I recently got to talk with Joshua Davis during his Reddit AMA the other week. Joshua writes for Wired.com as well as GQ and Mens Health.Josh has had an interesting road as a journalist which has led him to produce The Underdog: How I Survived the World’s Most Outlandish Competitions
which covers him competing as an arm wrestler, matador, and sumo wrestler!
More recently he has written John McAfee’s Last Stand where Josh accounts for the crazy currentcontroversy around the creator of the popular McAfee antivirus software.
Josh was nice enough to give some tips and insight on what it takes to be a journalist. Hope you found it as helpful as I did. If you have any further questions please leave them in the comments and hopefully he will pop in and answer them.
When did you know you wanted to be a journalist?
I never planned to be a journalist. It came about unexpectedly. Back in 2001, I heard about the US National Armwrestling Championship. I decided to enter for the experience but ended up placing 4th in the US and going to the World Championship in Poland as part of Team USA. A good friend of mine was a journalist and suggested that it would be a good magazine article. He helped me put together a pitch and suggested some publications that might be interested. Maxim ended up commissioning it and I’ve been a full time journo ever since!
What do you love most about your job?
I enjoy meeting unusual, interesting people. I’ve always liked talking with people.
How have you been able to write for publications like Wired, Mens Health, and Outside?
I pitch the magazines stories. One of the things I love about journalism is that there’s a low barrier to entry. You just have to have a good idea and then write up a short summary. Send it to an editor and if it works for them, they commission it and send you out into the world. I spend a lot of time thinking up new stories, tracking people down and trying to figure out what I want to write next.
How do you build & maintain relationships in the industry?
Wired is located in San Francisco, where I live, so I get to see the editors there often. I try to get to NYC at least once a year to catch up with folks there.
What stories do you enjoy writing the most?
I like trying to understand complex people. I also like stories that have an element of adventure. Put those two together and I’m on it!
What are some tips you would give someone aspiring to be a journalist?
Spend time getting to know the magazine you want to pitch. Then pitch them front of the book, smaller stories. That will allow you to build up a relationship with an editor so that you can prove your dependable, can meet a deadline, and can write. Once that relationship is established, you pitch a more ambitious feature.
How often do you get pitched on stories? What makes a pitch good or bad?
People rarely pitch me directly. I get a ton of spammy PR stuff that I automatically delete. But if somebody has an amazing story about an interesting person and they email directly, I will pay attention. That usually doesn’t happen though!
Do you use social media as a journalist?
In the McAfee case, I used Twitter to keep people up to date on what was going on. On the reporting side, I comb through twitter feeds, facebook pages, etc when reporting a story.
What’s your next adventure?
Getting my kids to bed!
Question or Comments?
Would like to hear from you in the comments!