Lessons in self-publishing in 2020

We give you a glimpse of what it has been like inside Geneva Health Files. Hope you find this interesting. Write to us with your comments!

The Geneva Health Files newsroom: Image credit: Priti Patnaik

In April 2020, I started self-publishing. What follows are notes on what I learned through out this year.

(in no particular order of importance)

Listen to what people are saying and what they are not saying.

Make your own judgement and editorial call on what is important – not only dictated by the news cycle.

Timing is king, but do not kill yourself with unrealistic deadlines.

While making complex trade offs between “timing” and analysis – publishing early usually wins.

Improve style. Get sub-editors.

Think about nuances deeply.

Think from a reader’s perspective.

Do sport. Every week.

Write, edit, rewrite and write again.

Use pictures. Always.

Talk to sources across the board.

Bust your bubbles and assumptions. Stay open to surprises – the magic of journalism.

Refrain from carving a narrative when there isn’t one. 

Read every relevant document you can lay your hands on. And more.

Test your hypothesis.

Write down story ideas and make connections between them.

Ask improbable questions.

Chase institutions for answers.

If there are competing priorities in a day, god save you. But take a moment to decide why one story may be more important than another for your readers on that day.

Liaise with other editors.

Work with other reporters.

As far as possible, publish asap.

Be humble in accepting error in news judgement.

Seek help, in general.

Get a sounding board.

Link to competitors. It makes text richer.

Don’t be upset if big media does not link to your exclusives.

Do not take yourself too seriously.

Promote your work and then promote some more.

Talk to people outside of global health.

Double check science facts when writing on technical matters

Have funny conversations with sources. Life is passing by after all.

Reach out to mentors. Bug them.

Annoy sources if you must.

Do not disturb sources without reason.

Listen to your intuition and then sleep over it. Don’t act on intuition immediately.

Bust your optimism.

Tone down cynicism.

Reach out to less quoted experts / sources.

Do not take it personally when experts do not wish to speak to you.

Be brave.

Be bullish.

Don’t be shy.

Asking money to make reporting possible is necessary.

Pay your bills, chart your expenses.

Check every link and every fact. And recheck.

Write shorter if possible.

Talk to other reporters. 

Tweet less.

Read more, write less.

Report more, read less.

Think more, write less.

Write enough to learn.

Sleep more.

Sleep over a copy. And edit again.

Make headlines better.

Don’t publish when hungry or tired.

Go on nature walks.

Do not work on weekends, if you can.

Beware of mansplainers and online bullies.

Look at the sky.

Analyses means one can never be the first one. And it is ok.

Thank sources.

Always thank readers.