8 Tips to Make A Great Impression for New Journalists

Now, once you're actually hired as a reporter and are writing for a news organization, this is when the real fun begins. Maybe you just want to freelance, and don't have any hopes to ever become a full-time reporter. Or maybe your idea of the big-time is full-time and that's really what you're after.

Either way, these are tips you should follow to be successful and keep jobs coming your way:

  1. Be available. Many times editors need to get in touch with you immediately for an assignment that may start in a couple of hours.

    Provide reliable cell phone numbers and email addresses and check them often for messages. If you happen to miss a call, return it as soon as you can, preferably within the same day. 

  2. Take all the jobs you can, but if you have to turn something down, turn it down. That means don't overextend yourself to the point where you'll be writing about something you can't adequately cover for whatever reason. It's better to turn a job down than to take it on and do poorly. 

  3. View every assignment as if it's your last, and do the best job you can. Never look at an assignment like, "oh, it's just xxxx" or "this doesn't really matter" or "what a stupid thing to cover." Look at each assignment as if it's the most important thing in the world and cover it accordingly.

  4. Be flexible in terms of what you'll cover. Versatility is a good thing. Showing that you can cover a variety of topics competently will earn you clout. Don't take on something you don't think you can handle, but then again don't turn something down just because it's slightly unfamiliar. 

  5. Ask questions when you don't understand something. Don't be afraid to clarify an assignment if you're not sure about what you need to do. It's better to ask a question than to produce something other than what was expected. 

  6. Do not ask to be hired full-time, Even if you want to be hired full-time. Express interest in and enthusiasm for your job, but let your writing do your talking for you. If they want to hire you, they will.

    Asking to be hired is borderline nagging, and it won't really get you anywhere. 

    Related Note: Someone told me once they were getting a book published, which they hoped would give their name some clout so the paper they were freelancing for would hire them full-time. This is stupid. Papers don't hire you because of your name, unless you're Donald Trump writing a guest column about investing in real estate.  They hire you because of the quality of your writing and reporting.

    Do an excellent job on your assignments if you really want to join the paper's staff. Don't publish a book. For that reason anyway. 

  7. Get familiar with AP Style and by an AP Stylebook, if the news organization you're writing for doesn't give you one. These are the generally accepted guidelines and rules on grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and the like that all newspapers follow. When you don't know AP Style it gives editors more work to do and makes you look unprofessional.

  8. Read the paper you write for, as well as other papers, as often as you can. Compare your stories to other stories they publish.

    Note the strong and weak points in each. Look at what you already do well, and what you could do better. Look at the kind of content your news organization carries.

    Compare that to other news organizations. You should be reading articles on a regular basis, to become more educated in news writing in general, as well as the nature of your publication.

Of course, while following all of these steps, you have to seriously evaluate the quality of your writing and reporting and whether you are cut out for the job of reporter.

No matter how quickly you get back to an editor that calls you, if you can't string a sentence together it's unlikely anyone's going to hire you. But provided you are a competent writer and a hardworking reporter and you follow these tips, you should have a successful freelancing career, and could possibly turn your freelancing gig into a full-time job.