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Paid by the Word: Conversations with Writers and Editors
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Paid by the Word: Conversations with Writers and Editors

Author: Mike Barlow

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Award-winning journalist and prolific author Mike Barlow interviews writers and editors. "Our conversations focus mostly on work habits and career advice. The interviews typically run 25-30 minutes. I try to keep them light and breezy, but when the topic veers into deeper waters, I'm not afraid to go there with the guest,” says Mike.
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In this episode of the podcast, I’m interviewed by radio talk show host Mike Bennett. Mike and I go way back, and I hope you enjoy our conversation as he prompts me to reflect on my career as a journalist and share some highlights from my recent expedition into the wonderful and rapidly expanding universe of podcasting. This episode is our Season One Finale, and we’ll be taking a short break before launching Season Two in October. Please subscribe to Paid by the Word on your favorite podcast platform and catch up on any episodes you might have missed. They’re all absolutely free, of course! 
Following the twin shocks of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, the concept of a unified western transatlantic community seemed like a sentimental relic of a bygone age.  Yet in his new book, Pax Transatlantica: America and Europe in the Post-Cold War Era,  author and international historian Jussi Hanhimäki explains why the relationship is far from over.Despite the potential fallout from current trade wars—especially between the US and China—and the rise of economic nationalism, the West still benefits from significant transatlantic trade and massive investment flows. Hanhimäki traces the parallel evolution of domestic politics on both sides of the Atlantic, focusing on the rise of populism. He contends that populism is not causing a rift between the US and Europe. Rather, the spread of populism demonstrates that their politics and culture remain closely integrated.I hope my conversation with Jussi renews your sense of optimism about this truly remarkable alliance.
When you’re dealing with the law, every word counts. And every period and comma counts, too! In this episode of the podcast, I interview Tami Aisenson, principal court attorney for the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court. Tami is a lawyer, but quite a bit of her work at the Appellate Division involves writing, and she faces many of the same challenges that confront journalists, such as constantly sifting through facts and evidence to determine what’s true and what isn’t. In many ways, she’s seems like the ideal journalist, engaged in a never-ending search for objectivity and truth. Tami is a graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, and I’m delighted that she took the time to chat with me. I hope you enjoy our conversation!  
In this episode, I speak with award-winning author and teacher Cynthia Gregory. Her published short stories include Baby Blood, Melting at Both Ends, Use Me, and Rosalinda's Ambition.Cynthia’s work has appeared in respected publications such as The Sun, Glimmer Train, the Briar Cliff Review, Santa Barbara Review, The Ear, and Central PA Magazine.  She took second place in the Writer's Digest annual fiction contest, first place in the Glimmer Train Family Matters short story competition, and first place in the Mark Twain Short Fiction Prize. Cynthia is also the author of Journaling as Sacred Practice, a book that helps writers stay focused and productive. She writes that each of the book’s chapters, is "a love letter to the art of creative writing, where both the fledgling writer and the seasoned scribe will find encouragement, advice, and lessons in the craft of journaling." I’m delighted that Cynthia found the time in her busy schedule to sit down and chat about her work. I hope you find our conversation, which was recorded in November 2020, to be entertaining and useful. 
In this episode, I’ll be chatting with radio personality Mike Bennett, the popular co-host of Mike & Kacey in the Morning on WHUD, the radio station serving New York State’s Mid-Hudson Valley, a region with seven counties and more than 1.1 million residents.Many of those residents listen to WHUD, and Mike’s baritone voice has become a familiar part of their daily routines. If a snowstorm forces your local schools to close early, or it’s National Nurses Day, chances are you’ll hear about it from Mike first.Mike is also the author of “Don’t Pay the Ransom, I’ve Escaped: Memories of a Life on the Radio.” I love Mike’s book, which captures his gentle humor, his affection for the Mid-Hudson Valley, and his sheer enjoyment of being on the radio. I hope you enjoy our conversation! 
Jackson Thompson is a sports writer for Insider. His articles tend to focus on the health – and the rights – of athletes. Jackson’s work has also been featured in The Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated.Over the course of his career, he’s covered the NFL, college football, college basketball, horse racing and New Jersey high school sports.  In this episode of the podcast, Jackson shares some interesting tales of sports journalism, and he recounts the time he covered the Hambletonian Stakes, one of America’s most famous harness racing competitions.
Alfred Poor, PhD, is the founding Editor of Health Tech Insider, a website and weekly email newsletter that provides curated news and original analysis about mobile and wearable technology for health and medical applications. Alfred is known internationally as a speaker, writer, and analyst. Armed with a biology degree from Harvard, he’s spent the past 30 years reporting on a wide range of technology topics. For more than two decades, he wrote extensively for PC Magazine and other major computing titles. Alfred is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books, and he continues to be fascinated by shiny, sparkly things that can make a difference for the better in people’s lives.In our conversation, we talked about his role as a health tech futurist. We also spoke about the evolution of tech journalism and we talked about what happens to society at large when you stop paying writers to create in-depth carefully reported articles. I began by asking him how the shift to online publishing changed the economics of storytelling ...
Door-to-door selling. If you’ve ever done it, you know it’s grueling work. Throughout most of its history, door-to-door selling was considered a man’s job. That was before Avon invented the Avon Lady, a concept that revolutionized selling and opened the door for generations of women who wanted to become independent entrepreneurs.Katina Manko, an independent scholar, has written a thoroughly researched book about the history of Avon’s distributed sales force model and its lasting impact on our culture. I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between the Avon Ladies and their modern-day counterparts in the gig economy. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Katina, and I hope you have a chance to read her book, Ding Dong! Avon Calling! Wow, just saying that brings back memories of my childhood.
Edvige Jean-François is an award-winning global journalist and producer. At CNN, she served as Washington Bureau Producer, responsible for producing national and political news stories. She covered Capitol Hill, the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. State Department and the White House. She was a producer for CNN’s Jim Acosta, delivering reports for The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and other major network news franchises.  At CNN International, a subsidiary of CNN, she served as a senior producer of international features and sponsorships, and as a producer of special projects. Edvige is a graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. I caught up with Edvige recently and we had a wonderful conversation about journalism. We spoke about the skill and the instinct that enable really good journalists to uncover the interesting little stories that are often hidden within the larger stories. I hope you enjoy our conversation!
Professor Phoebe S.K. Young teaches undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She is the recipient of the 2016 Boulder Faculty Assembly Award for Distinction in Teaching and Pedagogy. She is also the author of two books, California Vieja: Culture and Memory in a Modern American Place  and Camping Grounds: Public Nature in America from the Civil War to the Occupy Movement.  In our conversation, Professor Young spoke about why she chose to write about camping, and what she learned over the course of her research.
Joyce Garczynski is the Assistant University Librarian for Development & Communications at Towson University’s Albert S. Cook Library in Maryland. In this role she teaches journalism students about the research process and manages her library’s social media. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of Maryland, College Park and has a Master’s in Communication from the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to becoming a librarian, Joyce was a Project Coordinator and Research Assistant at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Joyce received the 2019 Distinguished Education and Behavioral Sciences Librarian Award from the Association of College and Research Libraries for her excellence in teaching and service to the profession. She is the author of two books about library fundraising.
Can driving a truck help you become a better writer? Euan Semple is living proof that sometimes, at least, doing something that's not related to writing can result in ... better writing!Euan has been a leader and an influencer in the ever-changing field of digital technology for two decades. An early adopter of social media he implemented one of the world's first enterprise social network systems inside the BBC. He also ran BBC DigiLab, a department whose purpose was to help the BBC understand new technologies across the range of its activities and make better decisions about their use and implementation.  Euan left the BBC in 2006 to establish his own consultancy and has subsequently worked around the world with an amazing range of organizations including BP, The World Bank, The European commission, and Volvo.  His work with them has been to help stretch their thinking about digital transformation in all its forms and to ensure that they end up doing the right things for the right reasons.Euan is the author of Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do: A Manager's Guide to the Social Web, and it’s my great pleasure to have him on this episode of the podcast!
In this episode of Paid by the Word, Mike interviews Clark Merrefield, a senior editor at The Journalist’s Resource, a project of Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center and the Carnegie-Knight Initiative. Clark  joined The Journalist’s Resource in 2019 after working as a reporter for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, as a researcher and editor on three books related to the Great Recession, and as a federal government communications strategist. He was a John Jay College Juvenile Justice Journalism Fellow and his work has been awarded by Investigative Reporters and Editors.In our conversation, we chat about the basics of investigative journalism, and talk about some of his recent articles for The Journalist’s Resource.
Stephen Janis is a documentary filmmaker and award-winning journalist whose work has  earned praise in both video and print.  He's the director of the recently released feature length documentary, The Friendliest  Town,  a compelling story of the controversial firing of the first black police chief of a small town in Maryland.He is the co-author of three books with former homicide detectives Why Do We Kill:  The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore , You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths about Policing  in Baltimore and Beyond , and The Book of Cop: A Testament to Policing That Works.  Stephen has narrated a variety television shows including Dead of Night on  Investigation Discovery, NBC/Universal Relentless , the Netflix reboot of Unsolved  Mysteries , and the forth coming crime series Sins of The City on Television One.  He is the co-host and producer of the Police Accountability Report on The Real  News Network, a non-profit news service based in Baltimore.  Stephen is a graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. 
Glenn Proctor's life reads like an adventure novel: a difficult childhood, family tragedy, alcoholism, six years in the U.S. Marine Corps (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), four decades in newspaper journalism, sharing in a Pulitzer Prize and judging five Pulitzer Prizes, becoming a peer support advocate and a life coach.  He is a cancer survivor and the author of five books. It's an honor and pleasure having Glenn as a guest on the podcast!Visit his website to learn more about Glenn. Here are quick highlights of his career in journalism:Reporter, Weekend Editor and Night Editor​ at the Akron Beacon Journal ​​Night Editor and Business Editor​ at the ​Louisville Courier-Journal Assistant Managing Editor​ at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Associate Editor, Assistant Managing Editor and City Editor​ at the Newark Star-Ledger Executive Editor and Vice President of News​ at the Richmond Times-Dispatch
Ellen Horan is the author of 31 Bond Street, a historical novel published by HarperCollins.  Set against the backdrop of bustling, corrupt New York City four years before the Civil War, the book recounts the tale of a murdered doctor, a mysterious woman who may or may not have killed him … and the political forces at work in the city in the late 1850s … I genuinely enjoyed Ellen’s novel, and I found her descriptions of old New York absolutely fascinating! Ellen has worked as a studio artist and as a photo editor for magazines such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, House and Garden, Forbes, and Art News. She is a visual editor on illustrated books about fashion, design and family history. Ellen is a graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, NY,  and I’m delighted that she took the time to chat with me. One of the interesting stories Ellen told me about the book is its origin story. It all began in a print shop where she saw an old newspaper page … on the page was an etching that caught her interest … soon her curiosity became a passion, as she strove to learn more about the story behind the etching. Ellen’s investigation … and her research … led her to write 31 Bond Street. And the rest, as they say, is history. I began our conversation by asking Ellen if she had enjoyed the process of researching an historical novel based on a real murder … the grisly slaying of Dr. Burdell and the subsequent trial of his alleged killer.  
Rachelle Dickerson began her career in print journalism, working as a copy editor at major American newspapers such as Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle and The Star-Ledger. In between, she taught language arts and journalism in the New York City public school system. After leaving the newspaper industry, she decided to become a lawyer, and earned her juris doctor from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston.Currently, she is communications manager for Missouri City, a small city in Texas that’s a short drive from Houston. Rachelle assists in managing the city’s day-to-day integrated communications, marketing and branding operations.Rachelle is a native Texan, but she was raised in Brooklyn, New York, and I am delighted to have her as a guest on the podcast. I began our conversation by asking her about one of my favorite topics: newsroom diversity.
Do you have the skill and passion to be a sports journalist? Adam Hirshfield, a senior NFL editor at The Athletic, reflects on his career in the new episode of the Paid by the Word Podcast. Over the course of his career, Adam has covered a wide range of sports – everything from high school football to the Olympics. Before joining The Athletic, Adam worked at USA TODAY, the NBA, Bleacher Report and The Palm Beach Post.  He is a graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. I caught up with Adam in February 2021, a couple of weeks after the Superbowl, and we had a great conversation about the joys – and the challenges – of sports journalism.  If you're not familiar with The Athletic, it's a subscription-based publisher specializing in high quality, in-depth sports coverage for die-hard fans. The Athletic has carved a niche for itself by offering original, authentic stories, written by talented local and national sports journalists.
Walter Middlebrook is the Foster Professor of Practice in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at The Pennsylvania State University. Middlebrook has worked in editing roles at the Minneapolis Star, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch, Newsday, New York Newsday, The New York Times, USA Today and The Detroit News.At The Detroit News, he supervised an award-winning investigations team, while producing weekly entertainment and opinion stand-alone sections. Before that, he managed the newspaper’s award-winning department that included the metro desk, state house, and Washington, D.C., bureaus.Middlebrook has earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He also has earned a Distinguished Alumni Award from Boston University and the Spirit of Diversity Award from Wayne State University.He is a native of Memphis, Tennessee, and an Eagle Scout. I am delighted to have Walter Middlebrook as a guest on this episode of the  podcast, and I am sure that you will enjoy listening to the story of his career as a journalist.
Joe Toplyn began his television career on the writing staff of Late Night with David Letterman. He later served as co-head writer of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, head writer of Late Show with David Letterman, and co-executive producer of the comedic detective show Monk. A four-time Emmy winner, Joe is the author of Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV: How to Write Monologue Jokes, Desk Pieces, Sketches, Parodies, Audience Pieces, Remotes and Other Short-Form Comedy. I have found Joe’s book to be an extremely useful guide for multiple genres of writing. The book’s all-around utility never fails to challenge and amaze me. Joe also offers writing tips and advice on his website, www.joetoplyn.comIn our conversation, Joe shares several of the techniques he uses to tighten his prose, sharpen his jokes and consistently deliver world-class humor. Give us a listen, and enjoy!
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