If I were to blow the lid on all the grubby little secrets of our professional lives, one of the top ones would be just how little original thinking there is in journalism. (Sorry, were you hoping for something a bit more juicy? OK, how little original thinking there is AND the fact that one well-known food writer likes to lick Angel Delight off his partner’s body).
We all want to think of ourselves as Pulitzer-prize-worthy exposers of truth, inheritors of the mantle of Woodward and Bernstein wielding our pens like swords, but in all honesty, we just want to rip off an idea we saw somewhere else, file a thousand words, and plan what to have for supper. Or is that just me?
We might dress it up as “moving the story forward”, of “finding a new angle”, but who are we kidding? We are taking another person’s idea and making enough changes to claim it as our own.
This is the way it has always worked. And you know, there’s no shame in that. Not everything has to be startlingly original. Sometimes readers take pleasure in being reminded of things they’ve read before. Not something they read a week before in the same journal, maybe, but six months, a year ago…? Absolutely.
And if it’s good enough for us, I say it’s good enough for you. Keep an eye open for stories or features that have interested you but which haven’t included your own clients. Tuck them away for a few months to allow them to mature, and then repitch them (but ideally not to the person who wrote the original feature).
It’s called recycling and that’s something we should all embrace.
“Well this is a disappointing read. Barely a quarter of families share the same food in an evening meal. What a hassle for the cook. We’ll be offering our spoilt families menus next…”