Journalists, are you worried about more
magazines folding, about the onward march of corporate
downsizing, about the steady migration of readers to the
Of course you are! But fear not. At
the Ryerson Review of Journalism, we've
developed a plan for you to stay in the game. You see,
journalists really can benefit from the trend toward reader
If more and more editors put a cattle
call out to readers to submit questions, ideas and writing - so
be it. You are not afraid, because all you need to do to keep
your name in print is adjust your style accordingly to conform to
the new reality.*
Here are five easy ways you, the
beleaguered journalist, can tap into the
Do you enjoy writing about
the news, but hate doing interviews? Is your current events blog
just not getting the attention it deserves? Then Wikinews is the place for you. It's
the new branch of the Wikimedia Foundation, best known for its
online encyclopedia. Wikinews
launched in December 2004 with the aim of providing a free and
unbiased alternative news source written by regular people around
However, most of Wikinews's articles
are based on other reports. "There's less original reporting than
we'd like," admits Nicholas Moreau, one of the site's nine
accredited reporters and a student at Humber
According to its mission statement,
Wikinews plans to tap into the citizen journalism movement and
eventually "provide an alternative to proprietary news agencies
like the Associated Press or Reuters."
are 784 registered contributors to Wikinews, and you can be one
of them. "Anyone can write for Wikinews, as long as they have an
Internet connection and are literate in one of the project's 18
languages," says Moreau. Click here and start
has exploded in women's magazines. Crack open the January issue
of Chatelaine and you'll see what I mean.
You needn't flip any further than the masthead to find reader
input. Here, readers ask staff questions like "What was your
first job?" to win prizes.
In her column,
executive editor Beth Hitchcock invites readers to answer a
monthly question. In fact, readers provide almost all of the
content in Chatelaine's front-of-book
section. There's an advice column, poll results and stories, all
written by readers.
In the November 2005 issue,
after former editor Kim Pittaway's departure, Hitchcock wrote,
"We're more committed than ever to creating the magazine of your
dreams" - "your" being the operative
Women's magazines rely on their perceived
role as the reader's friend. The more reader feedback and
participation there is, the more in tune with the reader the
publication can be.
One of the easiest ways to
contribute to women's magazines is to visit their websites.
Canadian Living has a section devoted
to contributing to the magazine in different
Sorry guys, but reader interaction is
much more limited in men's magazines. But even if you aren't
blessed with menstrual cramping and a uterus, there's a place for
you. Pose your manly problems to Toro's
Damage Control advice column at email@example.com.
Now that everyone and
their dog own a digital camera, this one is easy. Just cart your
camera everywhere you go, taking pictures of everything you see.
Enter your favourite shot - along with a mini-essay on why it's
great - in a magazine photo contest, win and become an
"It's not a new
concept," says Masthead editor Bill Shields,
"although it does seem to be one that is enjoying renewed appeal
in these lean times." Shields points to the annual photo contests
in Cottage Life and Canadian
Geographic. Pick up the January/February
issue of the latter and find several pages of photos provided by
"It certainly reduces your
editorial cost-per-page figures," says
Editor Rick Boychuk says
CG doesn't publish reader content to save
money. "Because we are known for the quality of our photography,"
he says, "we tend to attract readers who are interested in
photography. Our photo contest is an opportunity for them to
speak to us and to other readers in visual
Newspapers are jumping on the trend,
too. When U2 recently visited our nation's capital, the
Ottawa Citizen published stories and
photographs submitted by concertgoers. In fact, this fall the
Citizen launched a program, originally
created by The Washington Post, attempting
to attract younger readers by enhancing reader participation. The
paper asked students from 13 area high schools to review other
school plays. The best reviews were submitted to the paper and
BEEF UP YOUR
CANCON (AND LIVE SOMEWHERE
There's an entire
magazine devoted to you if you a) live in Canada and b) can
write. It's called Our Canada, a magazine
made entirely of reader-submitted stories and photographs. It is
proof that the reader-supplied content phenomenon is here to
stay. The magazine, which is part of Reader's Digest
Canada, launched in January 2004 and now boasts a paid
circulation of 238,000.
"To go from zero to
238,000 paid in two years is remarkable," says Shields. "I can't
think of another magazine that grew such a large and paying
readership as quickly."
Canada began when a photo contest for
Reader's Digest yielded 30,000 entries. The
corporate heads saw a niche and aimed straight for it. Contributing is easy. All you have to do
is fill out the required fields on the online application
There are mixed reviews on whether the
content of Our Canada is journalism or not.
Antoine Tedesco of sceneandheard.ca writes, "The
stories are not journalism necessarily, but they are
well-written, the photographs of this amazing country are
awesome, and the personal stories about times and places past
connect you to the people and places that make this country such
a wonderful place to live."
So dust off your
patriotism, rev up your nostalgia and start writing. If your
story is chosen, Our Canada will send you a
rosewood-finish photo box.
Now that you're a
full-fledged journalist, it's time to remember your roots and
answer questions, rather than ask them. There's no better way to
direct the content of your favourite magazine than by
participating in a poll. If 68 per cent of readers say their New
Year's resolution is to spice up their sex life, you can bet that
you'll soon be perusing an article on how to heat things up in
And there's no better time to take
part in a poll than during a national election campaign.
The Toronto Star's Speak Out section is in overdrive
polling and publishing reader comments on all sorts of election
Another quick 'n' easy way to
contribute to a magazine is to take part in a survey.
Fashion magazine's Readers' Choice Beauty
Awards, an annual feature since 2003, takes up 10 pages of the
magazine's Winter 2006 issue. In the issue, editor Ceri Marsh
writes, "We value knowing the choices you make when it comes to
And, I'm guessing, they also
value the 10 editorial pages that come at such a low
don't expect to get paid. Hey, in times like these, we all have
to make sacrifices!