How to become a journalist when everyone is convinced newspapers are dying
The Internet puts many publications within easy reach. A lot of them are on the prowl for content. This creates a lot of opportunities, though they may be low-paying. Editors will accept web printouts as clips, but try to get them with the most established and respected online publications you can, because editors place higher emphasis on reputation and quality with online publications than they do with print pubs. Designers and, more recently, artists have taken to the web in some numbers to show and share their wares. Design and graphics directors now lead the newsroom in being comfortable with portfolios that are web-based.
Becoming a journalist without going to journalism school
You’ll find that the better J-schools get many more visits from recruiters. This is one of their selling points. These universities are on Main Street, using their students to attract recruiters and making their students eligible for more interviews. If your university is on Main Street, you have a real advantage. Use it. Even if you’re not going to school explicitly to become a journalist, work career services as a good reporter works a beat. Show up. Ask around. Read the bulletin boards. Get to know the people. Be friendly and helpful. Take advice. Show them that you’re serious. Become the first to find out when interviewers are coming.
What if only journalism students are allowed at the interviews?
So, OK, you worked career services like a beat and still didn’t make the sign-up sheet. What now? On interview day, scrub behind your ears, put on your interview duds, and haunt career services. “Hey, if you come up with a no-show, just let me know, I’m ready as a fill-in.” Smart career services people hate empty slots on the schedule even more than they hate letting in a sophomore. If a student succumbs to nausea or nerves, career services is generally happy to throw any well-dressed student into the breech. This is classic being in the right place at the right time.
But above all, there’s one amazing way to become a journalist:
Get an internship. There is not another thing you can do, short of buying your own newspaper and hiring yourself, that can do more to launch your career.
The rest of the newsroom:
This advice comes directly from my book Breaking In. It contains everything I know about landing and acing your journalism internship. I’ve been a journalist for a long time, and spent nearly 20 years recruiting and editing at the Detroit Free Press. For more tips and strategies for landing journalism internships and jobs, check out these resources: