Allison Babka's profile

Junior Writer Development

Junior Writer Development

I've been an editor in some capacity for almost my entire career, either in name or in practice. From line editing to full-story structural changes, I've polished writers' pieces and increased their value and accuracy for consumers through media and brands. 

All of that is great, but I'm proudest about developing the talents of my junior writers, interns and freelancers. First I dive into their writing histories and preferences to figure out the type of guidance that would most benefit each writer. Then, through in-person meetings, emails and chat programs -- and knowing that some folks are starting nearly from scratch -- I work with individuals on style guide adherence, art considerations, lede development, story structure and formatting. In my assignment memos, I also provide story expectations, potential headlines, resource links and sample text -- something many of them don't receive regularly.

I'm not content to stop there, though; I also try to find ways to help my writers grow beyond their current situations, giving them tools to boost their careers. I ask contributors to cover subjects that passionately interest them as well as things that stretch beyond what they think they can tackle. I also teach them how to think through story ideas from a reader's perspective, how stories might be covered in different mediums and how to pitch ideas to editors with enough lead time to make exciting things happen. I try to train the juniors to eventually take my job, and I'm so excited that many of them are continuing down that path today.

Below, I've included stories from a few of the writers that I've mentored. These pieces won't win Pulitzers, but they represent the growth and confidence that my contributors have shown as they took on assignments and enhanced their skillsets. I feel blessed to have been part of so many writers' journeys.

Oh, I loved working with Morgan so, so much. She came to Gateway Media (a quick-hit, viral content company) with lots of great intern experience and was ready to dig into to some weird content concepts as a staff writer. In Gateway's startup environment, things changed daily, so while I continually shifted workflows and story topics, I needed someone to keep the raw slideshows and blog posts flowing for BrainJet and YesPets. Morgan was wonderful, soaking up everything I taught her about spotting potentially viral stories, headline writing, fact checking, packaging and social media deployment. She also gamely took on really goofy writing assignments like what a stripper goes through at a club or a history of murderous children in the United States. She's since moved into the marketing world, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll work together again someday.

Note: Gateway has changed content systems for its verticals, which means that many stories are now unavailable or are presented in a format that's very different from when I was there. Morgan's screenshots below -- from both Gateway and the Wayback Machine -- reflect the craziness. Sorry in advance.

Jacqui had formerly anchored Alive Magazine's arts roundups, but after a few conversations with her, I knew that she could take her writing further with a little coaching. Within just a few weeks, she went from bulleted roundups to feature-length stories and event coverage while pitching more of her story ideas. She took every suggestion to heart and was psyched to have new adventures. Jacqui continues to improve her craft and has a ton of promise.

Until I put a bug in her ear, Grace had only written for Alive's wedding properties -- specifically, the "how we met/how we became engaged" stories. She was eager for feedback, though, and her questions made me realize that she could provide so much more for the magazine and digital properties. After she mentioned that she was interested in food, I'd put her on a few dining stories, and she handled them beautifully. My only regret is that this happened right before she took a full-time copywriting job. She was really starting to bloom as a blogger.

She may have technically been "just" an intern at Alive Magazine, but Erin became one of the people on whom I relied most for pumping out quality content. She was eager to learn about all aspects of writing and publishing, and she constantly requested and acted upon feedback. Sensing her excitement for city-focused or themed pieces, I developed a long list of features and listicles that she'd not only enjoy writing but that would also fill Alive's topic buckets. Collaborating with her was never a chore.

Michael was my first intern at Gateway Media, and he was super eager to jump into writing for BrainJet and YesPets. As a student who primarily focused on marketing strategy in classes, writing narratives was a bit of a change for him. He took to it, though, and easily picked up story structure, proper source citation and calls to action. He also developed his research skills and could chase down stories when I gave him leads.

When I arrived at Alive, Katlyn primarily had been doing dining news roundups, but it didn't take me long to realize that she was capable of so much more. After chatting with her about where she wanted her freelancing to go, I started assigning her listicles and ingredient-focused blog posts. She served up some really nice work just before she had to scale back for personal reasons.

Amy was Alive's monthly dining reviewer whose writing and photos were wonderfully breezy to edit. Because her first drafts were so clean, I was eager to have her tackle additional dining features. We talked through a number of possibilities, including the piece below. She was excited to interview a notable chef, and I was excited to add something different to Alive's food category.

Mack was my main intern, but he really functioned more like my right-hand staffer. Though I counted on him primarily to prepare promotional emails and copyedit blog posts, I knew that I could squeeze other good content out of him.  With a bit of encouragement, he began writing about men's fashion and events as well as some sponsored blog stories for clients. His heart lies with editing, though, and he's Alive's official copyeditor today. I feel like a proud mama bird.
Media Now:

As an instructor for Media Now, I worked with exceptional high school students during an intensive four-day journalism camp. In just a short time, they developed better story angles, structures, narratives, digests and ethics while smashing it all up with art, video and social media. Most of them primarily were interested in newspaper writing (The class was "Quality Writing on Deadline"), but we talked about ways that a print reporter must consider and create stories for a variety of formats. For their big collaborative project, they used different reporting styles to share what was happening around camp and threw it all together on their very own news site.
Junior Writer Development

Junior Writer Development

I feel so lucky to have played a role in so many junior writers' journeys. These are a few of their projects that note their growth.


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