How a Dinosaur Learned to Dance: A Writer's Journey from Print Journalism to Digital Relevance
Storytelling Communications

How a Dinosaur Learned to Dance: A Writer’s Journey from Print Journalism to Digital Relevance

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I come from a background of two decades’ worth of traditional print journalism, beginning with a time before email was commonly used. I remember running down to the newsstand when one of my articles was published, ripping open the black-and-white newspaper, and getting ink all over my hands as I read my latest piece. I even remember using a typewriter to write my first published submission back in 1994 (the piece was published in Irish America magazine), stuffing the typed pages into a yellow manila envelope, and mailing it to the publishing office in New York City. It feels like I began my journalism career when dinosaurs still walked the earth. I wrote regularly for The Boston Globe, Harvard Gazette, and contributed to large-circulation newspapers like The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. Print was king then. But not anymore.

Today, as a digital content creator in my late 40s, I’m surprised at how little adjustment I’ve had to make in writing for clients like GE Capital and The National Center for the Middle Market. Good writing today isn’t so radically different from good writing in 1994. The big difference lies within the way good writing is distributed and read. I don’t have ink stains on my hands today, and very few people do. Like in the “old days,” I can still pitch my own ideas or the editors can simply assign me topics. Good story ideas remain good ideas. I’ve remained a writer for over two decades because curiosity and hard work—values that remain ever-relevant—continue to be rewarded.

Despite Technological Advances, Readers Still Want Good Writing

Whether its for GE Capital’s website or a print magazine in 1994, writing is about doing the research and legwork necessary to understand what you’re writing about, and doing that against deadline. I love to learn new things and explain what I’ve learned through my writing. As both a print journalism professional in bygone days and a digital content provider, my work has explored the intersection of business and psychology, a space that endlessly fascinates me. Skyword and its clients let me write about topics that interest me, such as employee motivation, management styles, communication within the organization, and hiring and developing talent. In other words, the ideas I write about continue to engage me and connect with my intellectual focus.

In addition, working for Skyword has allowed me to leverage the social media skills I’d already developed writing for other publications. When I’m curious and engaged with a story, I’m able to effectively promote my content through my social media platforms. And since my platforms reflect my affinities, content that I’ve enjoyed writing about tends to get shared even more. I’ve learned to develop a social media strategy for everything I write now, and I do it from the moment I get the assignment. Social media isn’t an add-on or an afterthought today—it needs to be integrated in all writers do, from the content’s inception to eventual publication.

I’ve changed as a writer in this last regard. Like so many print journalists, I initially bemoaned social media as eroding the quality of journalism. Print meant quality; digital was the Wild West. But three years ago, feeling less relevant each day, I decided to start using social media as part of my work, and it has changed everything for me. I’m now fully engaged with sharing my content, which has impacted my motivation to do more great stories. I no longer feel like a slow-moving dinosaur roaming lost in the media landscape; I’m learning new things every day. Most of all, digital media allows for more interaction with my audience and has enabled me to find more readers.

The transparency of the Skyword Platform has been a big help in tracking and pushing my readership numbers. I now know how each piece is performing in real time. Working for traditional media, I had to fight to get any metrics, which was an ongoing pain. Having metrics readily available helps me make better decisions as a writer and content marketer.

What Has Changed?

Overall, the adjustments between traditional print journalism and writing digital content have been few. I use my journalism skills to research, interview people, dig deep into stories, and organize all the material I’ve collected. Good writing takes a lot of things: curiosity, commitment to finding answers, and the ability to share what you’ve learned with readers professionally and clearly. The editors at Skyword have also helped me better understand the goals of the client, which has really helped me tailor content for their needs and target audience. Good writers need to be collaborative by listening and responding to editorial feedback and facilitating sharing via social media.

I’ve been lucky to have graduated from the “old world” of traditional print journalism. I approach all my work with an established personal process and a professional attitude of wanting to deliver quality consistently to my readers. Those motivations should go into everything a writer does for every single client. That was true in 1994, and it remains equally true today. Sometimes, even dinosaurs can learn to dance.

Learn more about Chuck Leddy’s writing and reporting interests on Muck Rack.

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