Interviews and Webinars

Qwoted is committed to exploring the current state of the media by speaking to industry leaders and educating future generations of media professionals. What has social media and technological innovation brought to the table? What can we expect for the future of journalism?

Freelance writer Jeffrey Steele in a grey suit smiling at the camera.

After earning his master’s degree from Northwestern University, Chicago native Jeffrey Steele began his career in advertising as a copywriter for Sears. Six years later, Steele made the jump to the world of freelancing and surprised himself. For more than 30 years, he has remained a successful freelance writer for publications including the Chicago Sun Times, the Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Los Angeles Times, and many others.

Community news is huge for Chicago, as it needs dedicated journalists to look deeply and provide proper neighborhood coverage. The city has been reined in by an aggressive, competitive news industry that hit major newspapers with revenue falloffs and staff cuts. But there’s still a competitive journalism beat here in the ‘world center of corruption’; I can’t imagine the levels it’d reach without a vibrant journalistic community watching.”

-Jeffrey Steele

What are some of the best practices from journalism’s past that you feel need to be utilized now?

JS: There’s an old saying amongst journalists; “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” You always want to confirm accuracy. Interview 4-6 people per article, double-check statistics and percentages, and find an authoritative mention of any source material.

Which aspect of your work is the most rewarding?

JS: The most rewarding part of my work is turning out quality content that readers enjoy. Freelancers are not often complimented, so the reward of repeat assignments is the most valuable. I’ve worked with some of my editors and clients for more than two decades.

If there’s one thing you could change or improve about journalism—in any area—what might that be and why?

JS: I always loved writing and have remained eager to continue my career, but there has definitely been a decline in rates, resulting in writers working harder for less money.

What do you think about the role of technology in journalism? Is it helpful? harmful? Something in between?

JS: I remember starting out when phone calls were much more common, I’d ride the L to hand deliver my hard copies! Overall, I think technology has had a positive impact on journalism in many ways.

What advice would you give to aspiring young writers and reporters?

JS: People think journalism is all about keyboards and deadlines, but just like any other business, it’s really about people. You have to build relationships with sources, PR professionals, and editors. While writers tend to work alone, it’s important to know how to deal with others and foster connections with those who can refer you to work.

I often say you must take what’s expected of you and improve on it. Suggest new ideas, turn work in early, keep your word, and try to be unexpectedly better. And utilizing a platform like Qwoted is a great way to make sure your work is reliable!