Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Micah McCrary on Freelance Journalism, Newcity

Meet Micah McCrary, Roosevelt MFA Student and freelance journalist. Here Micah talks about how he got started writing for the Chicago publication, Newcity.

I graduated from Columbia College Chicago in December 2008, and after kick-starting a career in freelance journalism after studying under Sam Weller, author of The Bradbury Chronicles, I immediately looked for an internship in the city of Chicago that would allow me to write. Sam was once a staff writer at Newcity, and he recommended that I offer to intern for them. He told me I'd write more there than any other place in the city as far as an internship goes, and I did. I sent them a cover letter, a Q&A I'd previously done with a screenwriter, and a couple of spec samples, and they called me in for an interview a few days later.

I got started there a few weeks after graduation, my first research assignment handed to me on the first day of the job and my first article my second week. It wasn't a feature, but rather something called a Moxie, a short (around 500 words) creative nonfictionesque piece about a happening in Chicago. Moxies are [usually] in third person, written in vivid detail of whatever's going on. My first Moxie was called January Strip, and covered an Improv Mafia no-pants El ride.

After a few Moxies I was given longer assignments—nothing for the front page, of course—that were more detailed and in-depth. My interviewing skills got better, my transcribing skills got better, and before long I was ready to report on anything my editor would assign me. I've covered everything from openings of bookstores to drunken spelling bees to air sex championships—anything you'd expect to find in an alternative newsweekly like Newcity.

When my internship ended I continued to write for them on a freelance basis (they no longer have staff writers, only contributing writers and editors), and have continued to do so for about a year. Writing something as simple as a Moxie led to bigger and deeper things, and I'm incredibly glad that I got my start at Newcity rather than somewhere in a mailroom.

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