Have you ever dreamed of traveling the world as a freelance writer? Top-notch typing and vocabulary skills will help you achieve your dream, as well as an interest in your chosen topic. Journalist and freelancer Tim Hinchliffe knows how skill, interest, and luck can all play a part in any media specialist’s career.
You’ve traveled to several countries in pursuit of interviews and article material. How did you do those interviews? Were you recording the session on audio or video, or were you typing notes on your computer during the interview?
The interviews are quite varied in approach. In Ghana, I was fortunate enough to have lunch with former President John Kufuor at his home in Accra, and we talked a little about tribal land rights (photo attached). I was an intern at the time, working for free, and I was in for a big surprise when I arrived at the office that morning and was told to go see the former president. I have to admit I was somewhat star-struck and didn’t take any notes as it was a little distracting with 20 Zongo chiefs dressed in tribal garb with golden staffs all gathered around, but I remembered everything and later wrote it all down as soon as I got back to the office and wrote the article.
Usually, though, I bring along my digital tape recorder, especially in Latin America. Although I’m quite fluent in Spanish, I still have difficulties with some dialects.
How much of your time do you spend at the computer keyboard these days?
It’s embarrassing to admit that I’m in front of the computer probably about 8 hours a day. On weekends I like to completely unplug when I can, and I love hiking in the Colombian Andes while hunting for wild mushrooms.
You’re currently based in Colombia, and you write in both Spanish and English. Do you use a standard QWERTY keyboard for both languages?
I use a standard QWERTY on my little notebook-tablet hybrid. When I have to use Spanish accent marks and tildes, I either copy/paste or use quick keys. I just can’t get into the flow of writing with a Latin keyboard; the backspace key has seen a lot of horrors and abuse.
Back in the days of print-only media, there was a fairly clear line between “news” publications and “social or entertainment” publications. With everything being posted on line these days and shared on social media sites like Facebook, do you think that journalists need to try to make news articles more “like”-able?
If journalists want to get both paid and have a far-reaching audience, then making news articles more “like”-able is essential. If you’re writing just a personal blog for things that interest you and maybe a handful of other people in the world, then owning that small niche can be advantageous as well – people will look to you as an expert or thought leader.
The thing about sharing on social media, and SEO in general, is you have to play by “their” rules. Knowing what keywords Facebook algorithms will pick up or catering to what is trending can drive a lot more traffic to your page. The downside is that you have to gather quite the following before you are popular enough to start breaking some of these rules to produce truly original content.
Being “like”-able sometimes means compromise and catering to what is more popular and not necessarily what is more important. When I wrote for the online news site Colombia Reports, my articles on FARC guerrilla activities would get some traction, but if I wrote a quick article about Shakira or Sofia Vergara, it would immediately spread like a virus while bringing more readers to the site. Hopefully they read about the Peace Process as well, but who knows?
If you could interview three people, who would they be? (You can pick one person who’s not alive today.
I would love to interview mycologist Paul Stamets, his work on using fungi to cure cancer, clean-up toxic waste, and save the bees is something that I truly admire with the utmost respect.
Another one would be Henry Kissinger. There are few people in this world with as much influence or a more clear personification of pure malice and evil, without empathy or regards to human dignity, save perhaps one of the Rothschilds. I probably wouldn’t live to tell about afterwards, though.
As a younger, less-sober man, I would have killed for an interview with Hunter S. Thompson, but as I get older I’m finding that indigenous spiritual leaders and shamans have a wealth of knowledge to offer, so for the dearly departed, I would like to pick Abd’el Hakim Awyan’s brain for his astonishing insights towards the understanding ancient Khemitian (Egyptian) wisdom and cosmology.
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