Jen Reeder the sixth #Germinder20 #PowerofPink Honoree, and the first journalist Honoree, is a freelance journalist and President of the Dog Writers Association of America. Prior to becoming a freelance journalist, Reeder traveled extensively abroad as a travel writer. Her buoyant personality, her can-do attitude and her passion and commitment to classic journalism at a time when freedom of the press, freedom of speech and the safety of the media is under siege is especially inspiring. In addition, she and editor Lea-Ann Germinder share a commitment to volunteerism. They met when Reeder became president of the DWAA and began her two-year tenure as the leader of the organization. What better way to tell her story than in Jen’s own beautiful prose…
What inspired you to become a journalist? Were there any other writers in the family?
I always say that I grew up “drinking writing from two straws” because there were successful writers on both sides of my family. My dad, Tom Reeder, is a retired TV comedy writer. My mom’s dad, Harrison Stephens, was a newspaper reporter and editor. As a bonus, my godfather is a retired television writer, and everyone in my family loves to read. They’ve all encouraged my passion for reading and writing, which go hand in hand. (Yes, I got a lot of jokes growing up about “Jenny Reeder is a reader!”)
I still ask my dad for feedback on some of my bigger stories before I submit them, and he’ll offer constructive criticism down to a missing hyphen. There’s no question: he’s made me a stronger writer. I’m grateful to have received so much love and support throughout my life.
How did you make that transition from a journalist to a freelance writer? Any tips to share?
Actually, I started out freelancing, which is the opposite of the way it usually works. I lived abroad and did a lot of backpacking in my twenties, so I did some travel writing as a side gig. When I was teaching English in Taiwan, I freelanced for an expat magazine.
I got into fulltime freelancing when my husband and I moved to a Colorado mountain town and I started regularly “stringing” for the daily. Writing for a local newspaper is a fantastic way to build up clips and experience.
You excel at storytelling, and you have the awards to prove it! What is it about a feature that compels people to sit down and read it versus the shorter forms of content?
Thanks! Longer stories like features give readers a chance to really dig into an interesting subject. I like to start with a compelling anecdote that will draw them in and then (hopefully!) want to keep reading.
Do you also write shorter forms of digital content?
Recently I wrote a 500-word short for BBC News about a 104-year-old man and his senior foster dog. It was incredibly rewarding because I received messages from readers in Europe thanking me for writing the story. I think the world needs positive stories now more than ever.
Can you tell us about assignments that you really enjoyed writing?
I write a column for Just Labs Magazine called “In Their Debt” that brings me so much joy. I get to profile Labrador Retrievers and mixes who are making the world a better place. The latest column covered a black Lab nicknamed “DogVinci” because he paints abstract art and the proceeds go to charity. He also visits schools and libraries to inspire kids to paint from their hearts, like he does. I love stuff like that!
On assignment a few years ago, I had the chance to visit a prison where inmates were training rescued dogs for adoption. I felt kind of nervous when I first got inside. But these supposedly tough guys were down on the ground talking baby talk with their pups. The dogs were ice breakers between us and gave me hope that both dogs and people were being rehabilitated through the program. As I drove away, I cried.
I’m constantly inspired by the people, dogs and organizations I cover. Right now I’m writing about deaf dogs, which is how I found out about the nonprofit that will benefit from me being named a Power of Pink Honoree. It is so amazing that Germinder & Associates will donate $1,000 in my honor – I am so humbled and grateful!
You are an enthusiastic supporter of classic journalism tenets but understand the need to engage and inform through social media. How do you leverage social media to showcase your work?
Sharing stories on social media has become increasingly important in this Digital Age – sometimes it’s even stipulated in a contract. I share my links on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and in LinkedIn groups for pet lovers. The Binders group on Facebook has a weekly “Brag Your Byline,” which is cool because then I see what other writers have been working on, too.
I’ve found writers are very supportive of each other’s work – it’s a terrific community. On Twitter there’s #WW for “Writer Wednesday” and #FF for “Follow Friday” and we’ll tag colleagues to try to gain followers for one another.
When you became president of DWAA, you reached out to us. Why do you feel public relations still plays an important role in the communications mix of an organization?
Are you kidding? Public relations is vitally important! You understand how to promote an event, award, product or organization across the country and secure major sponsors. I know how to arrange words for an article or essay, but PR is an entirely different beast – there’s strategy and insider knowledge and tech savvy involved. I’m so grateful for all Germinder & Associates does for DWAA and our members!
You are passionate for excellence in writing as president of DWAA. Can tell us about some of your other passions?
Dogs, of course! I also love hiking, camping and dancing like a maniac to live music. Work hard, play hard, right?
You won another very prestigious award recently from ASJA. Can you tell us about that?
The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) is the nation’s professional organization of independent nonfiction writers (i.e. freelancers). When I got the call that my PBS article about senior dog adoption programs had merited an “Honorable Mention” in the annual writing competition, I was way too excited to act cool. There might have been some shrieking and jumping.
The next day when ASJA announced the list of winners, I learned I was runner up to a New York Times article written by renowned essayist and Columbia University professor Susan Shapiro, and flipped out again. My acceptance speech at the awards banquet was basically, “Wow – I got to follow Susan Shapiro!”
Anything else you’d like to share?
I am incredibly honored to be named a Power of Pink Honoree. Germinder & Associates does so much for pets and pet writers – including donating $1,000 in the name of each honoree to a worthy nonprofit! That is so generous (and fun)!
I’m so grateful that you will be supporting Green Dogs Unleashed, which rescues dogs (and other animals) with special needs and trains them to be therapy dogs in their communities. It’s an all-volunteer organization, so this donation will go a long way! Thank you so much!
For more information about Jen Reeder, please visit: http://jenreeder.com/
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For more information about the Dog Writers Association of America, please visit: https://dogwriters.org/
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