Directors' blog

Links, thoughts and updates from the directors of Dim Sum Digital.

Archive for the ‘journalist’ tag

The importance of the writer profile

leave a comment

I’ve put this blog post together with Contributoria writers in mind, but the points made here would be valid for any of those occasions when you need to put a ‘bio’ together for your online activity. As someone who inwardly groans at every request for profile details, I hope this approaches the task in a straightforward way.

The writer profiles on Contributoria are particularly important as they are the number one way that members of the community and publishing partners can sum up a writer’s abilities when deciding whether or not to back their story proposals and, as that leads to commissioning and ultimately cash, it’s worth making some effort.

Ten essential points when creating a writer profile

  1.  A sensible name
    Your own name is always best as it helps people check you out in other areas of the online world. Failing that a nickname is OK but avoid user names that are unmemorable number sequences or similar. Don’t forget that Contributoria is a community and so is made up of humans supporting other humans – we tend to respond coldly to number droids. Your name should appear in the first sentence of your profile so the reader understands what they are looking at – just like being introduced to somebody, you will often start with your name and then move onto the matter in hand. I have been asked in the past about using a pseudonym – for all the reasons above, using a pen name makes you something of an enigma. It’s a bit like sitting down the pub in a balaclava. But of course there can be valid reasons around personal security for using one and in those instances I’d ask that you get in touch directly for further advice (
  2.  Use a picture
    Just a straightforward head and shoulders shot will do the job. Just like your name, having a profile picture will help people build up a picture of the person behind the story. Just as with the social networks, people tend to regard the absence of a picture as dubious in some way, it instantly creates a trust barrier that doesn’t need to be there.
  3. Location
    Adding your base location, or the locations that you write about, can help make a connection. This is particularly important for those people who are looking to back stories from certain parts of the world for instance. But it could also be beneficial in making connections with other members of the community who perhaps live nearby or have a particular interest in a region of the world and might want to get in touch.
  4. Third person or I?
    It’s always slightly awkward talking about yourself in the third person but doing so makes it easier for the reader to take in the information. There’s no hard and fast rules and in fact there’s currently a mixture of first person and third person on the platform, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the Contributoria writer profiles also automatically appear in the footer of story proposals. Having it in the third person reads a lot better for the casual visitor who may not have looked you up on the writer page.
  5. What length?
    For Contributoria, the ideal length for the profile is up to 200 words. That should allow for all these points to be included while also keeping it reasonable for the footer of proposals. On other platforms it would be worth checking if there is an established style. Some sites ask for a short statement (i.e. one sentence, like Twitter) while others expect a mini CV.
  6. Include other work
    If your work has been published elsewhere, it’s well worth mentioning the different publications where people could look you up – you can also drop URLs into the profile and it will hyperlink . It’s also worth mentioning membership of any professional organisations and groups.
  7.  Other non-work
    If you’ve a passion for something – let people know. There’s no telling what serendipitous connections can flow from outlining your hobbies and interests after all, they are part of what makes you, you.
  8. Contact details
    End your bio with your contact details or hyperlink to ways that people can contact you such as Twitter, blog or your LinkedIn profile.
  9. Read and rewrite
    As with everything, there’s always that stray apostrophe or typo which it’s easy to remain blind to so having a friend to proof your bio before you publish it is recommended.
  10. Keep it up to date
    Remember that your bio is a living document and you should review it on a regular basis. As it’s fairly short it won’t take you too long to make changes that can be quite important to the reader and that all important potential backer.

Written by sarahhartley

June 25th, 2015 at 11:51 am

Posted in Journalism

Tagged with , ,

Former MEN journalist launches


Former MEN journalist John Jeffay has launched an online venture to help people turn their stories into cash.

The Manchester-based ex-syndication editor has teamed up with columnist Angela Epstein to launch

I caught up with John and asked him what the market was for a service like this;

“There is an insatiable appetite for “true life” stories. Look at the racks of weekly women’s magazines and you’ll get some idea of the demand. They all need a constant supply of ordinary people talking about their extraordinary experiences. At we provide people with a straightforward way to tell and sell.

“Yes, there’s money to be made, but often that’s not the sole motive. People may want to re-live an experience for many reasons: gratitude, revenge, as a warning to others, or simply because they want their moment of fame.”

The service reminded me a little of the, sadly now defunct, which offered people cash to sell images to newspapers and magazines – but John says there are important differences;

“Scoopt was very much a thing of the moment. It attempted to cash in on the citizen journalism idea that anyone with a camera and the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time could sell their pictures. The demand was limited. It failed.

“What we’re doing capitalises on a well-established market, with an almost unlimited demand. A dozen or more titles want true life stories week in, week out. And they need professional journalists to do the interviewing and writing.”

And the fee? Just how much cash is on offer for a punter who’s media-savvy enough to know they’ve got a story to sell?

“As with everything in life, it’s negotiable. But we pride ourselves on offering a good split, rather than a lump sum. So when there’s a bidding situation between rival titles, as the price goes up, so does the amount the client receives.”

Throughout the site, the pair take pains to point out that the service being offered is not PR – more of a brokerage service. So no aspiration to be Manchester’s answer to Max Clifford then?

“I think we’re unlikely to follow in Max Clifford’s footsteps. We are a news agency, finding and writing stories for magazines. PR, certainly the sort that’s made Max Clifford famous, is about managing the reputations of the rich and famous or those who suddenly find themselves caught in the full glare of the media spotlight.”

Written by sarahhartley

March 24th, 2010 at 9:46 am

The 2012 Journalist: Your future?



Constructing the journalist of the future

A journalistic world where personal branding is a lifestyle, managing micro communities is second nature and developing areas of specialist knowledge is essential for survival in what is a freelance work sphere where multiple revenue streams as a sole trader are the norm.

Welcome to the lot of a journalist in 2012!

That’s my personal summary of far more detailed discussions spent considering such things as part of the MELD experience last week.

Held at the futuristic Sandbox at UCLAN, the two-day industry think-tank to consider what skills the journalist of the future might need prompted some interesting dilemmas.

Looking forward such a relatively short amount of time was a tricky experience, not least because the audience who will be old enough to vote in three years time, are one of the first who will be true digital natives.

Today’s teenagers have only ever known mobile phones, games, the internet and on demand services. They are also unlikely to have got the newspaper habit, so how will their experience of the world impact on journalism?

But as we all wrestled with the issues of who will be funding the journalistic endeavour of the future, how organisations will need to change their structures and the skill sets individuals might be faced with, there was one aspect which sparked little controversy – that the next generation journalist is most likely to be a freelance worker.

And for that individual journalist, the future which emerged from our discussions operated in a complex personal ecosphere where some sort of web presence was the essential hub of activity, where earnings could come from sponsorship and affiliate relationships alongside mainstream media commissions for content packages, or access to the special interest networks which they had nurtured and managed.

Contemplating the short-term with some of those who may help shape the future of the industry was a thought-provoking experience  – and wasn’t purely an intellectual exercise.

Some of the input from the sessions will help inform journalism educators about the tools the journalists of the future might need.

I’d be very interested to hear what other journalists think the future might hold – join in with the time travel if you will! What do you think lies in store? Is the scenario detailed above a world which you’d embrace or recoil from? Where do you see the journalist of 2012? Thoughts most welcome.

Written by sarahhartley

December 9th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Study to look at life after newspaper layoffs

leave a comment

It’s the story we are all more than familiar with, but is it the whole story? Newspapers layoffs have all too quickly become part of the fabric of life in regional journalism this year but what happens next is barely recorded.

Now academics at UCLAN and staff at are going to address this by carrying out a survey of laid-off journalists. Posting at the journalismleaders blog , Francois Nel explains that the online survey is looking for volunteers and that information received is confidential:

“We want to know how about your experiences of being laid off and how you have adapted in your personal and professional life since leaving the newspaper. We’re also considering the gap in knowledge and experience you have left behind.”

The survey takes about 10 mins to complete and can be accessed here.

Written by sarahhartley

October 19th, 2009 at 11:06 am

Beatblogging – what is it?


There’s been some interesting reaction to the job advertisements put out this week by The Guardian for the project I’m involved in.

Beatblogger isn’t a job title used much here in the UK as yet, and it’s prompted some common questions in the comments section of the initial news story about Guardian local, and elsewhere, which I thought I’d pick up here.

In addition, any potential applicants are invited to put their questions during a forum I’m taking part in about developing journalism roles which will be held next Thursday, October 22 between 1pm and 4pm at

Back to those points;

* Firstly, pay.
Although it’s normal practice for The Guardian not to state pay grades in its job ads (in common with many other news organisations), these are full-time paid positions.

* Are these bloggers, journalists?
All Media Scotland
was one of those which asked if the term “beatblogger” was a new word for journalist. This is a role which has specific attributes and skills used to create a beat blog, a good definition of which is provided here by New York’s Prof Jay Rosen an extract from which states:

“Content-wise, a beat blog presents a regular flow of reporting and commentary in a focused area the beat covers; it provides links and online resources in that area, and it tracks the subject over time.”

For anyone interested in the specifics of what will be entailed, there’s detailed descriptions at the links at the bottom of the ads – this is the one for the Cardiff post, but the descriptions for Leeds and Edinburgh are just the same.

* What about experience?
This job could well appeal to experienced reporters with great contacts from traditional backgrounds but is just as likely to attract people who’ve set up community websites or blogs and have a passion for their locality. Rather than be too prescriptive about background, we’re asking people to demonstrate why they believe they would be successful in the role and how they feel equipped to cover the city.

Any potential applicants with further questions can log on to the forum debate next Thursday, October 22 between 1pm and 4pm at and it would be great to hear from any beatbloggers out there who want to share their experiences or offer any advice to potential applicants.

Written by sarahhartley

October 16th, 2009 at 11:52 am

Journalist as gatekeeper: Is that all there is?


Gatekeeping. This has to be the most (over) used description of what a journalist does that I’m hearing at the moment – gatekeeping. Conferences, blog posts, conversations……the G-word never seems too far away.

Even wikipedia accepts its connection to journalism:

“In human communication, in particular, in journalism, gatekeeping is the process through which ideas and information are filtered for publication. The internal decision making process of relaying or withholding information from the media to the masses.”

It’s cosy isn’t it? We, the journalists, can decide what’s good for you, the reader. Phew, we have a great and valued skill to bring to the world.

But there’s also something that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable about it, maybe it’s a bit complacent and assumptive which got me thinking about who keeps the gate for me, or how I gatekeep for my own sanity.

First there’s the things I don’t want to be subjected to – porn, gambling, material of a an abusive or corrupting nature. Largely I depend on software to keep these the other side of the gate and, largely, that’s successful.

Then there’s the things I want to find out about and for that I rely on my social network (Twitter, Facebook, Delicious), RSS subscriptions, Google alerts for certain subjects with some added serendipity via newspapers/magazines.

So yes, there are some journalist gatekeepers in here – the newspapers being the strongest of those examples – but, valuable though that activity can be, doesn’t this gatekeeping rather undersell what a journalist can bring to the world?

I think we’ve got a whole lot more to offer, skills which could be shared or put to good use in the new order that’s forming.

Just today a blogger within my Twitter network wanted to know where to turn for some libel advice – well a professional journalist friend might be a good start. All that legal training and practical experience could provide a repository of help to those writers and publishers coming from different backgrounds.

Then there’s fact-checking rigour, knowing where to go for information sources, an understanding of the institutions of public administration just to mention a few of the skills which we perhaps undersell in this gatekeeper/censor view of the world.

I’d be interested to hear from other journalists on this – what do you think is your most valuable attribute and how is it best utilised?

Written by sarahhartley

September 29th, 2009 at 10:35 am

links for 2009-03-04

leave a comment

Written by sarahhartley

March 4th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

#smc_mcr Someone Once Told Me – they’re coming to Manchester!

leave a comment

Yes last night’s headline speaker at Manchester’s Social Media Cafe, Mario from will be making a virtual repeat performance right here.
The creator of the cult blog, made up of striking black and white images which simply display subjects holding messages showing something which someone once told them, spoke about his project to the crowd at last night’s event at The Northern in Tib Street.
(You can get a flavour of the talk in the streamed Qik video here).
And now Mario is going to host a Manchester week which we will also cover here – every day during the week of March 16, the site will feature someone from Manchester. Along with the photography, expect audio clips with city folk sharing their stories of how they came to receive the particular message.
During last night’s presentation we heard about how the someoneoncetoldme project has developed largely thanks to the power of social media networks – more than 1,000 people have taken up the Facebook widget and Twitter has enabled a quicker and more effective reponse time.
Mario is now hoping to take a year away from his job as a BBC journalist to travel the world and take the project global with a view to publishing a book.
* Elsewhere at last night’s event, participants were treated to a presentation about mobile content creation and sharing from award-winning blogger Martin Bryant, a discussion about marketing from David Bird and help with WordPress from David Mee. I will update the blog with more from these presentations as they find their way to the blogosphere!

Written by sarahhartley

March 4th, 2009 at 8:31 am

Five barriers to journalists using Twitter


Sometimes even the most useful things aren’t that obvious to the people who will benefit the most from them. And so it is with Twitter and journalists it seems.

Following on from Paul Bradshaw’s tweets today about what he described as his students’ “slowness” in taking Twitter to their hearts, plenty of journalists who have embraced the platform were ready to offer some help and encouragement so displaying in an instant one of the most valuable attributes of having developed a network.

In my experience reticence seems to fall into these categories;

1. I don’t see the point.
Getting over this objection is made more difficult due to the silly names and iconography involved. It’s hard to tell an editor or other journalist with years of experience that its OK to be a twit and that what s/he is required to do is tweet like a little bird! But probably the proof is in the pudding – ask people that do use it within your organisation why they bother, what value they get out of it. Ask your peer group – maybe you just don’t know that they have already found a use for it.  Additionally there’s plenty of blog posts on the topic – do some research, read up on the subject.

2. No-one I deal with/write about/contact is on there.
Apart from the fact that you couldn’t possibly know this to be fact unless you are already on Twitter, could it be that you just haven’t found them? If your interest is a geographical area then have a look at Twitterlocal, set up Tweetgrid to scan for the town name(s) your publication covers, use the location search on Twittergrader to see who are the important influencers in your area. (This is the result for Manchester, UK where I work). If your beat is a topic/specialist interest there are lists springing up of  “so-and-so’s on twitter” so keep a look out there, look at the influential blogs for your topic area and most likely their authors will be on Twitter or use a mixture of the tools mentioned here to track them down. If there is an area of life (in the UK) which remains completely untouched by any of the above – I’d be fascinated to hear about via the comments below.

3. I don’t have the time.
Your competitors have found time.

4. I have something better.
Brilliant – please share via the comments below.

5. I don’t have anything to say that would interest anyone else.
Are you in the right job?

Written by sarahhartley

February 15th, 2009 at 3:14 pm

The politics of friending with politicans


Now everyone knows that a Facebook friend often isn’t a real friend, or at least it isn’t a pre-requisite. 

But, for journalists, can an ill-advised Facebook encounter be injurious to your career or reputation?  

I’m not talking tales of drunkeness or inappropiate profile pictures, but whether “friending” could lead to accusations of favouritism or influence.

It was a topic that Paul Bradshaw picked up last week when he asked the question, “can journalists be a fan of a politician?“  but was also brought home to me when a local politician attempted to friend me on Facebook recently.

This innoucous act threw me into a bit of a dilemma. I have nothing against this particular person, I know of their activity around Manchester and I know the request is a sincere one as a fellow enthusiast for social media.

But – I don’t actually know the person, have never even had a phone conversation never mind met in person. Then again, there are plenty of other people who I’ve only ever ’met’ online and who have become regular conversationalists across Fbook, Twitter et al.

So what to do?

I first contacted the person and asked them how they know me. I got a completely charming reply explaining interest in the Social Media Cafe and blogging activity I’m involved in and also expressing an understanding of the difficult position this request might have caused.

So am I being over-sensitive and a bit prissy about the whole thing?

After all, journalists and politicians have always been in close contact, we wouldn’t have any lobby reporting without it.

Why should the openness of an an online network with all its declared allegiances on display be more problematic than some shady old drinking den where (state-school educated female hacks like myself have a tendency to believe) men who used to “fag” hangout and entertain themselves with funny handshakes?

Now don’t get me wrong, it certainly isn’t the openness of the situation that’s giving me the problem, it’s the potential for the simple action of accepting the request being seen as a warts-and-all endorsement for the individual, the party they support, any causes they attach to etc. coming as part of the package.

It may well be that I do agree/support etc, it’s just that I feel it would impact on my impartiality as a journalist to give out such a blanket approval.

So for now it’s a ‘no’ to friending – although the conversation the request prompted between us may lead to a meeting offline at some point in the future.

What would you do, or have you done? I’d love to hear from any other journalists, or politicians, who’ve considered this issue.

Written by sarahhartley

December 16th, 2008 at 6:43 pm