Zakiya Kassam (@zakkasam on Twitter) is a 22-year-old graduate of the Ryerson University Journalism Program. Recently, she interviewed me for an article she was writing on new models of Journalism like Beststory.ca and we thought we’d share the Q&A here!
Z: Tell me about your own personal story with beststory.ca. How did you hear about it? How did you become a writer for it?
D: Warren Perley sent me an email a couple of years ago after he’d come across some of my work. I was intrigued by the concept, impressed by his credentials, and we stayed in touch. Because I’m primarily a book writer, and generally can’t afford to write articles until I have a contract in hand, it was some time before I had a piece to submit.
Z: What is your experience working with Warren Perley, the founder?
D: My experience has been very positive working with Warren. He’s an excellent editor and was quite patient working with someone who’s been trained as a historian and creative writer but not as a journalist. I did a significant rewrite to incorporate his suggestions, and it strengthened the piece and my skills overall.
Z: Have you experienced any setbacks or limitations when writing for the site?
D: I’ve heard from some people that they find the idea of paying for articles on a one-off basis frustrating, and are lamenting that a lot of the big (and not-so-big) dailies are going this route. My writer colleagues also question the wisdom of writing “on spec”: doing all that work without the guarantee of revenue. It has certainly been a calculated risk on my part, but I see it as being one more tool in my “bookonomics” kit.
Also, I love that the site works great on tablets, phones, and “phablets,” like the Galaxy Note, but I would like for readers to be able to download copies of the articles they’ve purchased onto their computers and other devices. At the moment, they can only read them when they have an internet connection. This is one area where Warren and I have different opinions: I don’t believe in digital locks. While copyright protection and the fair compensation for content creators is very important to me, I think digital locks end up frustrating the consumer/reader more than anything, and if a pirate really wants something, he or she can easily circumvent them.
Z: What is your readership for the site like?
D: Very small at the moment. I don’t have any demographic breakdowns, but that would be interesting to know.
Z: How long have you been writing for the site?
D: I submitted my first (and so far my only) piece in June 2012. Now I’m back to work on other columns, articles, and a narrative history book called Polar Winds: A Century of Flying the North.
Z: Why did you choose to be a writer for beststory.ca?
D: I thought the concept was neat and liked that Warren was trying to create a space for writers to do long-form journalism with lots of great photos. I had it in the back of my mind that I’d like to write for beststory.ca someday, and so when I found myself with a homeless article, I queried Warren. I’m not the most adventurous person technologically, but I think it’s smart to experiment with different means of delivering content.
Z: Given the current state of journalism, do you think that a site like beststory.ca can survive in the long-run? Why/Why not?
D: Journalism, book publishing – it’s all in a state of flux right now and I think having a multitude of connection points with readers is important. I don’t know what the long-term viability of beststory.ca is, but I don’t think anyone really knows the long-term viability of anything at the moment: newspapers, book publishers, agents. Are we headed to a day when all writing will be self-published, crowd-funded, and open-source done by so-called citizen journalists? Who knows!