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View Full Version : A question for you journalists out there.



stumblebum
03-01-2013, 05:34 AM
What opportunities exist for a 21 year-old college kid (psychology major, journalism minor) in the industry? She has a small advantage on the competition in that she occasionally catches supernatural 'glimpses' of future events that give her a lead on news-worthy stories. But high-strangeness aside, I could really use some insight into what it might be like to be a young, struggling journalist.

What I am thinking is that she works for the online edition of a local newspaper, or perhaps works as an independent, selling her story where she can. I don't need comprehensive realism, just enough to pass the believability test and get me out of the first couple of chapters of the book (and into more familiar territory).

I'd love to chat with someone with experience in the field, so if you have a few minutes, please post here or send me a pm.

Eva Lefoy
03-01-2013, 10:22 AM
Locally, the newspaper provides a certain number of internships available per year. In addition, there is almost always a school paper. Or maybe a group of some kind that needs a newsletter editor....

she could check craigslist for her area and see what's available as well.

Bloo
03-01-2013, 10:32 AM
how big is her local paper? I worked at a newspaper in a town of 6,000 people and we hired a kid straight out of college to be a general beat/sports reporter. This trend has continued since I left the paper, a kid is hired for a year or two and then they move on and another takes their spot. I also applied at a much smaller newspaper without any journalism college when I first got out of college and was offered the job. (I turned it down for a number of reasons). So there are opportunities out there, especially in smaller town papers, IF you want to go that route.

Trebor1415
03-01-2013, 02:23 PM
The grunt work of journalism is covering government meetings. We're talking local city council, local county Board of Supervisors, zoning commisison, etc.

Most of the time it's dull and no fun, but someone has to do it.

When I was in college I worked as a stringer (freelancer) for a local weekly paper covering various governmental bodies. I got the opportunity when one of my instructors recommended me to the editor when the editor was looking for a college kid who could do that type of work.

It's generally dull and low pay, but they'll give you a shot if you can show you can write and you are willing to actually do it.

Btw, she'd almost certainly be a freelancer. She'd probably have one paper she does most of her work for, like covering a regular city meeting, but she may also contribute stories from time to time to a second paper, as long as they aren't on the same topic (can't generally cover a meeting for two papers). That works best when the papers are non competitive, like a local daily for the city council stuff and maybe she also writes personality profiles or something for the local alternative weekly.

WeaselFire
03-01-2013, 05:06 PM
What opportunities exist for a 21 year-old college kid (psychology major, journalism minor) in the industry?
Start by asking your professors, career counseling office and the paper you interned for. The adviser for the college newspaper you work on would also be of help. Check with the many local freebie papers you've written articles for.

By the way, if you haven't worked at the college paper, especially as an editor, haven't interned for a local paper and haven't written any articles for the freebie papers, your chances are far lower than those students who have. In other words, you have to work at developing a career even more than you have to work to get a grade.

Think like your character and the answers will be obvious... :)

Jeff

Lissibith
03-02-2013, 12:27 AM
Networking! Most of my friends and I ended up getting our first job at a paper where we had a past alum as an "in."

Also, seconding the freelance thing. A particular one at our papers is sports coverage, especially during playoffs when you really need to have warm bodies at a number of different games simultaneously. And often, when we get a full-time opening, those freelancers are the first ones looked at

StephanieFox
03-02-2013, 04:28 AM
I freelance for several kinds of publications including magazines, newspapers and online. If you have enough of a diverse portfolio, you can pitch story ideas to editors.

They'll ask for samples and if yours prove that you can write, research and interview like a journalist, that might be a start. Get an editor to trust you and you'll get assignments. If you're young, you have a better chance to get a real job in journalism than if you are old and experienced, as I am. I have a flexible day job as well as writing.

Silver King
03-02-2013, 05:45 AM
...She has a small advantage on the competition in that she occasionally catches supernatural 'glimpses' of future events that give her a lead on news-worthy stories...
Don't mention that in your resume. Ever.

stumblebum
03-02-2013, 07:09 AM
Don't mention that in your resume. Ever.
Haha...good one.

Thanks so much guys for taking the time to respond.

Based on your responses I'm pretty comfortable starting her off as a freelance journalist.

I'm basing the story in a fictional city that is similar to my own hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. It has a population of roughly a million people. There are two print newspapers and three TV outlets, all with an online presence. The MC does most of her work for the largest of the two rags, the Times, but takes work where she can get it.

If I may press forward a bit, she has a supernatural ability that I mentioned earlier, which she calls 'glimpsing'. Without going into too much detail, she is able to use this ability to get to news-worthy scenes first, as in, ahead of the other media outlets and often times the authorities themselves. (She never gets there in time to prevent anything from happening, but then, that's what the story is about.)

My question is how advantageous would this talent actually be to a real world reporter? From the perspective of a layman it seems like it would be pretty handy, at least judging from all the ads claiming to be 'first on the scene' and the like.

Trebor1415
03-02-2013, 12:22 PM
If she keeps showing up at crime scenes, accidents, etc, ahead of the police, their going to start looking at her pretty closely.

The "first on the scene" idea is really big for TV news. First on the scene = first on the air. For print, it's not that big a thing. And, like I said, if she keeps witnessing crimes or showing up just afterwards, they are going to start wondering. (And it's not that huge of an advantage as she's going to get thrown off the crime scene as soon as the cops arrive anyway)

kaitie
03-02-2013, 10:30 PM
Ever seen Psych? :D

boozysassmouth
03-03-2013, 04:56 AM
Just wanted to add a few thoughts. I have my undergrad degree in journalism, and when I was in my last semester and looking for jobs, we were basically told we'd start at copy-editing. This is for print. You start as a copy-editor and you work your way up to being a reporter. Also, newspapers and magazines are a dying art, so it's extremely competitive to get positions.

I would also wonder why a psych major would go into journalism, even with the journalism minor. I'm working on a pysch degree, and most people hear that I was journalism undergrad and look at me like I have two heads.

I agree that she'd have had to write on her school paper, and doing reporting not a column or opinion pieces. I did opinion pieces and it was pretty much impossible for me to get a good internship on a city paper.

As far as her ability, like Trebor said, showing up first is mostly for TV reporters. For print it would be more important to have the best contacts among the police, DAs or ME's office. Her ability wouldn't necessarily help with that.

Trebor1415
03-03-2013, 12:50 PM
Hmmmn, in my experience copy editing and reporting where two different career tracks. It likely varies by paper and region though.

boozysassmouth
03-03-2013, 06:50 PM
Perhaps it was regional. I went to undergrad in Philadelphia, so maybe it's just around there? I don't know, I just remember that that was what they told the print majors. That and that we'd never be able to get jobs since print media is dying.

cornflake
03-03-2013, 11:52 PM
Perhaps it was regional. I went to undergrad in Philadelphia, so maybe it's just around there? I don't know, I just remember that that was what they told the print majors. That and that we'd never be able to get jobs since print media is dying.

Not regional. Well, maybe regional, as I'm talking about a major east-coast city that's not Philly, heh, but I too know ppl who worked up from copy editor.

Lissibith
03-09-2013, 07:22 PM
Late back to the party, but my experience is almost the opposite. :) I went freelancer --> reporter --> copy editor/layout --> web designer and editor, and a number of the eds at out paper started as reporters. this was the case both at my first paper in NY and my current one in MD. I guess it must go either way depending on the publication?