Advice from the Media | Elisabeth Eaves
Name: Elisabeth Eaves
Title: Author, editor, and freelance writer. Formerly a Robert Bartley fellow on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, a staff writer and editor at Forbes, and opinions editor at the Daily, the world’s first iPad newspaper.
Media Outlet: Many. Recently: the New York Times (travel section), the Weekly Standard (book reviews), Marie Claire, The Magazine
Personal Blog: www.elisabetheaves.com
1) Describe your typical workday.
At my desk by 9 after reading the news. My days vary: Writing a long piece requires quiet, cut-off-from-the-world time, which I always slot for the morning. If I’m doing editing work or shorter assignments, I allow myself more distractions, meaning that the internet is enabled. If I’m on the road or out reporting stories, there’s no predicting where I’ll be when.
2) What’s the best pitch you’ve ever received?
I can think of very few pitches from PR professionals that have turned into actual stories. PR people have been most useful to me when I need to track down information about their client or company, quickly get a hold of someone, or set up an interview.
3) The greatest words of wisdom an editor ever gave you?
The editor in chief of a magazine told me to cut from copy all words ending in the letter “y.” (Doing so eliminates most adverbs.) That’s a bit extreme, but gets an important point across: trimmer, tighter writing is always better.
One of my first jobs in journalism was at a wire service in Jerusalem. An editor there told me to get the Bible in the lede whenever the opportunity presented itself, which in the Middle East was fairly often. Later I worked for the same wire service in London, where an editor told me that when you write about something the Queen did, you have to say what she wore.
4) If there was one thing you could tell every PR practitioner, what would it be?
Before you pitch me, have an idea of my interests and areas of coverage. Because I do a lot of travel writing I get endless pitches about new hotel amenities and cruise itineraries. If you’d ever read my work, you’d know that I have zero interest in that stuff. Generic, spam-like pitches have caused me to block the email addresses of certain PR people.
Also: A pitch stands the greatest chance of grabbing my interest if you can offer me a person. Unless your client has invented a time machine, a new product does not add up to a story for me. But a CEO with a burning ambition or a fascinating background probably does. Especially if he or she is willing to talk on the record.
5) What’s your craziest or most interesting newsroom story?
At the Daily, Rupert Murdoch would occasionally wander by unannounced, and once Bono paid a visit.
6) What sets you apart from the competition?
In the kind of writing I do — books and long-form pieces — it’s all about bringing a unique take and personal voice to the work. I strive to do that.
7) Any shameless self-promotion you want to add?
Here’s a link to my last book, the travel memoir “Wanderlust,” which the New York Times called “a heady, headlong chronicle of a decade and a half spent adrift.” Now I’m working on a novel. To read more of my work, go to www.elisabetheaves.com.