Should I take this copywriting job if I want to be a writer?
August 10, 2012 9:51 PM   Subscribe

I was hoping to be offered a writing job on the editorial side, but instead I'm going to be on the business/advertising side. What does this mean for me?

I'm trying to break into the whole media-slash-writing-for-a-living business.

This year, I had an internship with internet media conglomerate X Media, and that went really well. I wrote for a high traffic blog and I'm currently using that experience to try to write for other websites or magazines. A month or two after the internship, X Media gets in contact with me and offers me a job. Only problem is that this gig isn't on the editorial floor. It may be called something like "content commerce" or "brand writing with an editorial tone." And I won't be reporting to an editor, but to a "suit" on the business side.

It's a job! It'll cover the bills, but it won't make me rich. And I'll be writing, but I'll definitely be selling something, as opposed to just, y'know, writing. I'm new to the industry and I don't know much about working in media, so I've got some general questions:

1. Is there some facet of journalistic ethics that means that doing this kind of sponsored work prohibits me from crossing over to the editorial side?

2. So let's say this gig goes well, but in a year I'm trying to write again. Will editors be skeptical if I don't have any clips from the last year?

3. Alternatively, what kind of work in the marketing or advertising worlds does writing sponsored posts qualify me for?

4. Have any of the writers out there switched between journalistic writing and copywriting? How did it work out for you?
posted by Michael Pemulis to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In times like these, I think questions like #1 are a relic of J-school ethics courses, harkening back to a fabled lost era of steady journalism employment that may never have existed. Don't worry about it.

#2: Why not publish the good stuff you want to write on the side, while paying the bills with ad copy? It's an honorable course that could allow you to hone in on quality clips without having to worry about whether your 9-5 editor will assign you worthy material.

#4: Switched from journalism-for-a-living to not. Have never felt freer as a writer.
posted by steinsaltz at 10:21 PM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

As for 1., no. Journalistic ethics for this has always been that you don't do them at the same time for the same publication. It's not like once you've been in advertorial, you are in quarantine there forever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:27 PM on August 10, 2012

You'll be fine, and you'll probably find that in most journalism jobs there's a hell of a lot of "brand writing" anyway, and the suits will have more of a pull than you'd think possible.

1. No. A job is a job is a job. People skip from copy-writing to journalism all the time. Coming back from public relations is harder, but not impossible.
2. No. They are looking for pretty much the the same things, and you'll have a good employment record.
3. On this one I'm not sure, but probably PR and social media marketing.
posted by Mezentian at 11:38 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a start. And a job. Learn what you can. Find your niche, and your voice. Plenty of journos flip between PR/image control and journalism and back. Lots of journos work for standard editorial and contract publishing. The important thing once you do it are that you are comfortable with it. Provided you don't ra-ra the indefensible or bend the truth severely there are no inherent ethical issues with advertorials and you won't be tainted.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:34 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In a lot of situations now, there's a ton of crossover. Honestly, this is good experience if you want to be an editor-in-chief, or a publisher, or a CEO eventually. Lots of us who started out in journalism had to learn the business side from scratch, after years in the field, because we were so shielded from the business.

Learn what you can. But also focus on what you want to be. If you want to be writing long-form nonfiction, this isn't necessarily the route to it? But it's not like being a paralegal--or a blogger even!--is a distinct route to that either.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:53 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was an award-winning journalist, then a technical copywriter for Ford, then an advertising copywriter, and now I'm editor-in-chief for a digital magazine.

Be grateful for any and all writing jobs, any and all experiences that involve getting paid to write and/or edit, and the chance to learn new software and business skills. ALWAYS.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:03 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

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