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Breaking into the Business. What to do?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Boyznblu80, Oct 19, 2009.

  1. Boyznblu80

    Boyznblu80 Member

    I just don't understand it. I bust my @%* for four years at a university, studying this stuff and no one wants to give me a chance. I have real experience (covered an NFL team for a year while in school) and have done the work. Also covered three beats in my sophomore and junior year. I don't expect the brass ring out of college. All I want is a chance. I'd cover little league if there was a beat for it. I'd write for a publication that printed on toilet paper if it were possible. I live in NY which is good and bad. Good because it's the media capitol of the world and bad because it seems that more and more, places are on hiring freeze or want people with more experience. How am I supposed to get more experience if no one will hire me? Any advice is deeply appreciated. Like I said, I don't expect the world to be given to me. Years of experience warrant that, which I don't have yet. I plan on working hard to get that. But I need a start. Sound off please.
  2. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    You probably won't get a ton of sympathy here. There are lifers om this board who are out of work. Great writers and editors with families, mortgages and other bills who are either unemployed, soon to be unemployed, or just trying to get by.

    If you stick with journalism, get used to it those three scenarios.

    I graduated two and half years ago and I'm not going to pretend it's been an easy road. It probably will get a little easier when the economy bounces back, but its been bad here for a while.

    I don't know if this is supposed to make you feel better, but I too worked for four years in college and all it got me was a summer of covering minor league baseball. I got paid $500 for the entire season.

    Afterward, I was hired to be a sports editor making $9.75 an hour, followed by a midnight shift desk position where I didn't have benefits. It took a year and half to get a decent job and I'm still making less than most of my friends and have zero job security. Yeah it sucks, but it could always be worse.

    I bet everyone on this board has similar issues and many may have it worse.

    A wiser member of this board once said, "you'd gladly take your problems over another person's problems any day of the week."
  3. spud

    spud Member

    This isn't at all what you want to hear, and it isn't very good advice, but its kind of the status quo right now.

    One of the biggest factors involved in your prospective hire (if not the biggest): Luck.

    We're all dog tired of hearing how shitty this biz is right now, so I won't talk about that, but this isn't an easy field to break into anyway. This ain't the movies. Not everybody that deserves a shot gets one. And now you're routinely competing with writers who are better than you are and have years more experience. That said, you have to do the only thing you can right now, and that's to send off resumes like they're going out of style. Make a pact with yourself to do at least a handful of things every day to get your foot in somewhere, no matter how microscopic the deed seems.

    In these times (and in most times, really), you're just going to need a little luck to meet your skill in the middle. Maybe its a new sports editor that likes your style, or an old one looking for a young charge to mold. Maybe your folio was just at the top of the stack when your editor was in a good mood. Those kinds of things, you can't plan for. But you can't get to that point without exhausting every alley, no matter how dark and fruitless it looks. I was once in your shoes with a similar resume and was on the verge of just sacking up and going to grad school, but I lucked out with the perfect storm. You've got to keep your head down and keep moving to get there.
  4. bpoindexter

    bpoindexter Member


    mustang and Spud hit it out of the park. About the only thing I'd add is a reiteration: See all the job openings posted on this site? Apply for every one of them, then follow up. Apply with papers, mags, TV/radio stations ... everything. Try to freelance. Visit other job sites and apply for everything you see. If you're a sports type, then apply for news writing positions at small papers, anything to get a start, professional clips and experience. Just because you get a job offer in Bum you-know-where, Egypt, doesn't mean you have to die and be buried there. Have a cup of coffee at said location, gain experience and keep moving up. You'll get there.

    Good luck!!!
  5. tdonegan

    tdonegan Member

    I'm in the same boat as you, Boyz. I graduated in May from a good school, got solid grades, I have plenty of experience, made plenty of connections down my way and nearly six months on and I'm feeling the same pressure. Right now I'm getting 4-5 stories a week freelance, sometimes less, but I live in East Podunk and not New York. The experience thing hangs over all our heads but I've found most editors are very receptive to throwing a few stories our way if you've got decent enough clips. Get a good assignment, knock it out of the park, get more assignments and if a job opens up at that shop you'll have a real foot in the door.

    No it's not a guarantee, but it's better than nothing. Best of luck.
  6. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    I'm not as familiar with how things work in any metro area, let alone NYC, but I'd say find everyone who covers preps in your area and try to drum up freelance work.

    There's hundreds of applicants for every job opening out there, so you can either play your odds with that or you can try to make your way one small paycheck at a time.
  7. zagoshe

    zagoshe Well-Known Member

    Here is my advice - go to your local car dealership, apply to be a salesman.
  8. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Ditto the freelance advice. My wife is a magazine editor, she hears from seasoned journalists every day who are desperate for work. But 90 percent of them don't come with story ideas attached to those resumes. Have a great story pitch and you're in the door, and from there, who knows? But get creative and figure out what you want to write. Simply hanging the "writer for hire" sign doesn't do it anymore.
  9. sportsguydave

    sportsguydave Active Member


    First of all, ignore the green guy.

    If you really want to get into this business, work hard at it and don't get discouraged. Start out the freelance route ... It's the bottom rung of the ladder, but it's a good place to start. I've been a sports editor a few times, and I could always find work for a hard-working stringer. When a job opened up, that was the first guy I was going to take a look at.

    If you're young, single, and unencumbered with things like mortgages, be willing to go ANYWHERE. Get your foot in the door SOMEWHERE.

    Above all, don't get discouraged. It's a tough market right now. Keep at it.

    Good luck.
  10. zagoshe

    zagoshe Well-Known Member


    Second of all, ignore sportsguydave.

    If you really want to get into the business, work hard and don't get discouraged.

    But understand that this is an industry currently eliminating jobs, not adding jobs. And this is an industry that has no real future, at least no real plan to remain relevant in the future. And freelancers and part-timers usually remain freelancers and part-timers because those jobs are harder to fill than full-time jobs, which by the way rarely are available to entry-level people because so many qualified people are out of work.

    In short, heed my first piece of advice - go to local car dealership, apply to be a salesman.
  11. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    If I were forced to bet the house on which path would make the OP happier in the long run of his life, car salesman would probably be my choice. But nobody wants to hear that, and we all get tired of saying it.
  12. sportsguydave

    sportsguydave Active Member


    I'm guessing you have no desire to be a car salesman, or you'd be over posting on carsalesmen.com.

    Plenty of serious advice here. If you've got the desire, that's half the battle. You're in the same place a lot of us started: Doing the "Experience/job, Job/experience shuffle."

    Get some experience however you can ... and when opportunity knocks, don't be out back taking out the garbage. :D

    Good luck again.
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