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Freelance Writing: An Interview With Mayrav Saar

by Ariel (editor), Venice, CA, March 16, 2007

Credit:

Three months ago, the Los Angeles Times published an article by Mayrav Saar about BrooWaha and citizen reporting's mass appeal.

Mayrav is the co-editor of Fishbowl LA and a freelance columnist for the Orange County Register. As she says in her blog, she is "fearlessly writing the stuff other women are too smart to say out loud".

She gracefully accepted to grant BrooWaha an interview to talk about her career as a journalist and her thoughts on the future of the profession.

Why did you become a journalist?

I took summer school one year in high school to get a class credit out of the way so that I could take autoshop during the school year. I thought it would be cool to know how to fix a car -- and I heard it lowered your car insurance rate. But half way through the summer, I learned the autoshop teacher quit and they were canceling the class. My summer school teacher also happened to be the advisor for the school paper. He suggested I take his class and give journalism a go. I haven't looked back since (I also haven't learned how to change my own oil).


How did you break into the field, given its competitive nature?

I took the traditional route. J-school, internships, jobs at small papers, jobs at large papers. Now that I'm a full-time mom and part-time writer, I've found work in magazines and various blogs.


How would you compare working for the LA Times with being a freelance writer?

My most recent job was actually at the Orange County Register, where I was a medical writer (I still freelance a column for them). I haven't worked at the LAT since 1997 (aside for some recent freelance pieces). But the pros and cons of full-time work versus freelance apply no matter where you are: On the plus side, I get to spend oodles of time with my baby boy. I don't have to commute and my hours are much more flexible. On the downside: I miss the newsroom environment -- bouncing ideas off my colleagues. Also, I find I work just as hard as I always have -- for far less pay!


What is your typical day like?

I usually hang out with my son in the morning, write and report during his late morning nap. Do a little more writing while he snacks in the afternoon (if he lets me) and then don't really return to writing until he's down at night. I have joked that I have two full-time jobs, being a mom and being a writer. (Well, maybe "joked" isn't the right word. Maybe "complained" is more like it.)


In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of websites like BrooWaha? Are there any particularly important challenges we need to overcome?

BrooWaha is a fun site that can serve an important function, namely, shining a spotlight on subcultures and inspiring community conversations. I think the challenge any web site faces is finding a way to make yourselves relevant while competing with traditional media and all the other Web sites out there.


Do you have any tips for BrooWaha writers?

I would say accuracy is king. There is no shortage of writers that offer opinions disguised as facts. As a reporter, I have never suffered from "writer's block," because if you did the legwork, if you have all your facts, you'll always have a story to tell.


What do you think journalism will be like five years from now?

I think you'll start to see blogs consolidating the same way corporate media is consolidating. This explosion of millions of voices will start to contract a bit. It's sad, but it's the way our capitalist society operates. On the flip side, there will always be newspapers. Always.


Anything you want to add to conclude this interview?

Just that I really respect what you've set out to do with your site. I know many "trained" journalists who aren't nearly as motivated as you are to explore the frontiers of Web reporting.

Thanks a lot for your time and your kind words.

Mayrav blogs on www.mayravsaar.com, with friends at http://bigaction.blogs.com/big_action and co-edits fishbowlLA, a blog about the Hollywood creative community and L.A. media at http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlla


About the Writer

Ariel is an editor for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on Freelance Writing: An Interview With Mayrav Saar

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By Steven Lane on March 16, 2007 at 01:28 pm
Very cool, I think she hit the nail on the head when she said "accuracy is king".
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By Tumerica on March 16, 2007 at 01:34 pm
Great article, Ariel. Thanks for bringing us this slice of life. Have to disagree with the interviewee, however, on her "[T]here will always be newspapers. Always." comment. Because that's her profession, it's understandable that's how she sees her future. But my best guesstimate is (and this is an opinion, not a fact) that newspapers will munge with blogs will munge with the new, ubiquitous mediasphere. I see more citizen writers/reporters, and more venues for their audiences. I predict a future where news will happen, and at that site, at that moment, there will be a citizen-writer to tell the tale. Our access to the infosphere is becoming ubiquitous--and I believe this is a good thing. Eyes everywhere mean vile acts will no longer occur in a vacuum. It's the democratization of information, and I'm excited about it.
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By Dr. Cecelia, J.D. on March 16, 2007 at 04:49 pm
It's good to hear the perspective of someone who's been on the inside, too. But, I would like to know, why, as a seasoned veteran, is she having trouble being paid as well as a freelancer? Is it because the pay on staff is so much better, or that the market for the pieces she wants to do is small or saturated with too many other writers in her particular market?
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By V on March 26, 2007 at 03:26 am
Ariel, finally I got a chance to read this. It is REALLY interesting to see where all this will go. Jo is right with what bang you get for your 15 bucks. I love, love, love the access I have to all kinds of information. I don't know how I lived without it now. Thanks for the interview & thanks for all the hard work of bringing the BrooWaha to life!
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