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Advice for former journalism grad?

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Stephen Varga, Apr 6, 2021.

  1. Stephen Varga

    Stephen Varga New Member

    Hello all, thanks in advance for reading. This is my first time posting here so apologies if this is out of order. I was hoping to ask you all for a bit of guidance or advice if you have any to spare. I'm a journalism graduate from the University of Arizona back in 2011. I did writing internships with both the Arizona Daily Star and the PAC 12 website, and growing up I always wanted to work as a sports reporter. However, shortly after I graduated both of my parents were diagnosed with separate cases of rare forms of cancer, and sadly they both passed away.

    I don't intend for this to be a sob sorry and I apologize if it seems that way. It's just that as an only child I basically had to take care of them full time during the ordeal, and my career aspirations in journalism were put on hold. It was hard, and I was mentally drained for a number of years following everything that happened. In the years following my parents' passing I worked a number of odd jobs here and there to pay the bills, but never doing anything related to my degree. As more time passed I just assumed that I was done with journalism (or rather that journalism was done with me); that I was a victim of circumstance, and that fate had decided that life as a writer just wasn't meant to be. My passion and motivation for writing seemed to fade away.

    I'm finally in a better place all these years later, and have recently begun to put the pieces of my life back together. I look back at my brief time in journalism and can't help but think what could have been. I long to get back into it, but after such a considerable break I have no idea where to start. I no longer have any contact with my former university professors and coworkers form my internships, and I'm worried that after not having practiced my skills for so long that I'll be rusty and out of touch, overlooked for someone younger with more recent experience. Another fear I have is that because the bulk of my education was based in print, I'm worried that what skills I do possess might be considered obsolete with the dominance of digital platforms and the plight of newspapers across the country. Basically I just wonder if this would even be worth pursuing at all. Do any of you have any advice for me as to where to begin, or how I might go about doing so?

    Thank you so much for reading, I really appreciate you taking the time to do so.
  2. qtlaw

    qtlaw Well-Known Member

    I’m obviously not in the field but I will give some advice from my perspective as an interviewer and hiring partner.

    Embrace your gifts don’t run from them. You spent a great deal of time and effort in getting your degree and you (hopefully) learned a great deal about writing and communicating those ideas. Now you have to compete with new grads but you’ve got a different perspective to offer too; more life skills. Just let them know you’re willing to start as if you’re a new grad and work as many hours as a newbie.

    Focus on what you have to offer not what you don’t have. You lack some practical computer skills? You can learn that quickly. It’s the writing talent that’s important. You have that.
    PaperDoll likes this.
  3. Octave

    Octave Well-Known Member

    Follow your dream. You have as much a right to achieve it in this business as anyone else does or did.
  4. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    I would see if freelance work is available, either for a website or an old-school newspaper, to get a few recent clips.

    Those, combined with your previous work for the U of A paper and Pac-12 Network, would show you have the background AND can still write.
  5. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Wherever you are now, get with editors/publishers at that area's newspaper (or if there any magazine companies around, hit them up too) to look into freelance (or yes, maybe even staff writer opportunities). Even if you know there aren't any actual openings, ask if it would be possible to arrange for an in-person, informal interview at a time of their choosing/convenience, so that you have some time to talk. Then tell them what you told us, and let them know of your interest in a job. See how it goes.

    In addition to writing (or, for magazines, copy-editing) opportunities, talk them about your concerns regarding digital skills and ask if there might be opportunities for experience with those, perhaps on the desk or in the photo/video departments. Be honest and say you'd be starting at the beginning with that, but that that's why you're asking about it. You want to learn it/pick up what you can.

    You never know. Depending on the size of the paper, and their staffing needs, they might be amenable to letting you work, with others/under supervision/part-time, etc. on the desk or with cameras, or on their web-site compilation team.

    Also, as I mentioned before, magazines often use freelance copy editors, and there could be some opportunities along those lines if you're in the right location. And don't neglect any possibilities at nearby colleges/universities in their sports-information and/or communications departments.

    You could also look into adult-education classes in graphics/digital skills, and any computer programs you think might be helpful. If nothing else, doing that will add viable, marketable skills, no matter what job, in what field, where you might end up.

    I wish you the best. Job-hunting is hard under any circumstances, but I can feel your genuine longing and wish to make a go of this. Perhaps any editors/managers you speak to will do the same. Give it a try, do your best, and then see what happens (or doesn't), and go from there.
    I Should Coco and swingline like this.
  6. swingline

    swingline Well-Known Member

    Stephen, your passion is evident, and I wish you good luck in your pursuit. Take the advice given above and see what happens.

    In my experience, regional magazines can be a good way to get clips in a variety of subjects. As a freelancer, I wrote many cover stories for a statewide magazine on all manner of subjects, including following around a paranormal investigation group at a Civil War house one night. Come up with three story pitches and argue why you're the perfect person to write it. (Although three I came up with, after I'd been working there for a while, were shot down as stories for me to write — only to be given to other people later on. So, give just enough information to get them intrigued but not enough to give away the whole idea.)

    That was 10 or 12 years ago, after my last newspaper job ended in 2008. These days, I do part-time editing work for the local university, and I've written and edited for the state chamber of commerce. It's not sports, but there are opportunities out there.

    Good luck.
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