Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rounding Out a Round-Up

Question of the Day: Please tell about your February WOMAN'S DAY article about saving time. 1)How does one go about writing an article that is mainly comments from readers? 2)Did you or a WD editor ask for their ideas on WD's website? 3)Did you query the idea of the article or did the editor suggest it to you?

FYI: the question is about this article that I wrote for Woman's Day.

And here are my answers:

1) This type of feature is called a round-up, I guess because it's a round-up of quotes. Frankly, these articles can be super-easy, but aren't always because, as you suggested, you have to find all sorts of sources and out-of-the-box quotes and ideas. How does one go about writing a story like this? You gather as many quotes as possible, then filter through them to see which are usable, then plonk them (often edited) into your piece. Because I often get way more answers than I need, I usually try to organize the emails as they come in: deleting (though not permanently) the ones that definitely won't fly, sticking the maybes in a folder designated for the particular magazine, and cutting and pasting the winner's quotes right into my document. When I start writing/editing the piece, I pare it down from there.

2) Did I get quotes from the WD website? Nope, these quotes and sources came directly from my contacts, friends, friends of friends, Profnet, etc. When you do a round-up, because your editors are always looking for "fresh" ideas and quotes, it's important to cast as wide a net as possible. Which is why these types of stories can appear deceivingly easy. Sure, you might get lucky with your direct contact list, but most often, you won't. And in this case, I didn't. I begged and pleaded and emailed everyone I knew and posted on PR sites, etc, until I had a fully fleshed-out story.

3) Did I come up with this idea or did an editor assign it? Hmmm, here's the funny thing: I wrote this piece, like, well over a year ago - maybe even 18 months ago- so to be honest, I can't remember! I *think* however, that I pitched it based on my own life, things that I'd found myself doing to shave off a few minutes in my day: I bought a more efficient hair-dryer; I'd read about some cream that slows down hair growth so you only have to shave your legs once a week and so on. And so from there - yes, it's coming back to me! - I pulled together four or five new products and ways that women were attempting to salvage their minutes and plopped them in a pitch.

Hey readers out there, for those of you who write round-ups, do you find them easier or harder than the standard straight reporting piece? I'm curious to hear preferences...


Jen A. Miller said...

I have a tough time with round ups. I'd rather do standard reporting.

Anonymous said...

I love doing round-ups but always give potential sources a deadline that's much earlier than I really need. I once received some perfect answers after I handed in an article and I wanted to cry! Overall, they're more interview intenstive (of course!) but so easy to "write," if you can call it that.

Unknown said...

I love doing round-ups because getting all the great quotes is fun - and like you said, the writing is super easy! I usually visit specific online forums related to the subject matter at hand to find extremely willing and involved sources for quotes. For example for a story on "what keeps clients coming back to a hair salon" or "The worst thing you ever said to a client sitting in your chair," I visited behindthe and posted the question. You get the greatest sources and quotes at forums and forums can be incredibly specific!

Anonymous said...

If you go to online forums to get sources or quotes, do you then contact the person and interview them by email? Or can you use a quote that they said in answering your question straight on the forum? And then just contact them to get their real name and permission? How do you handle asking questions on an online forum?

Unknown said...

Sorry I didn't answer you sooner - I'll pose the question as a new post/thread on a forum, for example, I'm looking to interview a hair stylist who swears by razor-cutting as opposed to scissor cutting for a story I'm working on. I'm straight-forward, honest and I'll provide my email so they can contact me off-board to set up an interview, or they can leave comments on the board and I might quote that I found these opinions on a forum. I've even also looked for sources on in the "Questions & Answers" to find more professional or experienced sources for business articles. People who want to be interviewed will contact me just the same way I interview, quote and attribute any source for a story! Hope this helps. If you have any other questions you can contact me at