Managing your archive

What to do with the clips from assignments gone by

Here’s a topic from Getting Shit Together 101: writing samples. How does one correctly mail them, hard-copy style? Is sending several pages of newsprint and whole magazines containing articles unacceptable? I’m imagining my fat yellow manila folder landing in some immaculate 15th-floor office and spewing out pages of newsprint, and an executive assistant grumbling, “Who the hell sent a packet of windshield wipes and birdcage liner?” —Samantha

Are employers really still asking for hard-copy clips? Woof. If they insist on dead-tree format, I’d photocopy to 8.5 x 11 paper and send it in a packet. (I can recall doing this frantically on the day before newspaper recruiters came to j-school. Aaaaaand now I am officially an old lady.) However, if you’ve got the time, it’s best to put articles in full text on your site, with an image or link to the publication where it appeared originally. My friend Doug McGray’s personal site is an excellent example. That way, the clips will be useful to potential employers who aren’t luddites. And the next time you apply for a job or send a pitch, you can inform editors of your illustrious writing history just by sending a link.

What do you do when your former employer “re-envisions” its website and now your old clips are either wiped from the face of the earth or they look like crap? (No paragraph breaks. No distinction between the subheadline and the first graf. No rich formatting. Visible HTML.) I guess the polite/related question is: What’s your preferred manner of archiving clips that don’t really live online? —Patrick

See my previous answer: Put it all on your personal site and manage it yourself. Who knows? Maybe after cutting and pasting and scanning and uploading your entire archive, you’ll come away with some insights about what you could be doing better. I confess that I have yet to take my own advice on this one, but I imagine the process to be almost zen-like.

On a related note, ugh, why are so many publications’ redesigns terrible?

What are the rules for repurposing the reportage of a story for two different publications? I work in the UK, so if I’m writing two stories based on the same interviews or reporting process—one for UK readers, one for US—must I notify both editors? And how different must the stories be? —Rosie

To be on the safe side, it’s nice to notify both of your editors that you’ll be using the material in more than one place. Most editors don’t want you holding back or saving your best stuff for another publication, but they won’t care about you using material from the cutting room floor. It’s also good to notify your sources, so they aren’t surprised to see their quotes pop up in a completely unexpected place.

If you want to be extra safe, when you’re writing, be sure to note the date (or at least, the month) of the interview and its original context. And if you’re using a quote that already appeared elsewhere, cite the source as if you’re quoting another journalist. Squeeze some extra mileage out of those interviews, girl, but we can’t have you going all Jonah Lehrer.

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Ann Friedman is a magazine editor who loves the internet. She lives in Los Angeles Tags: #Realtalk