A great way to begin your journalistic journey is by publishing articles in your high school or college publications. This allows you to get into the flow and discipline of writing within a deadline. It also provides you with writing samples as you begin your search for internships.
Internships: Internships in journalism are a great way to build up experience and your body of work. One of the best ways to get an internship is to approach your college career services and find internships or programs at various print and online publications. It may take a few cycles to get to a publication, a radio station or video broadcast, especially if you are free lancing.
Reaching out to the local publications with a story idea and offering to cover events may be a good way to get your foot in the door. Publications cannot cover every single event or conference or meetup, so they may be open to your covering the events and free lancing for them. For publications to accept your freelance work, you will have to have a prior body of working in either writing or photography or videography or something that showcases your unique take on things and your skills.
If your college has a study abroad program and you have some funding that can help towards the study abroad program, then it is a great way to report from a different part of the world. Freelancing from abroad has its own challenges, but can jumpstart your freelancing career as not every publication will have a journalist on the ground across the world. As a freelancer immersed in a country’s cultural, political, geographical, economic, technological and scientific landscape while being aware of the sensibilities, you may find publications a little bit more willing to publish your articles, photos or videos.
Another possibility is to apply to intern at well known programs within organizations that support journalism. A few examples of these are The Marshall Project summer internships, Pulitzer Center Internships or the Dow Jones News Fund. If interested in freelancing or writing for a magazine, you can check out the American Society of Magazine Editor’s job board. Google is your friend here … search for internships and you can find many possibilities that are out there.
Skills: Unlike being in a journalism program, a freelancer needs to build their own suite of skills. As a freelancer, you may have to develop more digital skills so that you can that showcase your writing or audio or video publications. This means being able to maintain a blog, learn some HTML skills, video editing skills, etc. Your blog with your work samples will be your resume beyond having a LinkedIn profile. Your blog will be the first place many recruiters or editors will check out to get a sense of your work, so investing time and skills into your blog will be important.
Freelancing in times of COVID: Since travel is not back to pre-pandemic days, freelancing may feel a bit harder, especially if you are looking to do a study abroad or a remote program. However, this is where having a defined area of interest or experience might help a freelancer present a stronger article, with more in depth research and presentation.
Freelancing will continue to be a big part of journalism as many newspapers transition to a more model where there are fewer staff reporters and are inviting more freelance authors.