Journalist Spotlight: Jen A. Miller, Freelance Journalist and Author
Welcome to Journalist Spotlight, where we go behind the scenes with a journalist and ProfNet user. This installment features Jen A. Miller (@byJenAMiller), a freelance journalist and author.
If you’re a journalist who uses ProfNet, email firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured next.
Jen A. Miller has been an independent journalist for over a decade. But, she didn’t start out with that plan in mind.
“I went to college for marine biology. When I saw how much time would be lab work (and realizing I got seasick on boats), I switched to an English Literature major thinking that it would give me a base for whatever I wanted to do,” she says. “I got my MA in English Literature too with the idea of going into academia, but stopped at the MA instead of going for the Ph.D. when I realized I wanted to write for a wider audience.”
Now, she is a regular contributor to the New York Times, Runner’s World, Running Times, Bankrate and CIO.com, and she writes a weekly running column for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Her next book, Running: A Love Story, will be published this spring by Seal Press.
How did you begin your writing career?
My college – then – didn’t have a journalism program, but I worked on the student newspaper for four years. The fall of my junior year and all of my senior year, I was editor in chief (the spring of my junior year, I studied abroad at Oxford University, where I also wrote for a student newspaper). It was the best training I could have gotten, in part because we didn’t really know what we were doing, but learned while on the job. I did an internship with a news service in Washington, DC, which steered me away from a traditional newspaper career, and I’m glad it did. I’m not a breaking news person. I think I’d have been miserable in an entry level reporter job and might have left the field all together before I even got started.
Where was your first job as a professional journalist?
I was editor of SJ Magazine, a local magazine about South Jersey when I was 23. I’d been freelancing since I graduated from college. I left the magazine to freelance full-time.
When did you decide to become a freelance writer?
The magazine – which had different owners then – was having financial troubles. I was working a lot of hours for not a ton of pay, so I figured I might as well do that for myself. More than a decade later, I’m still at it (though I don’t work a ton of hours anymore).
What type of stories do you like to cover the most?
I write a lot about running. Most people assume that’s all I do (and that’s what I share most on social media), but I also write a bi-monthly column about technology for CIO.com. Sounds try, but it’s really interesting, and a really interesting time to be on that beat given how quickly things are moving in the world of data security and payment systems.
Is there something you like best about what you do?
I love being my own boss. I’ve joked that I’m unemployable because I can’t imagine commuting let alone dressing in work clothes five days a week.
What type of experts do you like to work with?
I use ProfNet most for my CIO.com column just because my area of focus shifts so often. Best experts are on time, not calling from their cell phone in the car, and ready to talk about the specific topic I’ve brought up. Also I don’t mind a PR person sitting in on the call, as long as he or she doesn’t keep jumping into the conversation.
What’s most different now from when you began your career?
Social media has changed everything – for better or for worse. I joined Twitter early on and I enjoy it. It’s a very important part of being a freelancer. I have gotten a dozen clients from relationship formed there.
How do use social media?
To share stories, to complain about my day, to post pictures of my dog. I sometimes use it to find sources. I’ve also drawn story ideas from popular topics of conversation.
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Evelyn Tipacti is a audience relations specialist at ProfNet. She is a former broadcast journalist with years of experience behind the television camera and radio mic.