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What's a rookie to do?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by KG, Apr 2, 2007.

  1. KG

    KG Active Member

    I guess I'm classified as a rookie reporter.

    I've had my own column in a monthly magazine for about a year and a half. It's just three pages of a digest-sized, but I've also had features and cover stories for the same magazine.

    The particular magazine is a trade magazine that has nothing to do with sports, however, it does do a reader giveaway prize of an all expenses paid trip to the final event at the end of the season. It's a nationwide magazine and my column is widely accepted. Advertisers pay more to reserve the spots next to it.

    Since the beginning of this season, I have my own column in a local, weekly paper. It's all of page two in the sports section and part of another page. It's doing really well too. Prior to my column, it was local sports only.

    It's kind of funny how I got the newspaper column. I had written one article for the editor in the past about a local kid that had made the big leagues. And even that article had been about three months or so before I contacted him about the column. But one day I just got in one of my cocky and confident moods and decided to sit down and write him an email.

    I told the editor that the paper needed to cover this national sport and I was the person he needed to do it. After I hit send I started laughing at myself, wondering quite frankly if I'd lost my mind or if I truly knew what I was doing. It was a Friday afternoon around 4:30, so even if he was going to respond with a laughing in my face email, I didn't expect to hear anything from him until at least Monday or Tuesday. To my surprise, he emailed me back within five minutes. He thought it was a great idea and wanted to hammer out the details right away.

    I've also been writing for a website for about nine months, although I've scaled back quite a bit this season because it's unpaid. I just do it because I really do enjoy writing and it gets my name out there.

    I know I have to pay my dues to get my foot in the door in this industry and to gain recognition, but how much experience do I really need before seeking employment in this full time? While I'll do it as long as it takes, it's hard to work full time, sit through several hours of grueling traffic each week, and then keep up with everything that's going on to write each week outside of my "real job."

    Which by the way, my real job is working for the abovementioned magazine, but my title has nothing to do with writing. That column and the features are just extra things I've taken on.

    OK and here's the big fess up. I worry that because my Bachelors is in Marketing, not Journalism, the rungs on the ladder I'm trying to climb are going to be spaced far apart.

    Can anyone offer any advice?
  2. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    What kinda contest?
  3. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Well, you have the gumption, and you're accumulating clips. If you're any good, you'll continue to open eyes.

    The degree doesn't matter much, in my opinion. Not if you get good experience.
  4. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    OK... serious like.
    You've established yourself as a NASCAR writer. Good, because its a growing sport; bad because a lot of people write about NASCAR -- not only the web, but every paper within 50 miles of a Cup track needs one. Good, because there are a lot of women in NASCAR -- Lee Spencer, Marlo Klain among others.
    Marketing is good, because you can market yourself.
    Question you need to ask is if you want to continue down the path in NASCAR, would you relocate? If you want to branch out into other sports, why don't you start with the editor at the paper you write for and ask for other assignments? Clips never hurt; neither does broadening your horizon.
  5. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Kathy, You seem sincere, so I won't be snarky. There's no magic formula. But good things tend to happen to people who make them happen--much like the e-mail you send to that newspaper editor. It really depends what you want out of life. If you want a full-time beat writers' job covering a major sport, you probably won't have much luck with the sort of experience you have; at least not this point. There are just more experienced writers who have taken a more traditional path from little newspapers and prep beats on up. If you are ready to move anywhere and take that small newspaper job, then yeah, get to it. You have as much of a chance as anyone else. Just be persistent in trying to make it happen.

    If you love writing, and prefer featuring writing anyhow, start querying magazines--again, much like you hit up that newspaper editor. And take the same approach. To a certain degree, clips beget clips. But even with your limited experience, you might be surprised by who might give you a chance (if you are also willing to risk the rejection) on just a good idea alone and a clip or two that shows you have at least a small clue. My two suggestions would be to: 1) Start small. Think in terms of front of the book, short article sections. 2) Know the magazines you are querying well and tailor your ideas specifically to the magazines. It isn't just having a great idea. It's sending something that makes the case that what you are suggesting fits that magazine perfectly. Put yourself in the head of the editor compiling that section every week and do it by knowing the kinds of stories he or she runs.

    Once you get your feet into some doors, it actually isn't that hard. You actually don't even have to be that good. Reliable counts for as much as supertalented, because magazine editors hate dealing with flakes who don't deliver.

    Hope that helps a little. Someone else might be able to offer better newspaper advice.
  6. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Oh yeah... Just so I can say I did it...

    You're hired!!!

  7. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    I don't understand. If you took a fulltime writing job -- you wouldn't have your "real job" anymore.

    No one is going to hire a full-time write who has another full-time job -- now if they freelance on the side that's a whole different (and sometimes tricky) thing.
  8. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    So much for not being snarky,,, :D
  9. KG

    KG Active Member

    I know it's probobly a downfall, but I'm really not interested in writing about other sports. Plus, working full time and doing the writing on the side doesn't leave me with enough time to pay close enough attention to justifyably cover another one.

    However, if it were for NASCAR, I'd relocate tommorow if asked. It's not reallly a question of will I make it as a NASCAR reporter, it's just when. I can promise you right now that I will make it, because I won't stop chasing my goal until I have it.

    I just know that with what I'm doing now, I need to take it a step further, because I'm feeling stagnent and need to keep moving forward.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    To be honest, I don't understand people who want to write about just one sport. I understand being comfortable in one or being an expert in one, but if your desire is to write, it really shouldn't matter what you write about.
  11. KG

    KG Active Member

    That's kind of the point.
  12. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Think about this: Asking for the occasional different assignments isn't going to hurt for the simple fact it not only shows your versatility, but allows you to step out of your element if needed. NASCAR is more than four left turns; it's finances, it's business, it's marketing, it's engineering, it's human interest, it's the police blotter and sometimes, it's injury and death.
    I'm not suggesting covering baseball or softball help you toward your goal, but other areas will help you hone writing about other topics when needed.
    Anyone can cover races; hell I did it and I could have cared less. Anyone can offer opinion. Knowing how to back it up by knowing how to portray and deal with the other aspects of the business can only help.
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