How can academic historians branch out to reach broader publics? Publishing in the popular press – whether local newspapers or nationally-circulated magazines – is one way to communicate academic research and analysis to a wider audience. On October 20th, the Canadian Network in History and Environment (NiCHE) sponsored a full-day workshop for graduate students in history and other disciplines. Skills taught included writing attention-catching op-eds, press releases, and magazine queries.
Guest speakers offered useful advice to workshop participants. Joddee Redmond discussed the dynamics of the freelance writing world, London Free Times columnist James Reaney offered suggestions on historical angles attractive to popular publications, while public relations coordinator Helen Button taught the intricacies of press release writing.
The workshop not only improved the skill set of young scholars hoping to make their work more accessible, but also fostered discussion on the challenges of translating academic conventions to more appropriate writing styles for popular publishing. One obvious method is to alter academic jargon without losing its intellectual intent and to use stylistic devices in order to catch and maintain the attention of readers.
Participants found the event useful, and similar workshops may be planned in the future in other locations across Canada. As well, workshop participants have formed a popular publishing writing group to continue the momentum of the event. Special thanks to Adam Crymble from NiCHE for organizing the workshop.