Next up on our Meet the Media blog series is Katherine Long, a freelance writer here in Seattle focusing on science, the environment and climate change. Before becoming a freelancer, she spent 29 years as a daily news reporter at The Seattle Times covering education. Learn more about Katherine by reading below and follow her on Twitter to keep up with her stories.
1. How did you find yourself as a freelance writer?
I was a daily newspaper reporter for 34 years, 29 of them at The Seattle Times. I loved the job, but after doing the same beat for a decade, I wanted to write about other subjects – especially science, the environment and climate change – and I wanted to try different writing styles. I left the paper July 3 of this year, and my transition is very much a work in progress, but I’ve gotten many good ideas and support from my former colleagues and fellow freelancers.
2. Which of your stories are you most proud of?
If I’m doing it right, the last story I wrote is always my favorite. My last story for the Times was a pair of deeply-reported stories about how children qualify for special education in Washington state, and how certain types of reading instruction for kids with dyslexia work better than others. I’m proud of that package, and I hope to follow it up in the months to come, while also working to develop my knowledge of science/environment/climate change.
3. What is your favorite thing about your job?
Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of educators who try to instill in their students the concept of becoming “life-long learners.” Well, that’s journalism in a nutshell. Every story you do is a learning experience. Often, if you work hard enough to line up good interviews, you get to talk to the nation’s leading experts on whatever subject you’re covering, as well as people who are coming at the issue in unconventional ways. There’s always something to learn. I love that part of the job.
4. What is your interview style?
It’s a bit of a cliché, but the best interviews are free-flowing conversations. I always do research to come up with a list of questions, but that’s more of a thought exercise than a guide. If the interview is going well, I discard the list and come up with my best questions in the moment.
5. What do you look for in a story?
I look for stories that make me think about an old subject in a new way, or stories that go against conventional wisdom. I love to write about innovation. Ultimately, I like to write about what excites me. If I can’t wait to tell my husband or my friends about the interview I just had, I know it’s going to be a good story.
6. What is your day like at your job?
I’m still getting into the freelance rhythm, but I’m usually up by 7 a.m., scanning the local and national headlines. I take notes about things that could become story pitches. I spend the rest of the day toggling back and forth between reading news sites, developing story pitches, setting up (or doing) interviews and writing.
7. Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
There are so many great reporters and editors doing outstanding work that it’s hard to single out one, but recently I’ve been in awe of the work by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment story. They’re fearless. I also admire anyone who is brave enough to go into a war zone and report back on what’s happening on the ground.
8. What is your favorite news outlet?
Naturally, having worked at The Seattle Times for 29 years, I have to say it’s my favorite paper. I support and value every local newspaper that tries to get beyond the latest shooting or political outrage to cover local governments, school boards and state government. Because of the drastically changed newspaper economy since the 2000s, local newspapers are an endangered species, and I worry that we are in danger of losing a functioning democracy if we don’t maintain a robust free press.
Fill in the blank:
a. If I am not reporting, I am…
Playing the piano, gardening, cycling or reading.
b. If I could interview anyone, it would be…
Dead or alive? If dead, I’d like to interview Teddy Roosevelt, to see if the man lives up to the myth. If alive, I’d like to interview Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
c. My favorite thing about Seattle is…
Summers! Best summers in the country.
10. What is your guilty pleasure?
English romanticism, perhaps? I’m an unapologetic fan of Downton Abbey, and I reread my favorite Jane Austen novels every few years; I love her subversive sense of humor.
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