Freelancer: Being a Writer, a Reporter and an Editor

If you wanted to nail down a title for G. Patrick Pawling, it would officially be a freelancer. A freelancer is an independent writer. However, Mr. Pawling considers himself a writer, a reporter and an editor. Consequently, the job can be thought of as a trinity. "To me a reporter is a news person; a writer seems more literary. Every reporter at least wants to think of him or herself as a writer too."

Mr. Pawling's writing versatility has ranged from news and features for the NY Times to magazine and corporate writing for Woman's Day, Seagate Technology and the now infamous Enron. "When I'm writing for a news organization, I'm writing exclusively for my audience. That is, when I write for the NY Times, I write in a very journalistic way." No matter what his current assignment, Mr. Pawling makes great strides to insure that the truth is delivered consistently to the reader. "The readers are my ultimate boss. When I write for companies, I write for the companies and for the audience. It's more on the side of PR work. It's important to be aware of who I'm writing for so I can keep my ethics straight."

However, just because Mr. Pawling is a freelancer doesn't mean his work does not get reviewed. For a corporate writing, his work may get sent out for peer reviews. In a corporate piece as well as a magazine article, his work may go to the sources for their review. At the NY Times, there are at least two layers of editors for even the small stories. The copy editors read one or two stories a night. Bent on accuracy, the Times editors review the story word for word and letter by letter.

Mr. Pawling learned to write by writing. On his web site, http://www.pawling.net, he gives a synopsis of how he started reporting at a small newspaper in his home state of New Jersey. He then moved up to a larger daily newspaper, where he first showed his versatility by doing several different jobs and writing stories on city government, environment, business, medicine and fitness. An editor at Life magazine gave him his break in magazines after reading one of his newspaper articles. However in the area of corporate writing, Mr. Pawling is self-taught. "I learned managers at companies large and small like the same things as magazine editors: A writer who can deliver words that work."

Writing skills are important to Mr. Pawling, but he believes thinking skills are even more important. Maybe that's why he likes people who think, as well as people who lead and people who help. He believes they are all "extraordinary people, many of whom are heroic in quiet and mostly unrecognized ways." He classifies them as the "best part of writing for a living."