Writing for Medium in a Time of Crisis
Times are unusual. The current worldwide crisis has affected every profession that employs workers. From bartenders, stockbrokers, lawyers, women working the oldest trade, and writers sitting in their offices or homes churning out stories that entertain and enlighten us, all have to rethink how they do what they do.
With the difficulties encountered by writers in mind, Medium hosted a webinar on April 2, 2020, to explore “Writing in a Time of Crisis: Insights from Medium’s Platform Editors.
Kawandeep Virdee, a writer’s advocate at Medium who edits Medium’s monthly newsletter, moderated a panel that included platform editors Michelle Woo, Megan Morrone, Kate Green Tripp, and TI director Julie Russell.
The webinar began with about 460 participants hoping to glean some ideas about the editorial policy of Medium during this global crisis.
Virdee stated that in his own life, he is seeking reading material that gives him comfort and connection during a “scary” crisis, so the virtual town hall with writers on the platform address writing for Medium during this period of human history.
The panel fielded questions that participants submitted via email before the webinar.
Morrone is the Platform Editor for One Zero, which focuses on the tech and science hub on Medium. One Zero deals with “how technology relates to how we live our lives,” she said.
Tripp is Platform Editor for Elemental, a health and wellness platform to serve people who want to learn more about their minds and bodies. “We are a feature-oriented hub,” she offered.
Woo, is Senior Platform Editor at Forge. She is “trying to help people continue to be human at this time.” She said she looks for stories that answer the question: “What is the thing you are going to take away from this story and go tell your friends about?”
Tripp looks for stories that discuss the impact of societal issues in the everyday lives of the reader, i.e., “how does this story affect my marriage” or how does it relate to the personal matters readers face every day.
Morrone looks for stories that explain how technology impacts the daily lives of her readers.
“Why does this matter, how is technology shaping our life at this time?” Morrone posits these questions and others to find a good essay interesting for readers.
Morrone has “no idea” how to be creative under stress. While Woo relies on a quote she recently read on Twitter, which says, “You think you are working from home, but you are not, you are at home trying to work.”
Virdee asked the panel how do writers present relevant and unique content in the age of COVID-19.
Morrone said it is essential to pay attention to the conversation you are having with your friends. “If you are having a conversation about the impact of something on your lives, it is probably a good story,” she said.
Tripp said she wants “strong stories that are relevant,” adding that people are still having babies and getting into accidents.
On the subject of humor, in times of crisis, Morrone believes there is a place for fun during this period, but only if you have written humor. Otherwise, stick to your unique voice. Tripp said during these times, “We need sunshine, we need light, yes on humor.” Woo thinks, “It’s okay to be funny. It’s okay to continue to be a human.”
Virdee asked if there was value in non-COVID pieces. The consensus from the panel was summed up by Tripp, “Nothing is truly off-limits.”
In general, Tripp said to keep stories between 500–2000 words, about a five minute read, and instead of sending a query letter if the writer has a story idea to pitch to go ahead and send the article in a Google Doc or draft. Woo encouraged writers not to spend too much time on the internet, “Look outward instead of on the screen.” While Tripp said, “Stick to who you are.”
Harold Michael Harvey is the author of Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. He is a Past President of the Gate City Bar Association. He is the recipient of Gate City’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award, which he received for his pro bono representation of Black college students arrested during Freaknik celebrations in the mid to late 1990s. An avid public speaker, contact him at email@example.com.