Don’t wait until you’re hired as a reporter to start acting like one.
Getting articles published is vital to landing a reporting job. Most editors want to see four to six — and sometimes many more — samples of your work.
“It shows much more to those hiring that you’re ambitious about being published, rather than having a resume with a college term paper that never was published attached to it,” said Joe Hight, managing editor of the Oklahoman. “And I can tell you it’s a lot more exciting to see your byline in a publication than the grade that you’ll receive for the term paper.”
While in school, develop a portfolio of good clips that demonstrates your journalism skills. Here’s how:
Write for the school paper
They’ll typically give any student a shot at reporting.
“It’s odd to me when I receive resumes from intern applicants who don’t have their college newspaper listed as work experience. The college newspaper is a great avenue to get bylines while having a great time and meeting lots of people in the process,” Hight said.
Do an academic internship
Many schools award 12 or more credits for a full-time, semester-long internship in media meccas such as New York and Washington, D.C. Programs such as The Washington Center and Institute on Political Journalism provide internship placements, housing and scholarships.
“This past summer two of our interns had front-page stories in the Washington Times, another covered the all-night filibuster in the Senate for the Washington Examiner, while another won a coveted spot with CNN’s White House team,” IPJ Director Joseph Starrs said.
“Another strategy that I recommend is finding and applying to conferences, institutes or fellowships that have publications and/or Web sites attached to them,” Hight said. “These provide great avenues for you to get a ‘byline rush’ or multiple bylines in a short period of time.”
Write for whatever publications you can get to print your work.
Consider nontraditional media. New online magazines or “e-zines” are invariably launching, and they’re hungry for copy, according to Sree Sreenivasan, who runs the Columbia Journalism School’s new media program.
“Locate ethnic news media in your community,” said Cristina Azocar, a journalism professor at San Francisco State University. “This is one of the fastest-growing sectors of news media.”
Repurpose your school work
“The stories you write for a campus newspaper will involve students and faculty from a variety of hometowns,” said Steve Buttry, a writing coach at American Press Institute. “Some of them may be of interest to those hometown papers.”
String for your local paper
While at school, be a campus correspondent for the newspaper that covers your college town. During breaks, write for your hometown publication.
If you’re in a big city, such as New York, the Times likely won’t return your call. But neighborhood weeklies, such as the Queens Chronicle, routinely accept submissions from student journalists.
“Like most community newspapers, in fact newspapers in general, we’ve cut back on staff in the face of a sea change in our industry,” said Gloria Stravelli, an editor at Greater Media Newspapers, a weekly community newspaper chain in New Jersey. “So, there is always a need for interns, freelancers, etc., to pick up the slack.”
Internships are ideal
Many newspapers treat interns like staff writers and give them significant responsibilities. They often pay, too.
“The Arizona Republic treated me like other staff reporters and expected me to perform on that level, as well,” recalled Indiana University junior Audrie Garrison. “(I had) the opportunity to meet with Rudy Giuliani while he was in Phoenix on a campaign stop. You hear all these horror stories of interns having to make coffee and just run errands, but I don’t think it’s ever really like that with newspapers.”