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I need the insight of experienced journalists ... please help.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Millionaire, Mar 10, 2008.

  1. Millionaire

    Millionaire New Member

    Okay, I'm just going to write this as it comes, sorry if this runs too long.

    I am young ... very young, but I'm graduating from college soon. I've spent the past few years writing tons of stories for my college paper. I love it. I absolutely adore sports writing. It's the job I've always dreamed of. The idea that one day I might get paid - at all - for doing it, is something that sounds too good be true.

    I'm also a realist. I read this board somewhat often. I know what the job market is like. I've had journalists personally tell me to consider a switch to TV, and one basically told me to get out now. A lot of people my age brush this to the side and think "some people make a living doing it ... so I CAN!" That's not me. I'm realistic. I accept the fact that you have to be more than just good. You have to be good, and you have to know people, and you have to be lucky.

    I think about this on a daily basis now. I stress about my future constantly. I've tried to sit down and seriously consider a switch to business or accounting, and I just can't get myself to do it. I have no passion there, but I know there will be a $45k job waiting for me when I leave school, and it will be in my home city.

    I know I have talent. One of my professors is a Pulitzer-nominated former journalist who worked as an editor for years at a major metro. He has told me I'm one of the strongest students he's ever seen, and that he's been incredibly pleased with my work. I also work my ass off. I haven't been paid one penny for my college work and I still look forward to writing great stories.

    I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make it. I will move anywhere in the country when I'm out of school. If it means moving 3,000 miles away to work an 80 hour week and write about preps in Idaho, I'll do it if that's how I have to start. I'm from a humble background and hard work is nothing new to me.

    But I also know that in this business, taking care of the things you can control is not a guarantee that you will make it. It's not anything close to a guarantee. You can do all the right things and never leave square one. I understand that reality ... but understanding it and living it in 15 years are two different things.

    I guess what I'm looking for is ... is it actually possible to make it in journalism? To actually live a somewhat comfortable life? I don't need a pep talk, I need the truth. I want to be a journalist, but I don't want to be so strapped financially that my life is utterly miserable.
  2. dragonfly

    dragonfly Member

    Yes, things are depressing right now. Yes, it's going to get worse before it gets better. But I wouldn't discourage a talented young writer from giving it a try.

    What I would say is that you might want to put a time limit on it. Say 3-5 years. You'll work shit hours, for no pay, cover mostly preps most likely, and generally have a pretty good sense after 3-5 years whether it's worth it to stick around any longer, and if you still love it enough to try.

    Meanwhile, you might want to take some classes in a totally different field. Accounting, marketing, economics, etc. that will arm you with some marketable skills if journalism doesn't work out.

    Also, I'd prepare myself to consider things like freelancing, blogging, writing for wire services, etc. Staff jobs are really hard to land right now. A lot of newbies are having to make do with part-time or freelance work. It's still a good experience. But if you don't get a staff job right away, you can look for other things like that.

    That said, don't ever, ever expect to get rich in this business. Take the oath of poverty right now. If you're good, and get the right breaks, you could definitely make enough to buy a house someday. And if you live in a normal part of the country, and not in a big major metro area like New York or LA or Chicago, that house might actually be pretty nice.

    The best thing you have going for you now is your youth. You're young and cheap. And if you're good, you might get some opportunities early on, because so many veterans are leaving the business.

    I'd say if you love it, it's worth a shot. for a few years at least. Because if you take the accounting job now, make 50K out of school, you'll never go back and be willing to make 22K in east bejesus to cover alligator tech women's basketball.

    good luck! and let us know how it goes!
  3. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    I don't know how much money can be made in this business, but I'm 27 and single and make enough money to live on.
    It isn't glamorous by any means, but I still get to do what I love and that is write and get paid for it.
    I am not sure if I would recommend this field to anybody at this point, but if you are dead set on doing it, then why not.
  4. Millionaire

    Millionaire New Member

    I don't expect to get rich. But I would like to make enough money to survive and eat a few meals a week that aren't made in the microwave or toaster.
  5. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    Well, at least right now, that can be done easily.
  6. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Even if I make six figures, I guarantee at least one meal in my day will be cereal. :)

    That said, it sounds like you've got a good head on your shoulders, but that you're really stressing out. More than what might be normal at this stage of the game. If you think that might be the case, and that your anxiety may be keeping you from making the best decision for you, I encourage you to seek out help either from an adviser or your campus counseling center. You've got time, use it to learn skills that will help you cope with pressure, anxiety and uncertainty.
  7. Millionaire

    Millionaire New Member

    For what it's worth, I had a much more positive outlook before I started reading some of the stuff on here. After reading so many posts, it sounds like half of the people here are writing from laptops in a cardboard box on a street corner. This place has scared me.
  8. Barsuk

    Barsuk Active Member


    You'll probably never live up to your screen name in this business ... but you're thinking about all the right things, and it sounds like you have realistic and attainable expectations. Give it your all and go for it, but be prepared to go back to school and get that business or accounting degree if things get worse.

    Best of luck.
  9. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    Of course it's possible, but not instantaneous. One of the great societal changes of the the last 20 -25 years is that today there is an expectation that one will and must succeed immediately, or else it will never happen, and that paying one's dues isn't worth it. Not to go too old school, but when I graduated from college in the dark ages, entering an economy far, far worse than this one, none of us thought we'd settle in and even have our student loans paid off by the time we were thirty - and buying a house? Not in the realm. But there's nothing wrong with poverty - it's one of the best motivators around. If you want to be a better writer try working sixty or seventy hours a week doing physical labor, living in a shithole, and you'll be shocked at how motivated you can become.

    I'm certain that by your standards I was "strapped financially" until I was about 27-28, but even after that I was, for a time "utterly miserable" because even though I was making a lot of money I was doing a job I didn't want to do. But misery is a motivator too. So get this - I went the opposite direction so many here advocate - I chose the possibility of "strapped financially" over "utterly miserable," and quit an office job - and another career - to write.

    Fifteen years later, at fifty, I'm damn comfortable. But the house didn't come til I was 35, right about the time the student loans were finally paid off.
  10. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Millionaire, it sounds like you have a realistic outlook on this business. That's good. As long as you do, you'll do O.K.

    Like the other posters before me, I would advise to have a strong backup plan. Otherwise, as long as you are realistic, I would say go for it. You don't want to be middle-aged, and saying to yourself, "I wish I'd tried that when I was younger."
  11. trifectarich

    trifectarich Well-Known Member

    Follow your heart. The world doesn't need any more people who hate what they do for a living.

    Maybe in due time you'll meet someone and get married, and maybe two incomes will go a long way toward addressing your financial concerns.

    It sounds as though you really know what you want to do.
  12. captzulu

    captzulu Member

    As others have said: Good for you for having a realistic approach. If you really feel like you love journalism, give it a go, but definitely have a backup plan. And start working on that backup plan now. Get a non-journalism degree, even if it means you have to stay in school for another year or two. Believe me, it's a lot easier to stay in school than to go back to school later on in life. You said that you thought about switching to business or accounting but has no passion for those, but what about something other than that? There's nothing that says you have to go into business if you don't do journalism. You could be very thankful for that degree 5 years down the road, since it's a lot easier to love the craft of journalism, especially while in college, than the business of journalism. And of course, since you're just getting out of school, don't stress yourself out. You're what, 22? You have plenty of time to figure out if journalism is right for you and change fields if it isn't; just make sure you have set up a situation where you'll have options.
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