As a newspaper journalist myself I know how hard it can be to break into the field and how hard it is to move up. How can you gain experience if people won't give you the chance, right? Well, follow me through these steps and I will reveal some things I've learned and some suggestions that may help the aspiring journalist in you break into the business.
Be prepared to send out a lot of resumes and cover letters and be prepared to do a lot of interviewing. Nothing comes easy, especially with this kind of job. You need to have writing samples from your days in college to send in with the applications. Be prepared to start very small at a local newspaper or even a weekly newspaper.
Have an open mind when heading into an interview, even if it is with a place you really don't want to work. You will start small and probably at a place that doesn't seem like your dream job, but within that place you could grow and move on to bigger and better things. Also when going into an interview, be prepared to meet the editor and do a brief writing sample right there on the spot.
Going into your first job as a journalist can be nerve racking. Depending on where you get the job your beat will likely include local meetings such as village, town and city meetings, along with school boards and even county legislature meetings. Be prepared to start with the beat no one else wants, since you are the low man on the totem poll for now.
Leave early for appointments and interviews if you aren't familiar with the area. It's important to make a good first impression on politicians and local officials, as well as just everyday people. Making a good first impression will cement your relationship with them and they'll continue to keep in contact with you.
Have fun. Remember you are not doing this for money, fame or fortune. You're doing this because of your love of writing and your desire to inform your community. I love what I do and wouldn't change it for the world, however I'm still in the midst of working my way up the chain to bigger papers, and that's become very difficult in a field which isn't as big as it used to be. Perseverance, dedication and patience are the keys.
Tips & Warnings
- Some of the things I have found very tough to cover as a journalist are the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents which result in a death
- Out of control fires
- Budget stories (a lot of numbers that must be explained in a way the reader will understand)
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