Introducing Media Writing Essentials

Yellowbrick has joined forces with The New School and Rolling Stone to launch Media Writing Essentials — an online course teaching students about the business of media writing. In addition, this course helps students develop the writing skills needed to craft concise and compelling messages for new media and digital channels. Faculty from The New School and experts from Rolling Stone provides insight into traditional publishing and new media practices. Students receive instruction on adapting their writing to fit different mediums. These mediums include social media, online publishing platforms, press releases, podcasts, and lifestyle writing, and other feature genres. Moreover, the course is entirely online and on-demand, allowing students the flexibility to complete it at their own pace. At the end of the course, students receive a non-credit Certificate of Completion from The New School. 

Media Writing Essentials

Course instructors take students through six Media Writing Essentials modules: 

  • The Landscape of Letters: An Introduction
  • Pre-Writing: Before You Write a Word
  • Writing in Practice
  • Writing for the Web
  • The Professional Writer Today

Each module features self-paced assignments and hands-on projects to reinforce critical knowledge and help develop writing skills. Courses are also led by Jessica Ansari and John Reed from The New School and writers like Eric Kohn, Kelsey Mulvey, and Rob Sheffield. 

Media Writing Essentials is an online course that is accessible and valuable for students regardless of where they are in their careers. Whether you’re just out of high school and searching for the right career path, or you’ve worked in the media industry for a while — Media Writing Essentials will help you refine your skillset, hone in your areas of interest, and identify career opportunities within media writing.



The New School is a liberal arts university providing certificate programs, undergraduate and graduate-level education in business, design, and the creative arts.

Rolling Stone is a digital and print magazine and one of the leading media voices in music, politics, and popular culture.



Graduates of Media Writing Essentials can expect to complete the online course with an understanding of:

  • How to brainstorm topics and developing ideas into story-worthy content
  • Storytelling skills for mass media, social community, and commercial audiences, in addition to strategies best suited to writing for the web
  • How to get their work in front of editors and choose the best options for self-publication
  • The ethics of interviewing, researching interview subjects, and verifying information
  • How to build and manage a freelance career as a writer and businessperson



Media Writing Essentials

Rob Sheffield is a music, TV, and pop culture contributor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of Love Is A Mix Tape, Talking To Girls About Duran Duran, Turn Around Bright Eyes, and Dreaming The Beatles.

Kelsey Mulvey is a freelancer covering design, style, beauty, and lifestyle. Her bylines include Wallpaper, New York Magazine, Elle Decor, and Architectural Digest.

Eric Kohn

Eric Kohn is the Vice President and Executive Editor for IndieWire.

Jefferey Spivey

Jefferey Spivey is a freelance writer with bylines in SOULE and BLCK Press. He is also the author of Sea Love and It’s Okay If You Don’t Read Everything.


If you’re still not sure if Media Writing Essentials is right for you, think about the following questions:

  • Do you have a passion for writing, and is it a career path you’ve considered before?
  • Are you a freelancer who wants to build your business?
  • Are you an industry professional who wants to learn about other types of writing?
  • Do you have interest in making the jump from freelance to staff writer?
  • Are you getting the most out of self-publishing and maximizing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) capabilities?

To receive a video preview and our course catalog, head over to Media Writing Essentials and sign up to learn more.

Change and Growth Are Vital Parts of Media Education

The state of media writing today is very different from the state of writing 10 years ago. Even 20 years ago, websites were brand new. They were novelties within newsrooms. The most important product that that newsroom may have created in the year 2000 was the print edition of all of the work from the reporters there. And if you look at a television company, the most important thing there was not its website but whatever the reporter or correspondent or anchor would be saying on the nightly news later that night. So, remember that the media industry that you’re choosing to work in is in flux, and change has become a near constant these days. Judging from the jobs that I’ve worked in, changes in management, learning to adjust, and becoming reorganized as a staff under new leadership are experiences you can expect to go through, especially if you decide to become a staff member of an organization. So, as you see in your online media education, digital communication is becoming more and more important, but there is a split in the industry. Those who work in major media organizations that put out a television broadcast or a newspaper may be really devoted to the paper copy or the televised copy of the information that they have to share that day. However, the digital presence of a news organization is competing with these more traditional forms of communication. A news organization’s homepage becomes its front page. The benefit of that digital organization’s homepage is that it can be changed without having to print anything or make any major changes. With a click of a button, you can create a new front page. Even though Variety is more than a hundred years old, we want to be as fleet and intelligent and new as we can, which is why we have a number of great reporters of different ages and generations and interests in our newsroom. They’re interested in all different kinds of music and different pockets of film. We even have a lot of people whose main source of entertainment is TikTok. That is in our newsroom; that is represented. Each year, we sponsor the Power of Young Hollywood event where we cede the mic to the upcoming generation, the biggest trendsetters that are all under 20. And you wonder how they’ve been able to gain a foothold already. As long as you’re willing to understand that things change, and you want to change and grow along with the industry, that’s how you keep fresh.

Defining Your Lane as a Successful Media Industry Writer

As you’re making the choice to enter into media writing, you need to first decide which kind of writer or journalist you would like to become. With more available media data and a greater understanding of who our readers are and what they want these days, we know so much more about what we can do to serve them. With the proper media education, you can become a culture reporter or even a food critic. In fact, there are so many different routes that you can take based on both your interests and on the needs of the particular organization that you might be reporting for. One great way to make your mark in the media industry is to become an expert in one or two areas so that when your favorite editor calls on you to report on a particular issue, topic, or story, you will be able to produce it right away. We will now learn a little bit about online media education, the many ways in which you can report, and the wide variety of topics that you can cover as a journalist in the industry today.

How Data and the Digital Age Have Changed the Media Industry

Today, we have something called data at our fingertips. Before the era of digital journalism, we only knew who our readers were based on their subscription information. So, if you can remember subscribing to a newspaper on a piece of paper and mailing it to that newspaper’s office, you might provide some information like your age, gender, your name, the neighborhood that you live in. Those become the demographic and psychographic points of information for that news organization. That’s the information they had to go off of. Then, that is the information they sometimes use to make decisions about the pieces that they did. In the golden age of journalism, what we did see is reporting for reporting’s sake, news of the day. The most important information was put on the front page. And you might find that information on a competing newspaper’s front page as well. Nowadays, with data, sometimes newsrooms, news managers, and editors might make decisions based on really granular data that they have at their fingertips because people come to their websites and give over data that helps them understand, “Who are our readers? Where are they from? What are their likes and dislikes?” Especially with social media helping out with that data, we know our readers so much more today than we did before. There are some people who say in the industry that that’s a great thing. We can find out more about our readers. We can serve our readers in a better way. There are others who say we depend on data too much, and we are making decisions based on the data that we have versus the news of the day and what is newsworthy. This is the conversation that is happening within newsrooms today. You might see over the next 10 to 15 years these legacy outputs that come from these news organizations, like nightly broadcasts or newspapers, lessen as digital properties grow.

How Editors Help Media Writers Publish Abundantly

I became an editor because there are so many stories that need to be told. As a media writer, you can only work on so many at a time. You might have several stories going at once: You’re working on a long form story, a shorter story, and something more personal while also writing something with characters. Media education is a booming field, and as an editor, I can assign more pieces for media writing and have more stories being told at the same time to produce a wealth of storytelling. Nowadays, there is an entrepreneurial side to writing. Writers are urged to publish newsletters, post blogs, or maintain a Medium account. You’re going to write online media education materials continuously. But you’re still limited to the amount of physical effort you can put into it. At some point you’re going to burn out. When you’re an editor with a hundred writers all writing at once, you can time the release of their work, you can pace it. You can publish at different intervals and tell a variety of stories that relate to the media industry. You have the chance to share a broader perspective with these options in play that allow you to publish an abundance of stories.

How the Media Industry Hasn’t Changed

Nowadays, when we think about the multimedia environment, there’s been a lot of change from the past. We’ve been talking about new media like eBooks and sort of this evolving landscape for a good 20 years now. Remember that as you continue your online media education. There’s always been a great deal in the way of antecedent and history in media writing. Because when you look at the invention of the printing press, even there you have this long cycle of egalitarian movement in print. You had originally these illuminated manuscripts, which were handwritten by scribes which took a very long time to produce compared to the blazing speed of today. You could really just produce only one of that manuscript. But then you had something that just poured out into the world with the printing press. That’s essentially what we have again with the information on the internet, which was great for media education. And again, as it happened with the printing press, we had information that was really good and valuable in the beginning, and then kind of a sea of nonsense. Now you have this shrinking pool of where you want to get your information from. So increasingly it became these high-powered publishers because you trusted them more in the same way that we have our trusted websites today.

How to Write Compelling Stories for the Media Industry

One of the more difficult aspects of the media industry is figuring out what’s interesting to others and what makes a good story. That starts with the pitch — the story of the story. What is the reader going to learn? Why does the reader want to know it? And what has come before the story that you’re writing today? A good rule of thumb for media writing is that if you think a story is intriguing, others might like it as well. So, first ask yourself, “Is this interesting? Would I read it if I weren’t the writer?” That’s one good way to gut-check yourself and figure out if you’re writing something worthwhile that will grab an editor’s attention and make them want to share it with their readers. What makes a good story? That’s something we all grapple with every day. It’s one of the most difficult parts of the writer’s job — and the one that’s most critical to your success. News editors are looking for something that’s going to immediately attract readers and make them want to know more. Now, what you had for breakfast this morning may be new information, but it’s not something that anyone cares about. You need to find that sweet spot where you have a particular insight, or, even better, fresh facts about a subject that people already want to know more about. Then, you can bring those to your writing and say, “Look, you may have already learned something about this, but if you read what I have to say, you’ll come away with something new and better.”

Online Media Education: Writing Versus Editing

People always ask me, “What’s the difference between a writer and an editor, and why does one become a writer or become an editor. Or can you do both?” Personally, I do both. But, a writer is mainly focused on crafting their pieces. I mean, they’re going to draft them. They’re going to potentially edit them. I was editing and writing always. A lot of times, people ask me that question, “Why did you become an editor? What’s the difference between an editor and a writer? Or, is one better than the other?” Personally, for me, I became an editor and went down that path for probably two reasons. One, because you have to have a really big ego to be a successful writer. And the reason why I say that is you’re dealing with a lot of criticism, a lot of rejection. To be able to survive that, you have to be able to deal with that level of rejection and criticism. It’s a little easier, sometimes, to be in the background and not get that in your face all the time. The other reason is that I had so many ideas. I was so curious. There is no way physically and mentally that I would be able to do and execute all the things I want to do myself. That’s why I needed an army of people doing things — I can assign them things and then edit them. And then we’ll tell all these stories I want to tell that I can’t physically do myself. Furthermore, some people are just more talented than me. They have a great writing style or voice. It’s very satisfying to work with people in the media industry who are talented and give them an extra level of attention. As a singular career path in the media, if you’re looking at editorial, you’ll continue to improve as a writer. There are a lot of writers who are editors for years and years and years, and then they write a remarkable novel. In the past, it was really looked down on in the publishing world that it was another failed writer. You had to sort of keep it a secret that you were working on a novel on the side. I think that’s changed a little bit. The etiquette may still be to keep your mouth shut a bit with media writing, but there’s a reason that those editors do that. And, you know, they’re just very skilled. They know how to structure a story. They know the workflow of the story. When they have a story to tell, they know how to get it on the page.

Why Writing for the News Media Is Here to Stay

If you’re interested in news writing and reporting, you need to know that the media industry is very competitive. Most people view the news media as a glamorous field to work in. You may, too, at first. You may want to be on camera, not primarily for the glamour, but a little bit. People say, “You know, you’re gonna meet celebrities,” or, “You have this exciting lifestyle.” On the other hand, the media industry has a bad reputation. Journalists take offense when people say, “Oh, it’s all fake news. There’s no real news.” So, you need to ask yourself why you want to write for the news media, and why you believe it’s important. Today, journalists are as necessary to society as they ever were. People need to hear facts about topics such as COVID-19. And for a vital issue like this, nothing hits you more than hearing a personal story about someone coping with the virus. As a journalist, you can get in and tell those stories. You’ll not only inform the public but also enrich your own life. You have this privilege to walk inside someone’s life, share their experiences, learn from them, and translate everything into a story that will be meaningful to readers.

Writing a Podcast for Media Education

Podcast writing is definitely a viable path for writers now. If not your full career, it’s at least one way that you could find work or find specific gigs. I read a lot of newsletters, lots of different job posts, and there are always calls for writers for podcasts. What’s different about podcasts in regard to media writing is that it’s like you need journalistic research skills, but then you need really good storytelling skills because it’s is audio. People can’t see things, so you need to be able to write in a way that comes across well without a person being able to engage with any other media to make your story make sense. You know, it’s writing clearly. It’s finding sensory details, making sure that you’re vivid, that you’re descriptive; that’s a big part of it in the media industry. And just making sure that you can write in a way that’s engaging. So, in a sense, some of the web writing techniques apply in terms of writing shorter sentences, that kind of stuff, keeping paragraphs short. But I think that it’s really important to just be very visual when you’re writing and be descriptive in online media education. It’s kind of combining the quality of journalism, but then more of the imagination or the creativity of fiction and kind of putting those things together so you can tell really great stories.