Seventeen years ago, I moved to D.C. as national editor of a magazine for technology company executives. My job was to cover Congress and the federal agencies, analyzing how public policy decisions were affecting the tech business. I described myself as a cross between a nerd and a wonk. It was specialized, difficult and fascinating work.
That thick, glossy print magazine published the kind of stories I loved to write: 4,000-word articles analyzing topics like anti-trust regulations and export controls. But the Internet slowly ate away at the advertising base that supported the publication. When I went freelance in 2005, I took whatever assignments I could get. My professional network was based in the tech centers of Boston and Silicon Valley. I got a steady flow of assignments from tech publications, but they had little to do with public policy. I often thought that I should do more to market my skills to publications in the D.C. area, but never made the time to do so.
This month, I and my fellow freelancers have a golden opportunity to do just that at the D.C. conference of The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), being held Aug. 28 at the National Press Club. As an ASJA member, I have attended the organization’s annual conference in New York for years. Its whole mission is to support professional freelance non-fiction writers. I always meet new editors and fascinating fellow freelancers, and those relationships often lead to great professional opportunities. I’m also a long-time member of the NPC, which has represented the interests of journalists for over a century and become the place “where news happens.” It has hosted countless U.S. presidents, international heads of state, politicians and celebrities at its luncheons and newsmaker events. I currently serve as chair of NPC’s Freelance Committee.
The D.C. conference combines the best of both great organizations, which is why I volunteered to chair it along with Emily Paulsen, co-president of ASJA’s D.C. chapter. Because of the hard work of many volunteers, the conference has a stellar line-up. It will open with a keynote by Newseum Chief Operating Officer Gene Policinski, a co-founder of USA Today who speak about the vital role of freelancers in today’s media, the importance of maintaining credibility and securing the public’s confidence in news sources, and how these themes relate to preserving the freedom of the press. His speech will be followed by two concurrent tracks that include panel discussions on such topics as:
• Covering politics
• Keys to successful freelancing in D.C.
• Capitalizing on D.C.’s rich research resources to pitch and write better stories
• Tapping into opportunities that abound at D.C.-based trade associations and non-profits
Take a look at the full schedule and registration details here. The conference is open to all, but ASJA and NPC members are eligible for a discount. It’s an incredible opportunity to meet editors, bond with freelance colleagues, increase your skillset and expand your network in D.C. If you go, introduce yourself. I’ll be the nerdy wonk working the crowd.