As an up-and-coming journalist who has been out of school for a year and a half now, I have had very few experiences in the field of journalism. But, within those few experiences, I have learned a great deal.
My first writing experience was the university newspaper during my third year.
At that time, I was still finishing up my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science/Pre-Law. But, after I had seen the 96th grey cup in Winnipeg that year, I had decided it would be a great experience to write an article on, and it would get me started in writing since that was what I wanted to do eventually. So, I wrote an article during the car ride home from Winnipeg, typed it up, emailed it into the editor of the paper and it got published.
Not bad for my first time out.
Then a few months later, I wrote another article for the university, a movie review, on Rocky Balboa, which also got published.
My next experience in the writing world (aside from writing for classes during my first year of college), was the 80-hour internship I completed between my first and second year of college.
In order to graduate from my journalism program, I was required to complete an 80-hour internship and pass my evaluation (one failing mark and I would have had to re-do my 80 hours all over again) at any time throughout the duration of my program as long as it was done by April.
So, when I was first told about this by a professor in my program in first year, I knew right away I was going to complete my internship when I went back home for the summer holidays because,
1. I knew the town better; and
2. I would have access to a car if I needed one.
Then the next thing I did was to email the editor of the daily newspaper back home. I explained who I was, and asked if there were any internships available since I had to complete one in order to graduate the following year.
I received an email back and was told that they weren’t sure if there were any internships available that summer, but that they would get back to me later.
Two days after I had got home from school, the editor called me and asked if I could come in and meet with him because they really wanted to help me out and let me do my internship with them.
When I first started, I was really nervous because I had never been in a real newsroom before so I didn’t know what to expect, and I was an intern so I didn’t know exactly what I was going to be doing.
But, right from the start, I was writing articles. Nothing big, just those small sidebar ones about the weather for example.
Then after a few weeks, I was asked to write bigger articles, make phone calls to get more facts for my stories, and interview people by phone for my articles. Every time I made a call, I would have to identify myself as a reporter with the paper, which sounded weird to me because I was just an intern, but it also made me feel like a real reporter, especially that I had my own byline (name and title) for the last two articles I had written (which I was taught in school that interns usually never get a byline for the articles they write).
That internship, while it was a school requirement, gave me a great insight into the ins and outs of a newsroom – how it works and what the atmosphere is like, and it gave me some hands-on experience as a reporter and all the work that goes into just one article.
T he next writing experience that I had, was working on the school newspaper.
Now, I don’t know how other college newspapers work. But, as for the college I attended, writing, photography, editing, page layout out and developing the school newspaper were all part of the journalism-print program, which meant that everything we did in regards to the paper was graded (except for delivering the paper to different places around the school).
Some of you journalism students out there may not consider working on the school paper as writing experience because it’s for school so it doesn’t count. But, that’s not true. Just because you’re not getting paid for it, doesn’t mean it’s not experience or you don’t learn anything.
Working on the school newspaper gave me hands-on experience on how to put together a newspaper and all the work that goes into it, as well as a chance to put what I learned in first year (like how to write an article, how to do interviews and how to layout a page) to good use and improve my skills as a writer and as a reporter.
So, any students who are not currently paying attention in your classes, I highly recommend you start because what you learn in class will help you throughout the rest of your career.
As for my last bit of writing experience, it was writing an article for the Career Options magazine, and writing this blog.
When I was first given the okay to write an article for the Career Options magazine, I had to go back and re-read my notes and articles that I had written in college because I had been out of school for a year so my writing skills were a little rusty. But, once I started writing it, it all came back to me in regards to the style of writing and having proper flow from one paragraph to the next, and it ended up being the longest story I have ever written.
And now that I am writing this blog for the Career Options Magazine website every week, it’s keeping my writing skills sharp and fresh in my mind, which is great because when I finally go out for that first reporting job at some newspaper or magazine, I’ll be ready.
Currently, I haven’t been as aggressive as I should be in finding a job in the journalism field and this is in large part to the fact that I don’t have a vehicle (I’m currently saving for one). In my opinion, I don’t see the point in applying for a reporting job when I don’t have a car because I won’t be able to drive to interviews and events and appointments.
In the meantime, I just plan to try and do some other freelance work for magazines and newspapers until I get a car and I can get a job reporting on sports (hopefully).
So, to all those other up-and-coming journalists wandering around out there, I wish you good luck. And if you’re struggling to find a job, remember that sooner or later, the other currently working reporters are going to retire some day and jobs will open up.