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How to Organize Your Notes for a Round-Up Before You Tear Out Your Hair
American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York, NY
Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Margie Goldsmith
Online publications such as travelandleisure.com and yahoo.com have always included round-ups and slideshows, but these days, more and more print magazines are requesting them. While we all prefer to write pithy experiential pieces, it?s not easy to turn down round-ups especially as, on the whole, they pay decently. If you?re new to the genre, round-ups can lead you to tear out your hair and take a sledgehammer to your computer. Here are some ways to avoid that.

Let?s say your assignment is to write about the Ten Skankiest Bars or Twenty Best Beaches or Fifteen Coolest Bowling Alleys. How do you find them? You can put out the word on a list serve, but more likely, you?ll send out a request via a news source. You?ll definitely find an excellent selection of candidates, but your mailbox will be flooded with emails from every CVB and PR Agency in the country. You?ll need to organize and choose from hundreds of suggestions.
First, delete the emails that say things such as: ?We don?t have a bowling alley but we DO have a great pizza parlor.? They can get a great deal worse, such as, you ask for the most romantic restaurants and receive a pitch on a foot problem expert. Delete them.
Whenever an email suggestion feels right, I paste its contents into a document and title each query with the name of the destination — for instance, SANTA MONICA or MAINE.  If you choose this method, the most important to remember is to paste the PR person?s email at the bottom of the query, because once you delete the email, that person?s name will be gone forever.
Once you?ve deleted all the inappropriate ones, take your best choices and put them into a document, (I call mine Choices.1).  Save that document and Copy it. Call the new document Choices.2.  Lets say you have 50 entries in Choices 1. Prune it to about twenty choices, leaving you with perhaps 30 possibilities. Copy Choices 2 and call it Choices 3. If you?re looking for a ?Ten Best? round up, cull it down to 15 or 20 choices.
You can use Google, but I pull out my Atlas (yes, the nice old-fashioned hard copy) and put sticky arrows on my cities of choice. Every editor I?ve ever worked with has always requested a geographical mix, so I?m very careful about making sure my selections are from diverse regions of the country. If two of my choices are in the same state or area, one of them has to be dropped.
Narrow your list down to ten, call it Final Choices, and send it off to the editor. If the editor wants additional choices, you can go back to your Choices 3 file and find replacements quickly.
Since I have been using this system, I?m no longer driving myself crazy ? at least not until it?s time to contact every one of those PR people and find out the real meat of what?s never included in the press release.

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Name: James Brannigan
Title: Executive Director
Group: ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors)
Dateline: New York, NY United States
Direct Phone: 212 997-0947
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