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The Stupid Newbie Question Of The Day

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by BrianMcDowell, May 9, 2009.

  1. BrianMcDowell

    BrianMcDowell Member

    Be aware that I am prepared in advance to be mocked and belittled for asking such a stupid question here, but my curiousity compels me to ask anyway. There is a thread here for freelance stringers, a job which I think I'd be good at, and, as a non-college graduate with a slight bit of writing talent and a genuine interest in sports journalism, seems like it would be a semi-decent and non-degrading way to get my foot in the door.
    What I would like to know is, for these jobs, are these places that I would be expected to have access to (or pay for) or would the paper that hired me arrange entrance into the event, and I'd just write the story? I mean, if I see an ad looking for a stringer to cover, say, a St. Louis Cardinals game, am I expected to be able to get into the pressbox or the stadium on my own accord, or would the publication procure the proper credentials?
    Again, I know I look like a rank amateur asking such a question to an esteemed panel of journalistic professionals like yourselves, but I really would like to know. I live in the St. Louis area and I really am looking for innovative ways to get my foot in the door. Any help or advice would be appreciated.

    Brian McDowell
  2. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Can't get the answer if you don't ask. Welcome.

    If a newspaper hires you, it arranges for your credentials by providing an assignment letter that you can use as verification you are working for the paper. You don't have to pay - parking, etc. should either be covered by the fee or reimbursed.
  3. joe king

    joe king Active Member

    One point that you might want to consider: Don't expect to start by stringing St. Louis Cardinals games. Big league and big college assignments tend to go to those with some experience who have proven there's some ability -- and, more important, reliability -- there. Expect to start with out-of-the-way high schools (or even lower levels) and work your way up as sports editors get to know you or you have some clips that show you can handle it.

    Good luck. You're going to need it (not a shot -- we all need it these days)
  4. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    The best chance for you will come in the fall with high school football. A lot of papers need help and you might get $50-$75 per game out of it if you live near a decent-sized city. But expect a lot of $25 jobs, too.
  5. GB-Hack

    GB-Hack Active Member


    I started off pretty much as Stitch indicated you might, $30 a game for high school football for a small, small paper. They liked me, so I did more, like Junior College basketball and other high school sports. Did that for a year, and they referred me to the much bigger paper in the city I lived (I was driving 70-80 miles round-trip for the first paper).

    Did high school football, odds and sods for a year, and then started picking up minor prep beats. That I was doing that allowed me to start working for other papers when opportunity arose.

    The best advice I can give you is call the local paper's local sports editor, or if the paper isn't that big the sports editor, and offer your services. You'll need to be a Martini Man -- Anytime, any place, anywhere (And yes, when I think about it, that bugs me too) -- but if you get in good, they'll keep you in work.
  6. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    Look for out of the mainstream events not typically covered by papers live (the list grows daily), I've got to think there are events, maybe minor league golf tour or something, that would welcome writers working on spec. Contact a paper ahead of time, tell them you'll send them a story on the event, if they don't like it fine, if they use it, they owe you $50. The local events appreciate the arrangement because they can tell sponsors there was at least possible news coverage instead of no coverage at all. You're even more valuable if you can take decent pictures.
  7. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I can't completely agree with that, DanO. If the event is important enough to a paper, they can agree to pay for it. If they don't like the writing and don't publish it, fine, but they can still send me my $50.
  8. jlee

    jlee Well-Known Member

    Make sure you get paid. The good folks in the newsroom aren't the ones who send out the checks.
  9. GoDeacs

    GoDeacs New Member

    Amen to that. Six years later, the Charlotte Observer STILL owes me $125. But I'm not bitter or anything.
  10. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    I don't think that you think you know everything, which is a good start. A very humble first post from someone who seems genuinely concerned about stepping on toes - and we need more of that these days.

    Try to keep that attitude. Rather than sitting down after an event and just telling what happened, read other stories first. Perhaps it's your hometown paper - read similar stories, take note of style, take note of tone, etc. There's nothing more frustrating than seeing kids fresh out of college think they know everything and turn in a piece of absolute slop on their first try.

    Just remember that you're on our turf now. Act like it.
  11. Dan Hickling

    Dan Hickling Member

    I have never done a story on spec ... I don't believe that's the way to go ...
  12. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    If you're just starting out and want some experience, I don't think its a bad idea. It's a way to get a foot in the door. Obviously its best to get a commitment up front, but its a new world in journalism. You want to get experience, its good practice. I know you don't get any better by not writing and waiting for the phone to ring.
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