This is a call for young writers, aged 17-22, interested in developing core writing/journalism skills who want to write on hip-hop/music and/or other subjects. Women especially encouraged to apply. Intended for a small group of two, or three people.
This program is designed for people who do not have access to such training at school or in their communities; people who might be interested in becoming journalists, but feel that it is closed to them for whatever reason. It is aimed for people who are not represented in mainstream media spaces, because of background/place of residence, who want to write about stories relating to their communities, thereby altering the current media bias towards white, middle-class voices.
The program could be a formal training program, or informal mentoring arrangement depending on the need and interest of the trainees. No previous experience or publications required - but preference will be given to applicants with no other opportunity for media/journalism training of this kind and members of under-represented groups.
If interested, or you have questions: contact me with a brief introduction to yourself and what you’d like to achieve at firstname.lastname@example.org Proposed program start date: May, 2019
What’s on offer ….
1. Introduction to and mastery of core skills: how to contact talent/subjects, set up and conduct an interview; how to write an effective story appropriate for the target audience; how to pitch a story to an editor, how to follow up and continue building the relationship with the editor and publication
** Note that this is a journalism – not personal creative writing/fiction – training program.
The goal is to equip new journalists with the skills that could be applied to any subject and lead to publication (in mainstream/alternative media outlets/a personal site).
To be a good journalist you don’t need to be a “good writer.” All you need is commitment and determination, good people skills, curiosity, a desire to know why or how something has happened, or keeps happening, a desire to be balanced and fair and report the truth as you see it. Many of the best journalists started young – as teenagers – and learned on the job. This program will aim to reproduce this kind of training.
If the applicants don’t feel confident about their English writing “level,” we can work with this, maybe make it less about articles and more transcription of interviews, similar to an oral history. We can talk about it. My goal here is not to produce a certain kind of journalism, but have the trainee journalist stay true to their voice and people they’re speaking with: this is what being a good journalist is all about. You are the vessel for the story, not the story itself.
2. Mentoring on an individual basis, plus references for future employment in the field or more generally
3. Access to editors and artists within the hip-hop space in the US/UK and other areas (i.e. non-music related subjects if the writers would prefer this). Help making contact with both, including introductions. I will also promote the work on my site and social media (Twitter/Facebook)
4. Advice on which sites/publications are open to new writers and how the journalists might position themselves within the market, for want of a better word. Advice on how to set up a website, if of interest, or write a long-term project (I’m currently writing a book-length manuscript)
5. Guaranteed publication, note that this might be unpaid or paid very little
6. Contact with my students in Paris of the same age, interests and backgrounds/or not (I teach writing skills/communication at a university here). Contact with organisations linked to Africa and The Caribbean in Paris and people from these regions, if interest: primarily West Africa and North Africa (Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria). Contact with other young writers/journalists in the United States of a similar background/or not.
How it will work …
- If a formal program: regular contact (weekly or every two weeks depending on availability) focussing on core skills, with exercises, which will reduce over time, though I will be available for any questions or issues that might arise on an indefinite basis and will continue to support the writers and their work.
Why do this?
For a mix of personal and political reasons. For the personal: I started writing on Black American music – jazz, Soul/R&B, hip-hop – for my site (madeleinebyrne.com) a few years ago, after a long time of not writing, just eking out a kind of “survival mode” raising a now 12 year-old son largely on my own. This writing was my release and also a return to a professional identity (in Australia I worked in print, radio and TV and was an activist focussing on immigration detention and before this private prisons) that I thought I had lost. It was as if I was turning a full circle, returning to my first professional job as a music writer as a teenager in Melbourne. More recently I’ve found an audience and a measure of success primarily in the US, but elsewhere too, I feel grateful for this, so this is my way of giving something back.
It’s also something that I can do and I’ve done it twice before:
- with a group of university students in Melbourne when I helped establish the country’s first citizen-led inquiry into immigration detention
- as editor at Hip Hop Forum digital magazine where I set up a new writers program for people in Detroit, Philadelphia, Delaware etc. One of those writers ended up contributing to a major national US hip-hop site.
In Australia activists talk about “paying the rent” to First Nations people, in a literal and metaphorical sense. I write on Black American music, have benefited from it personally/professionally, been welcomed and supported by those whose culture I write on: this is my way of paying the rent (or giving something back, if you prefer).