How To Organize Journalistic Information in Spreadsheets

by Loolwa Khazzoom • August 12, 2011 • Writing and Editing Tips

To manage a successful career in freelance journalism, you need to set the proper foundation – a place to organize your ideas, pitches, articles, and editor contact information. Here is a step-by-step, beginner’s guide to using spreadsheets.

1. Learn the Fundamentals of Spreadsheets

The beauty of spreadhsheets is that when you need information, you can look for it alphabetically, according to categories — saving you a lot of time. New to the world of spreadsheets? Cruise through some beginning instructions & tutorials on your program of choicel. I personally use Excel.

2. Create Your Ideas Database

Here’s a suggestion for column headers in a spreadsheet file:

  • Subject: the topic of your idea
  • Contact: contact info for whoever and whatever has the 411 on this topic
  • Details: your award-winning idea in all its fabulousness
  • Periodicals: periodicals that may be interested in this story.

3. Create Your Pitches Database

Once you decide which story ideas are worth pursuing, it’s time to move on to the pitching stage. Here’s how to organize your pitch database:

  • Genre: kind of article (Business, News, Health)
  • Subject: title or content keywords
  • Periodical: where you pitched the story
  • Response: editor response
  • Contact: name & direct 411 of the editor you pitched
  • Date: when you submitted the pitch
  • Pitch: the actual pitch
  • Notes: anything else you need to remember

4. Create Your Articles Database

To keep your work for future reference; to track who owes you money; and to have a record for tax time, you’ll need to have an articles database as well:

  • Title: article name
  • Periodical: periodical publishing it
  • Due: due date
  • Amount: agreed-upon fee
  • Paid: article payment date
  • Expenses: expense fees
  • Exp Pd: expense payment date
  • Contract: contract status
  • Invoice: date invoice sent
  • Assigned: date story assigned
  • Editor: assigning editor
  • Words: word count
  • Copies: # copies received
  • Pitch: original pitch
  • Article: full article
  • Contact: related contact info
  • Notes: anything else

 5. Create Your Periodicals Database

As you gather contact information for editors, keep track of information in a periodicals database:

  • Periodical: periodical name
  • Pay: article rates
  • Address: periodical address & phone
  • Parent: parent company (checks will be from here)
  • Contact: editor name & direct contact info
  • Category: periodical genre (Women, Health, Business)
  • Notes: all you need to know about the periodical

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About Loolwa

Loolwa KhazzoomLoolwa Khazzoom has worked with leading media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Rolling Stone, and ABC News. In addition, she has published two books and has lectured at prestigious venues including Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harvard University. Loolwa is passionate about health, music, dance, multiculturalism, and Judaism.

Holistic Media, Marketing, PR

Loolwa Khazzoom is a a public relations manager specializing in holistic media, holistic marketing, holistic public relations, and holistic promotions. Her services include branding and messaging development, image and communications management, website content development and optimization, social media management, traditional media campaign management, book development, and in-house writing and editing.

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