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Question for experienced Journalists

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by pderrick, Dec 21, 2011.

  1. pderrick

    pderrick New Member

    Just wanted a bit of advice from some experienced journalists. I'm a Network Architect with an electrical engineering degree making close to 6 figures in the Houston area. I'm currently 27 years old and unfortunately this isn't what I want to do. I have always wanted to be a sports journalist. I'm currently enrolled at the University of Houston trying to work my way toward a journalism degree but wanted to ask you guys what is the best way to get my foot in the door? Im currently writing some odd and end freelance stuff and doing some writing for an online company. Just wanted to get your guys take and see what route you guys think I should take or what kind of jobs I should be looking for?
  2. Flying Headbutt

    Flying Headbutt Moderator Staff Member

    You can start by donating 80-percent or so of your salary to charity, since that's how much less you'll be making.
  3. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    If you have a bachelors degree, you don't need another one. Take a few courses in journalism, including media law, and start freelancing for small papers in the area. At this point, your best bet is to start a blog, be serious about it, and hope it gets recognized for quality journalism. If you want to make $30k/year for the rest of your life, just quit your job now and write for the student paper.
  4. TheHacker

    TheHacker Member

    Flying Headbutt is correct ... you're talking about taking a massive pay cut if you're near six figures now. And you're also talking about leaving behind a field where there is a viable job market to pursue a field where the opposite is true. Jobs are drying up in our business, and even if you're independently wealthy and can afford to take the pay cut, there are a ton of people with more experience than you who are looking for work.

    I'm not trying to insult you or talk you out of anything, but I think you should have a realistic idea of what you're talking about. Starting out without a background in the field, you're going to be lucky to make high $20,000's.

    If you want to write, I strongly suggest you do it on the side, as a freelancer, and forget the idea of trying to move into it fulltime. Find some local papers or websites that cover high school sports and approach the editors there about freelancing. Right now, with no experience, that's all you're qualified to cover. Be realistic. And understand that the vast majority of people in sports journalism will never get anywhere close to a six-figure salary. You're better off where you are, man.
  5. jlee

    jlee Well-Known Member


    I'm your age, so take this with a grain of salt.

    If sports writing just seems more satisfying to you than you're current job, freelancing and odd work is a great way to scratch that itch without getting burned out by the hours, demands or fiscal woes of a full-time position.

    If you're freelancing for more than just Bleacher Report or a similar venue, meaning that you're covering games live/interviewing/enterprising, you're doing the right thing. Keep it up, and never lose a phone number.

    Some folks will advise you to eschew a journalism degree because it is a waste of money and time, and if you presume a degree is a necessary element to employment (and a guarantee to employment or a higher salary), they're right. But if you can afford it and don't look at it as a pipeline to employment, I say go get as much education as you see fit. A few classes in the basics and media law will probably do the trick, though. If school doesn't seem to be helping you progress, and you're going through the motions, get out and save yourself thousands.

    In all cases: Good luck!

  6. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    A way to get into the journalism business is to write for trade journals. You have to love to write as much as you live sports. Plus, you can develop contacts in the industry if you want to transition to sports.
  7. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    I would offer to trade jobs with you if I hadn't recently lost mine.
  8. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    If I were looking for journalists I would question your decision-making abilities.
  9. podunk press

    podunk press Active Member

    Trust me on this:

    Keep your six-figure job. I don't care if it's not what you truly want to be doing. The journalism industry is contracting at an astounding rate. Several of the best young sportswriters in the country have been laid off in the last five years. It's a frightening, frustrating industry to be in.

    I've been furloughed, watched my friends get laid off and struggled to pay my mortgage for the last five years.

    It's. Not. Worth. It.

    What I would suggest, however, is keeping your current job and freelancing instead. It might be the only work you find anyway in a cutthroat industry.

    And if you want to ignore my sage advice that will be supported by 99.2 percent of the folks who actually work in this industry, do some free internships. Meet some editors and writers. Stay quiet in pool interviews until you learn what a good question is and what isn't. Be humble. Do great work.
  10. Freelance.

    You can get the thrill of it without that insane pay cut and the really low points of the day-to-day grind of being a sports writer.

    If you still want to pursue this, you and I can trade jobs.
  11. CentralIllinoisan

    CentralIllinoisan Active Member

    Keep your current job. If you want to dabble in sports journalism, contact a local paper and see if they hire part-time staffers. We have guys at our shop who have a 40-hour-a-week job elsewhere but covers a part-time beat (for a pretty good Division I soccer team) for us; pretty flexible for him.

    You also could just cover prep or small college games on weekends.
  12. pderrick

    pderrick New Member

    Thanks for the great advice. It is always best to hear it from the people who see the ugliness of the situation and go through the everyday grind. I will continue to do freelance and go to school while keeping my day job for now. As for the future we shall see what happens but I definitely know it is a dog eat dog world that I am highly debating before entering.

    Paul D
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