That headline seems obvious, no?
Then why is it that when journalists see layoffs, buyouts, and newspaper companies in trouble, they sigh and say “Should I stop wasting my time and start applying to advertising agencies?”
Here are a few ways you be a journalist without a full-time job at a mainstream news organization:
- Become a placeblogger. Report on your community. Beat the local newspaper, because you’re on the ground in your neighborhood and they’re probably not. Make friends, and eventually, you may find yourself in the advertising business after all, selling space on your awesome local news blog. Example: Baristanet.
- Freelance. It sounds scarier than it is. If you’re passionate about your beat, you might already be blogging about it. That means you have some sort of body of work, or demonstration of your expertise on a given subject. Use that to sell your ideas to magazines, niche publications that have money to spend and small in-house staffs. My first paid reporting gigs were in a tiny little niche of the tech industry that I was interested in, if not necessarily passionate about.
- Got an idea? Get a grant. The Knight News Challenge is a great place to start. If you have a great idea for how to do something innovative with local news, anywhere, you should be applying for a News Challenge grant, and this time next year, you could be getting paid to do something amazing, full-time.
- Get a job at a non-profit, and do journalism that matters for them. Is that something like PR? Maybe, but if you love the work they do, isn’t this a bit of a shortcut to saving the world?
None of these gigs involve working full-time for a big media company. What was it exactly that you wanted out of journalism? To work for a big company, or to be a journalist?
It’s not that simple, of course. My health insurance is a bit more reliable now than it was when I was a student or a bartender. (And you don’t even want to know how underinsured I was when I freelanced in the movie business.)
But if journalism is your passion, you’ll find the work you want.