Five months ago, I applied for a position at my university’s newspaper. It was only my second semester at Utah Valley University, and my first experience ever when it came to writing. Needless to say, I was terribly underqualified and painfully unexperienced at rhetoric to have any business expressing the views of our paper. If your wanting to join your schools paper but feel inadequate to do so, then let me start off the by saying this…
1. Don’t worry about your level of experience or qualification.
I can only speak from my limited observations, but it seems that for many university’s, the newsroom mostly cares to see that their writers are hardworking and invested in their reporting.
You can believe this from me; don’t limit your opportunities just because you feel out of your league. Look, not only did I not know jack shit about writing, but I also had no goddamn clue how an article was made from an idea, in to a newspaper article with your name on it. Yes, you will ask asinine questions, and yes, there is a learning curve. However, you can take comfort in the fact that your team of editors will understand this. Your editors should be there to show you the ropes, and answer your questions. You only need to show diligence and eagerness.
2. Prioritization is key! If your like most uni students; working to pay the rent, and taking a full load of classes, then you already know the importance of prioritizing. Look, unless you’re living in a parallel universe, than you only have 24 hours in a day, and only 7 days a week. Setting priorities and making sacrifices is the name of the game.
Working at your school’s paper is a part the job. You’ll have split your time between homework, classes, work and whatever also you have going on. And remember this; writing for the paper requires doing research and recon work. You will need to send emails, do interviews and track down sources. This must be done during school hours not afterwards. People are hard to reach after work hours, and you can’t wait around for people to get back to you, so prioritize your time very wisely. That brings me to my next point.
3. Get used to deadlines. I hope you won’t be afraid of strict deadlines. The newsroom operates like clockwork. Every member of the team has a role which depends on the rest of the team being on time with their work. If you know how to finesse your teachers, than you may be able to get away with late homework, but this won’t work in the newsroom. In other words, get ready for all nighters and having sore eyeballs from staring at your computer for eternity.
4. Build rapport. You wont be a bad writer if you don’t know how to build a network and make connections. However, you will 100% find that building real connections will make you a better writer, not to mention make your job much easier. I pitched most of my stories because I often went snooping around the school and built a network of sources that pointed me to my next story, or helped me with my current one. Making these connections will take stress away already stressful (also rewarding) job. Allow me to point out that even the most reserved and introverted of them all can learn to do this. I was always a bashful and awkward young guy, but it only required for me to step out of my comfort zone. After a couple stories, and a few weeks of practice, it becomes more natural. There’s lots of great resources online of how to build a network, but what I can tell you for now is that a sincere smile will go a long way.
5. Work with gusto! This may sound cliche, but working with a joyous attitude will go a really long way. I apply this principle to all my studies, otherwise I can’t make it through a semester without being miserable. General education classes can be meticulous, cumbersome and downright boring. Immersing yourself, and being truly invested makes a huge difference! The same principle applies to writing for the paper. Since you should always be taking stories that are pitched to you, often times, you will have to work on projects that can be as annoying as gen-eds. Make an honest decision to immerse yourself and be inquisitive about the project you’re working on. This will make the work so much more enjoyable in contrast to working on a story that is giving you cancer.
Working for your school paper is so much fun. It will be an experience that will teach you more about writingthan maybe anything else. Of course, it helps to a communications major, but I work with excellent writers who aren’t even studying a social science. I know that time is precious for college students, but ifyou get the time to write for the paper, than do it!