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10 Steps to Break into News and Journalism`

Do you have aspirations of becoming the next Ernest Hemingway? Do you like being "in the know," on a first-name basis with government leaders, high-profile developers, or personalities?                     

Do you like being sought by folks who want to tell their story, run for political office, or publicize their business?

Or do you want to earn a steady income doing what you love, writing?

Consider becoming a news reporter. Local news outlets are a great place to build your portfolio quickly. You can also make it a stepping stone to magazines, free-lance writing, wire services, syndicates, public relations/advertising, publishing or authorship.

The lifestyle of a news reporter is fun, yet demanding, often requiring long hours at government meetings, in courtrooms, or in front of the computer, conducting research, making telephone calls and writing news stories.

Dedication requires the reporter to represent his employer if he/she happens to be on the scene when news happens, no matter what the time. A dedicated reporter also is expected to offer help during major news events like hurricanes or floods, even if they fall on his/her off days.

A dedicated reporter can be caught reading their own, or a competing news outlet or magazine, even on their off time. They'll frequently listen to many television broadcasts.

They're also likely to be avid readers, devouring books as a hobby.

While news reporters have the reputation of being a bit pushy, sometimes obnoxiously pushy, many reporters would describe themselves as a bit shy. The mild-mannered reporter who folks have come to know and trust is likely to be first person getting a hot news tip.

Because even reporters can specialize, these shy types eventually can settle into a feature writing job about gardening, or write about local sports, without having to be very aggressive.

It is the muckraker, an investigative reporter writing about government-related or business scandals, who likely will fall behind for lack of aggression. These scandals attract reporters from various media, making the job much more competitive.

So how do you actually get one of these coveted reporting jobs? We'll take a look at several important steps.

Step One — Keep up with current events by reading your local news outlets and listening to broadcast news. Consider subscribing to a well respected news outlets like The New York Times or The Miami Herald. Read them faithfully, paying attention to how articles are crafted.

Step Two — While a degree in journalism or mass communications is nice to have it is by no means a requirement. Get training/references in news writing and reporting from sites like Poynter's Poynter's News University, which offers more than 400 courses to help future journalists . Be sure to take advantage of opportunities to write and edit your school newspaper. Train to work for online news outlets to broaden your base of opportunities. Learn how to use a common professional news content management systems.

Step Three — Be an intern. Seek opportunities to intern at a local news operation during the summer or school year. Take advantage of this time to learn as much as you can, make valuable contacts, build your portfolio, and get professional references.

Step Four — Consider becoming a news stringer as a part-time job while you're in school. The small part-time assignment could bloom into a full-time job when you graduate.

Step Five — Go for your dream. Apply to the news outlets, wire services, or major metro news organizations. Don't wait for them to run an ad. The ad will bring piles of competition. Be willing to take an intern job, if necessary. Consider starting as a copy editor, but be sure to let them know you want to be a reporter so they can plan to give you the job when it becomes available.

Step Six — If you fail to get hired at your dream organization, or if you're not sure where you want to work, check news job resources like JournJobs.com and other online job boards and upload your resume. send letters of application, along with your resume, to a big batch of eligible employers. Offer samples of your work and references.

Step Seven — Be sure to follow up, providing all requested information.

Step Eight — When an editor requests an interview, dress professionally. Yes, even consider buying a suit, depending on the size and reputation of the news organization. (A suit probably is not necessary for small news outlets.) Even at larger news outlets, reporters typically wear casual, comfortable clothing, although suits and dressier clothing are required for some jobs. An interview is definitely time to pull out the suit at these newspapers. In any event, look professional and resist the temptation to wear your tattered jeans. They may not be allowed because you represent your employer where-ever you go on assignment.

Step Nine — Prepare for your interview by learning about the company beforehand. Plan to answer basic questions like why you would be an asset to their news staff and why you would like to work there. Be prepared to talk a little bit about yourself, but have questions to ask about the company and an editor's expectations. Check into the area's cost of living beforehand. Editors can and do negotiate on occasion, so you should know your salary requirements and politely let them know your needs. The salary on your first job may not be negotiable, however, so avoid appearing greedy.

Step Ten — Repeat the application and interview process as necessary until you land the big dream job!

Once on the job, you may find yourself writing death or engagement notices, or covering police news. If you are assigned to cover suburban news, you may monitor local government, schools, police and courthouse events, take your own photographs and write features. It's a great place to learn the ropes and find out what assignments you like best.

Consider joining the local press club or journalism organization like the Fourth Estate or the Society of Professional Journalists to make more contacts and establish yourself.