson in a one-on-one interview for 20 minutes and it was amazing! It was everything you can imagine it would be, you know, it was incredible. This is an absolute icon of Hollywood film and cinema and, you know, I got that story and published. I did the interview, I sent it through to Loaded Magazine and they published the story.”
It’s what James did next that led to his five-year career in freelance celebrity journalism.
“I photocopied that article about 20 times and sent it out to, you know, like a whole bunch of other magazines and newspapers in Australia and the UK and other movie studios and said, ‘Hey look, here is my interview with Jack Nicholson. I’m a Hollywood correspondent. I’m interviewing these people’, and then slowly but surely magazines started contacting me to say, ‘Hey, can you interview Arnold Schwarzenegger for me?’ My second interview was with Arnold Schwarzenegger for the film ‘Terminator 3’, which at the time was the last movie he made before he became the Californian Governor, so it just snowballed from there – all it took was one interview, getting it published, showing people that I was out there doing it and then from there I just started interviewing everyone, you know, George Clooney and Jennifer Aniston and all those people.”
Just because a media house has big titles does not mean they have reporters all over the world so being in a location for key stories can work to your advantage.
At the time Loaded Magazine didn’t have anyone in Los Angeles interviewing people, so the fact that James was actually going to be there made him quite valuable to the magazine and he ended up having a five-year relationship with Loaded Magazine as their celebrity journalist in LA.
“If there’s one lesson I took out of that it’s literally just make the phone call, just go and meet the person, just go and turn up! You know, Woody Allen, the famous director out in New York who has made a hundred movies, always says that eighty per cent of success is just showing up – just show up, just pick up the phone. I called the movie studio and then I called Loaded Magazine and that led to an interview with Jack Nicholson which led to a whole career interviewing movie stars.”
James now teaches people online How To Be A Journalist without a degree.
“Look, if you want to get a job in journalism, if you want to get a job working for a newspaper, magazine or a television show don’t waste your money going to college and spending three years and a hundred thousand dollars or whatever it costs to go and get a degree. Simply contact the newspapers, the magazines and TV shows directly and offer them story suggestions, offer to work for free for them, offer them suggestions on how their show could be better, get the attention of the TV show’s producer, get the attention of the newspaper’s editor, get the attention of the radio programme’s producer, etc. and then just rinse and repeat.
“Too many people go to college, they get a degree, they learn how to write a story, they come out and then they just send résumés off to these magazines and newspapers. I have never got a job from sending a résumé, never, never ever, okay, and I’m 38, so I’ve been waiting for 20 years and I’ve never got a job from sending in a résumé.
“The best way to do it is whatever show you want to work for, whatever newspaper you want to write for, understand that publication, understand that media outlet, and think of three good story ideas, then find out who the contact person is at that particular TV show or newspaper or magazine, and call them or email them and suggest these three story ideas.
“I’ve been a producer, I’ve been an editor – I love it when viewers or readers suggest story ideas to me, okay. I love it because they are essentially doing my job for me. My job is to come up with story ideas and I’ve got readers who are giving me story ideas and I’m like, thank you so much, and when that happens, the person who sent me those ideas is going to remember, I’m going to remember that person, I’m going to hire that person because that shows initiative, that’s got my attention. So, you know, anyone listening or watching right now, if you want to get a job in journalism, understand the media organization you want to work for, suggest three story ideas, find a person of influence who hires people at that media outlet and send those story suggestions to that person, not just once but do it twice, three, four, five, six times, do it every week, and then finally say, ‘Can I come in and do work ‘experience?’ or ‘I would like to work for you for free. I will write this story for you.’ That is how you get hired in today’s marketplace, and that is how you will get your journalism career off the ground.
James recommends similar advice if you have a niche speciality you want to write about or become known for.
If you want to be a fashion reporter then read fashion magazines and contact them and show them how knowledgeable you are in fashion. If you’re a motorsports reporter and you apply for a job at a fashion magazine like Vogue, are they going to hire you? No, why would they hire you!
If you are really knowledgeable in health and fitness, make sure you tell all the health and fitness magazines that you are a health and fitness fanatic and that you understand it. If you are a business expert and you have run a business and now you want to write a report on business, make sure you tell the person “I owned my own business, I understand how business works. This is why I would be a good reporter, a good journalist for the business section of your newspaper because I understand this.”
Most of the hirers now in newspapers, magazines and TV shows are not hiring journalism graduates: they’re hiring graduates of other industries, or people who are really knowledgeable in a particular field. For example, they are hiring someone who absolutely 100 per cent knows everything about fashion, versus someone who has a journalism degree and can write a story about fashion. So, it’s really important that you know what your passion is, know what your area of interest is, know what you’re most knowledgeable in and promote that aspect of you rather than hey, I’ve got a journalism degree.
James Swanwick’s e-course is called ‘Insider Journalism Secrets‘ and it includes two e-books that he has written on how to get a job in journalism, and seven one-hour interviews with leading journalists around the world. Click Here for more info.
James’ website: www.JamesSwanwick.com.
For the full interview between Rosie and James listen to the podcast (at the top of this post)
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