So you're a high school or college student, and you want to work in the news business, but you're not sure where to start. Here, step-by-step, is a list of the things you can do to have a good shot at landing a journalism job when college graduation rolls around.
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There are dozens if not hundreds of journalism schools across the country. How do you find the one that fits your needs? Look carefully at the qualifications of your professors and the quality of the student newspaper. Check out what other extracurricular activities available and see whether the school has state-of-the-art technology, or outdated equipment.
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Sure, joining the staff of your student newspaper is extra work, but there are plenty of reasons why you should do it anyway. Student newspapers provide the practical experience that editors are looking for, and writing for one is a great way to build your clip portfolio. Also, working for a college paper is the best way to get a sense of whether journalism is what you want to pursue as a career.
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Clips - copies of your published articles - will get you a job after college. It's never too soon to start building your clip portfolio. The more articles you produce, the better you'll get as a reporter and a writer. And the bigger your clip portfolio, the more choosy you can be when it comes time to pick the clips you want to use to apply for jobs.
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Nothing will stand out more on your resume than a journalism internship. Successfully completing an internship shows that you can work in a professional newsroom, producing publishable stories on a real deadline. What better way to make your resume stand out?
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It's not enough any more to just know how to write and report. Journalists need to have as many technical skills as possible to survive in the 21st century news business. Whether you're making web pages, doing layout or shooting digital video, such tech skills will make you more versatile - and marketable.
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Whether you want to work in magazines or broadcast, newspapers or online journalism, you should find out as much as you can about your particular area of interest. Does the fast pace of a wire service appeal to you? Or are magazines more your speed? Do you long to be in front of a camera, or are you more of a behind-the-scenes type? Here you can find information about the many kinds of journalism careers there are.
You can take all the classes you want, but there's nothing like learning about the news biz from someone who's working in it right now. Seek out mentors - journalists in local media or journalism professors - to learn how they established successful careers in their respective fields. Here you can hear directly from journalists working in a variety of jobs - from a reporter at a weekly community paper in New Jersey to the Beijing bureau chief of The Washington Post.
You can also learn from fellow students, especially ones whose work you admire. They may not have decades of experience like the pros, but observing how they work and asking them questions can provide plenty of helpful information and inspiration. And unlike professionals who are much older, student journalists are in the same boat you're in, looking to get their careers started.