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Becoming a beat writer/columnist

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by ksu_jeff, Jun 29, 2006.

  1. Jeff,

    You recognize a lot of the drawbacks of this business and I can't honestly tell you that the perks always outweigh them. If you have all these questions while you should still be in the blindly excited stage, then imagine how you'll feel when all the initial adrenaline wears off.
    Some of the perks that help?

    *Traveling across the country on someone else's dime if you are so fortunate to reach that level.
    *Meeting many different exciting people of all kinds as you travel across the country.
    *Covering events and people that intrigue millions.

    All of that will mean nothing though if you don't have a deep-down passion for this kind of work that outweighs all the negatives, of which there are plenty.

    If there is something else you can picture doing, perhaps you should do it. That is not a snide comment in any way. I don't think you have a bad attitude or anything else. I think you're being realistic and ambitious about recognizing what some aspects of your future could include. Good luck in making your decisions.
  2. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    To make up for my earlier, bitchier posts, some advice:

    The horror stories and the success stories go hand in hand. Even the writers with the "best" beats have to sacrifice: imagine being the beat writer for the Chicago Cubs and always being on the road with the team. Sure, you've covering the Cubbies, which is a dream job for many, but you're away from your family (if you have one) a majority of the season and even if you're "home" you're not home, you're working. And if you're single with a job like that, forget trying to find time for a social life. But most people would love to have that job.

    Also, I think that in this ever-changing media climate going into college with the mindset of "I'm going to get a degree in XYZ and go to work in XYZ for twenty years after graduation" is being too naive. It's possible that the perfect job for you hasn't even been invented yet. Just follow your interests and the rest will work itself out. Seek out opportunities where you think you can learn and grow.
  3. joe

    joe Active Member

    If you want to write, getting a degree in almost anything helps with prospective employers. And although many job postings say they want a journalism degree, if you have good clips a history or English or political science degree is going to be good enough. Whatever you do, make sure you take as many writing-intensive courses as possible, in as many different subjects as possible. It will help your appreciation of different subjects and give you an idea about how researching different topics.
    And, dear god, don't go to Kansas State. :D
  4. JackInTheBox

    JackInTheBox Member

    Jeff, most newspaper folks, which include many on this board, are cynical by nature and will gripe rather than count blessings. This line of work is like any other in that it has good points and bad points. For me, the good points make it all worth it. A lot depends on who you work for. I work a major-college beat and wouldn't trade it for anything, because my employer allows me to work the beat as I see fit and mostly stays out of my way. I've earned that trust and freedom through years of experience. Oh, and trips to Seattle or staying in four-star hotels in Atlanta isn't bad, either.

    I enjoy the challenge of covering a game and seeing if I can write something decent under deadline pressure. If you think that would drive you crazy, stay away. If you're considering this business to be a fan and chum up to coaches and players, stay away. If you're considering it because you love athletic competition, love to write and welcome the competition against other media outlets, then consider it. Sure, you'll work hard, but everybody in every business works hard these days. You have to work hard to get anywhere in any business. Either way, follow your heart.
  5. bdh02

    bdh02 Member

    If you're just now getting into college, don't worry so much about what your major will be just yet. You've got four years and probably won't do anything that vital toward your major until your late second or third year. In the mean time, try your hand by stringing for local papers, continuing to work for those Web sites, etc. Just continue to challenge yourself, because if you don't, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise. Same goes for any profession, though. Just try your hand at it. You'll know if it's what you want.
  6. ServeItUp

    ServeItUp Active Member

    Courier is the best. All characters in Courier are the same width, from the lower-case "i" to the upper-case "W."

    In sticking with the topic, I was a beat-writer/columnist for about three years at a small paper. The lows outweighed the highs, though, and I was very happy to move to a desk job earlier this year. Some people are cut out for the grind of covering a beat — the constant workload, outracing the competition to get to stories, turning around strong enterprise and long-form features, interviewing coaches after 30-point losses and last-second wins, spending off days on the phone or at the field/gym/yard — and others aren't. I determined it was all or nothing and wanted my time back, but wanted to stay in newspapers so here I am.
  7. Screwball

    Screwball Active Member


    Years ago, when I was working at the college paper, one of my fellow sportswriters walked in one day and quit. Just like that.

    "I just realized," he said, "that I don't want to work weekends the rest of my life."

    Smart guy, to figure it out before he started on a career that would have made him unhappy.
  8. printdust

    printdust New Member

    God, I am amused by these college guys who haven't a clue in what they face.
  9. slipshod

    slipshod Member

    OK, I couldn't resist jumping. Amazing how much better my job seems when I post here than when I'm actually out there doing it.
    Beat writing is hard work, requires a certain amount of shmoozing to let players, coaches, team owners know you are a real human being and not some pile of crap to be avoided at all cost. Access varies widely from team to team and sport to sport. But it is always challenging.
    But believe me, it beats working in some cubicle or sweating your ass off for $10 an hour in a real job.
    By the way, I assume you know you will not get rich doing this...
    But hey, I got a (struggling) 401k, pension and possibly social security in 12 years...Bring it on.
  10. pallister

    pallister Guest

    Stop knocking Branson, damnit. They have an Olive Garden, a Mickey Gilley's bar and grill and some kick-ass outlet stores.

    Seriously, I've been there many times. Nice place, especially if you enjoy the outdoors -- and roadside ribs (they're better than that sounds).
  11. Twoback

    Twoback Active Member

    Deadlines are a big deal for those who can't cut it, not a big deal for those who can.
    It can be frustrating, because you want the work to be as good as it can be, but it should not be debilitating.
  12. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    Everybody knows that insurance companies are just legalized cansino operations. Their convention isn't in Branson; it's in Vegas. Now get back out there and close, close, close!
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