For this week’s Meet the Media, we’d like to introduce you to Rodika Tollefson, freelance writer and managing editor of WestSound Home & Garden.
1. How did you find yourself as the editor of WestSound Home & Garden?
Pure serendipity — when Wet Apple Media launched the magazine, I was a longtime contributing writer to Wet Apple’s other publication, Kitsap Business Journal (now owned by a different publisher). I became one of the original, regular freelancers for WestSound Home & Garden. When the copy editing need came up, WestSound’s founder tapped me for the role, since I had editing experience for other publications. The job grew from there and now also includes editorial planning as well as managing the blog content.
2. Which of your stories are you most proud of?
My all-time favorites typically contain three elements: they are stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things; they have some sort of universal truth or meaning; and I was able to tell them in a compelling way, often by “borrowing” fiction storytelling techniques like scenes, dialogue or suspense.
3. What is your favorite thing about your job?
I love meeting many interesting and inspirational people, each with a unique story, and then being able to share their stories with our community. Speaking broadly as a freelance writer for various publications, I feel privileged and honored when strangers open their homes and hearts to me and entrust me to tell their story to the world.
4. What is your interview style?
I like to know as much as I can about the topic or the person before the interview, so I can ask deeper questions or find a new angle to the story. From there, if I’m writing a feature about a person or a business, I let my curiosity be the guide during the interview. But if I’m writing about a technical subject or interviewing someone on-camera, I write down the questions because it’s easy to miss key things in those situations.
5. What do you look for in a story?
It needs to answer the “so what” question. Why is this story important or interesting to the specific audience I’m writing for? There’s too much competing content out there and if the writer can’t tell the reader right off the bat why they should keep reading the story, either there is no story to tell or the writer is not telling it well.
6. What is your day like as a freelancer?
I usually start the day writing, which could be anything from a bylined article on cybersecurity or productivity, to marketing or website copy for a brand. Then I would likely move on to editing, either for WestSound Home & Garden or another client. I try to save visual work for the end of the day, so I may be editing video or designing a publication in the afternoon. And in between, lots of emailing, researching, writing pitches and even marketing to new clients.
7. Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
I don’t have a mentor or an idol but I’ve always been inspired by immersive or literary journalists like Tracy Kidder, Susan Orlean and Walt Harrington. It’s the kind of writing I want to do when I “retire.”
8. What is your favorite news outlet?
The New York Times for its solid journalism and good writing.
9. Fill in the blank:
- If I am not reporting, I am… Reading, doing pro bono work or watching a TV show with my husband or one of our sons.
- If I could interview anyone, it would be… Edna Buchanan, Pulitzer Prize winner who covered the police beat for the Miami Herald before becoming a crime-fiction writer. She is famous for her story ledes (many journalists are familiar with her “Gary Robinson died hungry” story). I would love to learn about her writing journey.
- My favorite thing about Seattle is… The culture and the vibe — I live in a much quieter area of Puget Sound and coming to Seattle can give me just the right dose of energy.
10. What is your guilty pleasure?
When I’m stressed out, organic dark chocolate is a must-have.
Check out last week’s Meet the Media where we spotlighted Erin James, the editor-in-chief of Sip Publishing. Sip Publishing includes Sip Northwest Magazine, CIDERCRAFT Magazine, Sip’s Wine Guide: British Columbia and Tasting Cider Book.