>Don’t Believe Everything You Read

>A recent article on how to get a newspaper job had me writing comments in the margins along the lines of “No!” and “Not a chance.” I worry about the bad advice that circulates in the writing business, playing on people’s hopes with misinformation. Please, don’t believe everything you read.

Let me refute some of the things in this article.

1) Part-time newspaper jobs can be gained by writers with little experience. No. This is unlikely. The smallest of small-town rags may hire students as interns or cub reporters, but even they need some training and some proof they can put a story together.

2) Letters to the editor can lead to a job on a newspaper. Not a chance. Letters to the editor are not articles, and editors do not hire writers based on their letters.

3) After you study the paper and write some letters, the next logical step is to do a job shadow. Most companies welcome people to do this. Maybe in other businesses, but I can’t imagine having someone follow me around all day while I work. It might be okay to have company while doing interviews, but when it comes to writing and meeting deadlines, I assure you no reporter or editor wants somebody hanging around to watch.

4) You can become a stringer—freelancer—for a paper with little or no experience, just a desire to learn. Again, no. Newspaper editors do not have time to teach you how to write. They need you to show up with the necessary skills already in hand.

5) When you want to write for a paper, call and keep calling. God, no. Every time you interrupt the editor’s work with your phone call, you make a negative impression. Do not keep calling and begging. Instead, query with your best ideas, follow up briefly and politely, and accept no for an answer if that is the response. If they encourage you to try again, do it.

Next time, I’ll discuss five more pieces of misinformation given to wannabe writers. Meanwhile, have a great Thanksgiving. While you’re passing the turkey, can you think of a few article ideas? I’ll bet you can.
Have you purchased your copy of Freelancing for Newspapers yet?

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