The Life of a Freelance Journalist

Working as a news reporter or journalist is one of the more chaotic careers for a freelancer. To fall in love with this career, you’ll need a lot of self-confidence in conversing with strangers and different personality-types to flesh out a story. Many journalism jobs demand that you spend a lot of time seeking out interesting stories, trekking from location to location, and writing under same-day deadlines. If you savor this type of experience, and if you want to push your personal resourcefulness and creative thinking to the max, then this type of writing career may be a perfect match for you.

What is journalism?

When we refer to journalism (whether it’s freelance, part-time, or a staff position), we should mention the two common types: 1) newspaper (or news) journalism and 2)magazine journalism.

Ordinarily, newspaper (or news) journalism entails: 1) a narrower selection of topics than magazine journalism; 2) a writing style that is noticeably more concise; and 3) a tighter focus on form.

Common newspaper write-ups adhere to an ordered structure: the journalist writes themost valuable information and facts first, followed by the least valuable. For instance, a news report about a neighborhood ceremony might begin with “The X Ceremony will drive down Jefferson Avenue at 9:00 a.m. Sunday on behalf of Y,” while the journalist might end the news report with “Sightseers are encouraged to carry sunshades.

A Journalist’s Workday

Furthermore, composing an article for a newspaper or news website implies that you have the competency to discover and uncover the news. A journalist’s “normal” workday resembles this:

7 AM — the editor delegates a news topic or concept to the journalist at 7 a.m.

10 AM — By 10 a.m. the journalist is calling and e-mailing different people associated with the topic. For a story on the increasing fuel prices, the journalist will contact officials of petroleum companies,
nearby gasoline station owners, automobile owners (questioned on the road or at gas depots), automobile makers, and district lawmakers. Journalists often interview any person who is relevant and meaningful to the topic — one who can deliver some high-quality, concise quotes and details.

12 PM — 3 PM — Compiling information and facts continues for much of the day, often wrapping up close to late afternoon.

3 PM — 5 PM — The journalist tackles the topic head on: writing, revising and reworking the article, as well as fact-checking and re-checking sources
where appropriate.

5 PM — 6 PM — The journalist submits his masterpiece to the editor or managing editor later that evening, depending on the deadline. If the editor suggests revisions, or catches any errors, the journalist must peruse his copy and fix the errors and make the improvements.

7 P.M. — At that point the journalist can go home to sleep — until 7 a.m. whirls around once again, and the editor assigns him the next news topic.

Writing Feature Articles for News Publications

Depending on the publication or website, an editor may give you more freedom to compose longer “feature” editorials. These turn up in movie and entertainment sections, diet and lifestyle columns, health and wellness sections, or other non-news sections. Sometimes news publications print these sections weekly, instead of daily, to reduce print and paper costs. A news website may do the same — not to save costs, of course — but to entice readers to come back to read the special feature or section.

For instance, a special section on new movies might only come out on Fridays, the food and nutrition section on Tuesdays, and the homes and lifestyle section on Wednesdays, etc. That the news publication or website publishes different sections on different days gives the freelance journalist additional time to explore, fact-find and write an exceptional, fully-developed feature article.

Applying the similar fact-finding methods (contacting every person attached to the subject matter, booking
interviews, integrating blunt details from a huge reservoir of information), a feature journalist forges a more complete appeal of the chosen topic than what a news journalist can accomplish in a concise news-only column.

Likewise, you have more liberty in choosing a subject that interests you. Maybe you discovered an extraordinary small-town music group that needs a review? Perhaps you volunteer at a non-profit organization that accomplishes meaningful work in the community and merits a publicity story? How about composing a story on the medical perks of donating
blood? A news publication’s “features” section is a terrific platform to build your writing skills and incorporate many things that interest you. Moreover, features don’t rely closely on the ordered “news” style format, thus rendering your job less complicated (or more difficult, if you find it troublesome to format an article with no formal criteria.)

The easiest way to pursue freelance journalism jobs is pretty obvious: for newspapers, you must have 1) a portfolio of news articles, 2) a solid understanding of style manuals (particularly Associated Press style), and 3) a readiness to work on “sloppy seconds” article topics until the editor-in-chief advances you to freelancing on more rewarding projects.

For magazines, it’s ideal to research your topics and write your articles ahead of time; later on you can email query letters to the proper editors in anticipation of selling your article for publication. In both scenarios, you can find writer’s guidelines or submission guidelines on the publication’s website; if not, simply e-mail the editor for the guidelines.

Pursuing a journalism career is not for every person who desires to write what they want and to see their name in print. Many freelance writing jobs revolve around a foreseen cycle of research, writing and editing; whereas the assortment and uniqueness of writing news stories and feature pieces shuns all mundane routines for a steady spurt of impromptu interviews, person-to-person contact, and exciting
information-collecting. But to some writers, this is far-removed from a downside. If you’re one of those freelancers, then establish your portfolio of work right now, contact some editors (either by a scheduled visit or by inquiry), and prep yourself for a prosperous profession in freelance journalism.

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