Ask an Insider: Katharine Herrup, Reuters.com Opinion Pages Editor gives us the inside perspective on what to write to get published!

RK: Tell me about the series of interviews you’re conducting with women entrepreneurs for Reuters. Why that group?

KH: This is a Q & A with women entrepreneurs and business leaders. When I joined Reuters, I discovered that a majority of our readers and writers are male. In fact, as you know, 85% of op-ed submissions come from men. To expand our audience and add a female dynamic, I thought this could be a fascinating place to start.

And it has been!  We found a remarkable number of women starting their own businesses, both for- and non-profit.  One reason seems to be that it’s become a lot easier to work from home, thanks to the Internet.  It allows women to stay involved in their careers and also spend time with their family.

RK: So is the series about how women can succeed as entrepreneurs?

KH: Partly, but we also hear how these women are dealing with the challenges out there.  That includes the work/home balance that we all face, but also some of the pure business challenges.  We just ran a piece by Tereza Nemessanyi http://blogs.reuters.com/small-business/2010/08/17/if-women-are-good-at-running-businesses-why-does-it-take-them-longer-to-start-one/ for example, who came from the OpEd Project and wrote that while there are many more women tech entrepreneurs right now, venture capitalists tend to be less willing to invest in them than in men because they are less known in that market.

RK: You’re also interviewing women – and men – on social entrepreneurship.  Tell me about that.

KH: Right, we’re talking with thought leaders, regardless of their sex or age — they range from 24 to 73.  This series capture what innovators are doing now to improve the quality of life — not just their own, but other people’s too. With less of everything — jobs, money  — we are confronted with what to do in this recession, how to prioritize and how we want to spend our time. Is it with family? Is it changing careers? Is it contributing to a greater good?   And we found that questions like these take you to interesting places. People are rethinking their goals and values. So we have pieces and videos on the difference between GenX and GenY entrepreneurs, how to launch a socially conscious second career that has personal meaning and impact – written by an OpEd mentor, and how to start a successful non-profit, and that’s complemented by a video of a Summer Search grad, Jabali Sawicki, now a leader in his own field.

RK: I’ve done byline counts for The OpEd Project, and noticed that many of the columns and opinion pieces written by women weren’t on political, international, or economic issues. They were often on what are controversially called “women’s issues” or human interest topics. Do you see that in women’s submissions to Reuters.com?

KH: Interestingly I haven’t. The most recent submissions by women included one on health care policy, one on the egg food poisoning http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2010/08/27/sunny-side-up-why-eggs-are-safer-in-europe/ another was on the political climate in China

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2010/08/18/what-china-needs-to-do-in-order-to-become-a-global-leader/ and one on the economic progress New Orleans has made after Hurricane Katrina http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2010/08/27/new-orleans-after-katrina-the-most-successful-urban-transformation/. We also have our very own Chrystia Freeland, Reuters’ Editor At Large, who writes about economic policy and issues. Our target audience is business professionals so I tend to receive less “soft” submission pieces.

RK: What attracted you to editing opinion pieces?

KH: These pieces cover such a wide range of subjects. You get to edit pieces on the economy, politics, small business, green business, the environment, international affairs, health care, legal issues, literally everything.  And opinion pieces let you delve more deeply into all these different subjects.

RK: What mistakes do you see opinion writers making most frequently in their submissions?

KH: When I can’t immediately tell what the writer is writing about or why. Or they offer a long-winded explanation. If it takes them too long to summarize their piece, how long will it take them to make their point in the piece? Top things to look for are timing, the quality of the analysis, and a topic or viewpoint that speaks to our audience.  And of course one that’s well written, has a cohesive argument, and has interesting angles.

RK: What are upcoming projects we can expect from you and from Reuters?

KH: Definitely check out the social entrepreneurship series http://blogs.reuters.com/small-business/2010/08/05/social-entrepreneurship-series/ – I just launched it.  We also have really smart blogs from Felix Salmon, Gregg Easterbrook and others, and live blogs on breaking news and analysis.  I have to admit a guilty pleasure right now is checking out our own coverage of the US Open. And coming up, we’ll have debates on issues in the mid-term elections page. And we just launched a brand new photo blog to better display Reuters’ amazing news photos from around the world. We’re also doing a bunch of new and fun and interactive videos.

RK: How do you report on trends – social, tech or business trends.

KH: We constantly look at trends.  For example, we’ll be covering the October conference of a social innovation group called PopTech, a group of provocative, interesting thought leaders of our time. I think that will be pretty inspiring.

Also, there’s a group of seven men in their mid-twenties who are all about connecting thought leaders and social entrepreneurs trying to attack the world’s devastating problems.

They bring together Bill Clinton and Ted Turner with the founder of TOMS Shoes and organizations like Invisible Children, a movement seeking to end the conflict in Uganda and abduction of children there as child soldiers.

RK: Who are some strong female writers a hopeful op-ed writer could look to as examples?

KH: Chrystia Freeland is definitely one because she takes on some of the world’s most complicated topics in a way that is clear and engaging to anyone. And one of my favorite writers is Lenore Skenazy who is extremely smart and funny. Her career launched into the stratosphere with a piece she wrote about leaving her nine-year-old in the metro to get home by himself on the subway. And out of that came her own blog called “Freerange Kids.” Her focus was never anti-helicopter parenting, but it turned out that this one piece was really popular and she went with it. She can make any topic a pleasure to read. And that’s what it’s all about.

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