Organization tips for a journalist writing 6-12 pieces/wk?

I’m a journalist. I write 6-12 articles per week. I’ve previously been storing interview notes and source materials in Evernote, and using Ulysses for article drafts. I tried DevonThink every year or two and bounced off it every time. I tried it again Friday and I think it’ll stick this time. It’s better Evernote than Evernote.

Any recommendations on how I should organize my databases? Currently I have four:

  • Articles and other content: That’s where all the typed interview notes, source documents, and web clippings related to my work live. Inside that database is an individual group for each article, as well as a group that’s just called “Clippings.” I expect I’ll have hundreds of groups in a year. That’s OK; I’ll use sub-groups to organize everything to the extent it needs organizing, and use search and “see also” for the rest.

  • Clippings: That’s for all the other stuff I read on the internet that might be interesting or useful at some point in life outside of work. Politics, pop culture, history, productivity - whatever.

  • $NAME-OF-EMPLOYER Benefits: Tax documents, etc. Might change that one to Finance & Benefits at some point with a group for employer documents.

  • Mail: That’s where I’ll archive all my email when I get around to registering, which I expect I will do this week.

How does that look to you DT experts? Can I get any tips from other journalists or bloggers with a similar schedule of articles?

I love DevonThink for the “see also” feature, btw. This weekend, I dumped in the final drafts of all my articles since the beginning of 2017, and using that I’ve already found links to enrich current stories.


My stance is that database design is very personalized. The way you think about information is likely different than how I think about information. There is no “one-size-fits-all” method of organization. DEVONthink offers flexibility in this regard. You can group things, tag things, leave things ungrouped and use Smart Groups as virtual groups, etc. Coming from a graphic arts / prepress / printing background, I favor data redundancy and strict folder structures for project, but a very loose ungrouped approach for organic searching and learning. That fits my style, but may not fit yours.

Also, don’t feel a database is a locked down thing you are committed to. Too many people try to make “the database to end all databases” :smiley: . With Pro / Pro Office you can make and delete databases as you see fit. (At my highest I’ve had 150+, many test and support, but the point remains.)

Do what comes naturally and see how it goes.

I love reading how others use DevonThink and this is no exception as there is always something to learn. My one comment on the post would be to buy, if you have not already, DevonThink Office Pro especially as you use it professionally; if you do not I will guarantee that you will want to upgrade in the future!

Thanks for sharing. I have been using DEVONthink for a few years and in the past 12 months moved to a much more ‘active’ and extensive use model as a primary work app. In my content marketing work I use the basic set up you are planning to use, however my databases are organised by topic/subject areas. Each database has groups that roughly correspond to your model. My databases maintain my workflow from research to finished content. This has really helped with re-purposing content as well as exploring related ideas for future projects.

Only thing I can think to add, which is something someone might not consider initially, is the auto-classify/magic-hat feature.

It might steer you in a direction regarding what you put where/how you structure some things.
Sometimes tricky to get working properly, but when it does - magical! :smiley:

Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

I haven’t explored magic classification much yet. I wonder if it will be confused by large numbers of groups?

I’m not looking for anything fancy with regard to classification. Just “group together all the materials for an article I write” and “once the article is done, I won’t add to that folder again.” And most of my articles are done within a few days of when they start, many within a few hours.

I would suggest this is a case where classification wouldn’t provide much benefit. Simply creating an article-based group and working from it would be a simple and effective method, IMHO.

I’ve used Devonthink as a journalist pretty much since the software came out. I work as you describe - all materials harvested into a group for an article, and then usually not consulted again. The beauty of DT is that when subjects overlap, the magic hat helps you to draw on old material that might be relevant to the new.

I’d highly recommend filing a copy of your finished stories in the group holding the reference material, too. This becomes invaluable when you’re building a new story that can draw on old material.

If you find yourself revisiting the same subject over and over again, you can pull all the groups relating to that subject into one uber-group, or into a new database if you want to make that an area of expertise.

I think DT (especially DTPO) is a brilliant tool for journalism. It allows you to harvest material more effectively than any other software, find what you need instantly, and give it some historical or subject-related context. I wouldn’t be without it.

I’ve created a database called Light Reading Content – the name of the publication I work at is “Light Reading.” It contains all my notes, research materials and articles, with one group per article – more or less. If I’m following a story over several days, I’ll put all the materials for those multiple stories in a single group.

I also park my story drafts in the group as I write. I previously used Ulysses to write, but it does not play well with DevonThink, so I switched to just using plain Markdown files. I’m currently switching between Folding Text and MultiMarkdown Composer as an editor. They each have their virtues.

And within the database I have one big-and-growing-fastgroup called “LR Clippings,” of anything I’ve read on the web that doesn’t relate to a story I’m currently working on, but might be useful for a future article. That includes everything else that runs on Light Reading by other writers.

How do you use Magic Hat? Do you invoke it on the draft before you file, or on each of your notes/source documents as you go?

That is a major reason that I’m using it. It seems to work out well – when I remember to use Magic Hat, which is not always when I’m on deadline.