At the Health Journalism 2015 session, “Freelance: Re-slant and resell ideas to multiple markets,” panelists offered eight tips for turning a story idea into multiple articles for various publications. To do this, they said, freelancers have to learn to look at stories, notes and interviews in a different way than they may be doing.
The first tip, offered by Kate Gammon, is to shift the audience. For instance, if a writer produces an article on an emerging science being studied on lab rats for one publication, he or she may be able to follow the research through its process and use the information for a consumer publication at a more advanced stage. If you are writing for a women’s magazine, think about ways the topic might be slanted for different ages to fit into a parenting publication or one like AARP.
Second, mine your notes. You never know when you might want to go back to get more information on a topic or an idea that didn’t work in one article but might in another. The panelists recommended using Evernote and Pear Note to organize notes and search for topics or subjects.
A third way to create a new piece from an old one is to turn it into a profile. If you are writing about a new study, for instance, and find a really intriguing researcher, he or she might be a good candidate for a profile in another publication.
Gammon also suggested making yourself part of the process. Reported essays are in high demand at some publications, so injecting yourself into the piece can be a good thing. If there is a trend you have written about for one publication, for another publication you might be able to take part in it and give a first-person analysis.
Local markets are another way to stretch a story idea. They often don’t pay as well as national publications, but if you are writing a story for a national publication about something in your area, odds are good that you can pitch it to a local outlet as a way to piggyback your reporting.
Beth Howard said she has learned to “think seasonally” when she is covering a topic. If she is reporting on allergy season in the spring, then she can revisit it in the fall or alter it for a travel publication in the summer.
The final suggestion made by the panel, moderated by independent journalist Ilima Loomis, was to rewrite content created for businesses or academic medical centers. This can be expanded to different consumer publications using a different slant.
Laura Helmuth, the sole editor on the panel, gave some tips on keeping things on the up-and-up with editors when rewriting content. Editors don’t like to be surprised, so make sure to let them know upfront when and where other articles might be published.
Finally, she said use the previous experience to your advantage. Use other pieces published on the topic you are pitching as a way to show you are an expert in that area.