The Trouble With Freelancing

In light of the tragedy that hit NIU, I was struck with an idea for a relevant and timely story: The Changing Role of the College Cop. Living in Baltimore, I am central to several universities: Towson U, my alma mater in my undergraduate work and where I currently teach, is less than a mile away; Goucher College, where I received my MFA in creative nonfiction, is literally in my back yard (I am looking at its campus as I write this post); Hopkins, Loyola, University of Baltimore, College of Notre Dame and several others are all within 20 minutes of my house. I live in the center of several university villages, all unique and serving local, national, and international students in particular ways preparing them for their contributions to society.

It seemed like a good piece, then for me to pitch. The role of the college police department has come a long way from caring for the drunken students who can’t find their way back to their dorms. When Goucher held some international games a few years back that included athletes from Israel, we had snipers on the rooftops of the Towson Sheraton and the parking garages to the mall less than a half-mile from our home. The jurisdictions have changed as well; campus police are now able to patrol and govern the surrounding streets to the universities, in some instances up to an 8-mile radius.

So last night, I did all the background research. I lined up all of my contacts at the universities. I decided that I would interview the Towson Police Chief for how he approached the change; the Goucher president for his view on empowering the campus police to ensure safety measures are in place; and the UB and Hopkins recruits/officers about their choices to work on campus rather than on the county squads, now that the difference between the two has vastly changed since 9/11, and even more so since the tragedy at V-Tech.

After I gathered all the preliminary info I needed for my article, I did what every freelancer needs to do: I created my contact list of potential markets for the piece and began the process of composing my pitch. To each market, my approach was a little different. However, I was confident that it would be picked up by somebody and I would be given a deadline and the green light to get writing.

Then I opened the paper today, and there’s my article, already written, by a staff writer.

That’s the trouble with freelancing. It’s so much harder to write the urgent, timely piece when you’ve got to take the extra steps in marketing/pitching your piece. I should have known better. Now I need to rework the angle and go deeper. What will still sell that won’t be assigned out to a staffer in the next week or two?

There’s always the first-person piece as an adjunct professor. How this has changed my way of teaching. And maybe I’ll write that piece, too.

But I can’t let this other one go just yet. There’s something deeper here that I’ve got to write, I’ve got to contribute to this issue.

Stay tuned…and if you have an idea about this, please let me know.

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