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|How to Become a Copy Editor|
By Bill Walsh, The Washington Post
Um, are you sure you want to do this? Copy editing isn't nearly as great a career as one might be led to believe. Then again, I find it hard to imagine doing anything else. If you think you might feel the same way (and you like the idea of working from 3 till midnight), read on.
Three things to get you started:
Bill Walsh, chief of the Business copy desk at The Washington Post, also runs The Slot (www.theslot.com), a World Wide Web site on usage and editing. This article is reprinted from the site with permission. Walsh's first book, "Lapsing Into a Comma," was published in August 2000.
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|Interviewing for a Newspaper or TV Reporting Job|
1. Sell Yourself.
2. Show Knowledge of the Company.
3. Ask About Training and Advancement
4. Be Ready to Talk About Your Clips or Demo Tape
5. Be a Good Sport
6. Keep Your Options Open
Some Other Things to Keep in Mind:
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|Broadcasters: Top 8 Ways To Sound Natural Reading From A Script|
By Susan Berkley
The biggest mistake script readers make is getting so engrossed in correctly saying the words on the page, they forget to communicate with the human beings on the other side of the paper! They sound stilted, boring and put every one to sleep.
Don't let that happen to you. Here are 8 of my broadcaster's tips to help you sound great:
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|Do You Need a Graduate Degree in Journalism?|
By Walden Siew
Walden Siew, a reporter for Reuters, is a 1995 graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
So you're thinking about getting a graduate degree in journalism. In that case -- if you've done your basic reporting -- you're probably getting a lot of contradictory advice.
The crusty city editor or beat reporter is probably telling you it's a waste of time. "Graduate degree in journalism! You learn everything on the job," a Chicago Sun-Times reporter growled at me long ago. Thanks for the advice, buddy, but his sentiments came too late. I happened to meet him while on a treasure hunt that Northwestern University assigned to their fresh-faced J-school students to learn about the joys of digging through public records.
So, when I say J-school is not a waste of time, well, to say otherwise would be to invalidate a year of my life and more than $15,000 in tuition and expenses.
But besides that, I also happen to believe it's true. Here's why:
1. Experience. The great luxury of graduate school is the chance to work on a variety of beats -- a freedom few reporters have once entrenched in their job. I got to cover state government in Springfield (IL), Chicago politics, business news and also research then-emerging media companies such as America Online. The top J-schools also typically have good instruction on computer-assisted reporting, international programs or specialty training. They often have the latest equipment, which may spoil you. Accustomed to high-speed Internet-access, I was shocked to find Stone Age-era computers at my first newspaper job out of school.
One caveat: If you have experience in newspapers or an undergraduate degree in journalism, grad school may be redundant for you. That's a familiar complaint of some J-school students who did come in with more experience. Otherwise, it can be a great opportunity for discovery.
2. Learn From The Best. Look for schools that can boast journalists with impressive credentials. Get experience you don't get at a newspaper job. Any specialized training will help you down the road, if not immediately at your first job. Pay less attention to the location of the school and more attention to quality of instructors. J-school should give you the opportunity to meet and learn from experts in the field.
3. Networking. There's a long list of those who have tread the path before you; it's remarkable how often you cross paths. It does help. But besides the networking, J-schools attract a lot of quality people from diverse backgrounds, ranging from former lawyers and MBAs to the stereotypical Woodward and Bernstein wannabes. Learn from students, journalists and professors who you admire, and keep in touch. Avoid those you don't.
4. Alumni Services. Along with networking, alumni services often can tell you about new job openings, journalism seminars and the latest trends in your field.
Here's the other side of the story.
1. Cost. Enough said.
2. Experience. Most of what you learn in any formal training is rarely used in "the real world." That old Sun-Times reporter was right in that you probably will learn most of what you need to know on the job. But if we extend that logic, why go to college, or even high school? However, if you know you want to be a sports reporter and have landed your first job at the local paper, you probably are on the best path to getting your dream job.
3. Pay. While a J-school degree may be impressive, it doesn't usually pay off when negotiating a salary or raise. Most newspapers and broadcast jobs pay by experience, and this is especially so for unionized companies. Just another consideration.
Last Advice: Graduate school is a huge investment, both in time and money. Before embarking, make sure you are fairly committed to becoming a journalist. How? If you don't have a lot of experience, get an internship. Freelance stories. Get your feet wet before you take the plunge. Don't go to grad school because you didn't get into law school or don't have anything better to do. Good luck!
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|Freelance Writing: 10 Tips to Keep in Mind|
|By Monique I. Cuvelier
Monique Cuvelier is a freelance writer based in Boston, Mass. She has written for numerous publications, including Smart Computing/PC Novice, Britannica.com, Family Software Magazine, Motoring and Leisure, Time Out, Aquent Magazine, Portera, CFO Magazine, EYE Magazine, and Apogee Photo Magazine. She is the author of "Consumer Guide's Best Web Sites for Jobs."
With luck, pluck, and skin as thick as whale blubber, you can be a freelance writer. If you're persistent enough and the stars are smiling down on you, seeing your name in print isn't as inaccessible as you might think. But serendipity and talent will take you only so far. You'll need to learn freelancing's own brand of etiquette and adopt a little business sense to succeed. Here are 10 important points to keep in mind when launching your freelance writing career.
1. Network. Freelancing is lonely work, and it's easy to lose touch with other writers. Making friends in the biz, however, can be the best career move you can make. Join some associations like the National Writers Union or correspond with members of a writer's e-mail list to meet people in your area. Besides patting your back when you've done well, friends can pass newspaper and magazine leads to you.
2. Know your rights. Publishing rights are one of the most confusing aspects of freelancing, but it's one of the most important to understand. If a publisher owns the right to your copy, that means you can't sell it anywhere else – some contracts even bar you from writing again on the same topic or demand that you sign away rights for articles already published. In a writer's paradise, you'd retain all rights, allowing you to resell an article to as many magazines or newspapers as will buy it.
Here's a short rundown of rights commonly sold by freelancers, but study other resources for a more comprehensive understanding: Electronic Rights: A publication may publish your work in any electronic medium, from Web sites to CD-ROMs. First Serial Rights: A publication may publish your article for the first time in any periodical, but you retain all other rights. Reprint Rights: A publication may run your story after it has appeared somewhere else. Reprint rights are nonexclusive, meaning you can sell them to many magazines or newspapers.
3. Be professional. Always turn in professional-looking queries and manuscripts, either on a discreet letterhead or on clean, white paper. Also check first to see if a publication is willing to accept electronic submissions. If so, make sure to format them appropriately.
4. Know the difference between "query letter" and "cover letter." A query is meant to entice editors into accepting an article, not to bully them into hiring you. Brash bragging and badgering might help you climb the corporate ladder, but these tactics are as good as a nonstop ticket to the slush pile in the publishing world. Woo editors with your writing prowess, not your capacity for self-flattery.
5. Ask for a raise. I don't know of one magazine or newspaper that will volunteer to give you more money. They're quite happy to let you coast along indeterminately on the same rate you had when you began. After you've built a good relationship with an editor for six months or more, and you've proven you are a trustworthy contributor, ask for a raise. Explain that you've been dependable on deadlines, available for rewrites, and flexible with article focus. Any respectable publication will do the best it can to provide you with at least another $0.05 per word, but if they act insulted that you want more money, walk away.
6. A check in hand is worth... Especially if you have just begun working for a new publication, have a check in hand before proposing another story idea. It's tempting to submit queries to the same magazine when you know the editor likes your style and you're loaded with great ideas, but resist until you feel comfortable about being paid. Many magazines pay upon publication, which means you might have to wait six months or more before your piece appears in print. Others pay upon acceptance, meaning they will cut a check as soon as they decide to run your article, usually about 30 days after submission. If you're not sure the magazine is keeping up with its end of the bargain, hold tight before sending in anything else.
7. Submit your article ahead of time. Try to turn in your articles a week ahead of time. Harried editors love a head start, and they'll be glad they can count on you to not only make deadline, but to beat it. If a week ahead of time isn't possible, at least shoot for the day before.
8. Keep communication open. No doubt, your job is to make the editors' job easy. That's what they hired you. Make it a habit, then, to check in to make sure you're on the right track. This means first submitting an outline, then maybe the first page. If you have any doubt about a source or the direction a story should take, touch base with your editor, either by phone or a quick e-mail.
9. Submit error-free copy. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway.Make absolutely sure your manuscript is rid of errors. It's harder than itsounds. Thanks to word processors and the likelihood of typos, mistakes can infiltrate. Let your article sit an extra day before revising it, read it out loud, have a friend read it to you, do whatever it takes to iron the wrinkles from your articles.
10. Don't be afraid to be late. Believe it or not, editors understand when you can't meet a deadline. Anything can happen, from family emergencies to troublesome sources pulling out at the last minute. As long as you're up-front and give them as much notice as possible that you're late, your editors won't mind.
11. Give them more than they bargained for. Your assignment was to write
1,000 words on reforestation of Yosemite National Park, and that closes your
end of the bargain, right? Wrong. Always give your editors more than they
asked for. In this case, try a 100-word sidebar outlining the prescribed
fires program or a list of Yosemite tourism resources. If you're handy with
a camera, you can even provide photographs or names of photographers.
Follow these 10 – oops! 11 – tips to freelancing, and you'll be running a
successful business in no time.
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|What an Editor of a Small Daily Looks for in a Co-worker|
|By Todd Franko, editor, The Sandusky Register
My pursuit for new co-workers always focuses on the person first, the journalist second. For many reasons, I want to work with good people.
1. Strong Phone Presence. An on-site interview doesn’t happen without a phone conversation first. In that conversation, I want to be immediately at ease with the person. I want two-way conversation. I want to hear relaxed confidence in who you are, not a military-like recitation of how you will be the next Bob Woodward. Have a solid, full voice. The minute I have to start extracting dialogue from a person is when their appeal begins to slide.
2. More Than Newspapering. I want to hear and see something in your life that shows a life outside of the newspaper. Sports, theater, community service, causes are all signs that you won’t be a loner sitting at home counting the days and hours you’ve spent in our town.
3. People Interaction. As we tour the facility, introduce yourself to a staffer who makes eye contact with you; if we go out to lunch, I want to see who opens the door for someone coming out of where we’re going into or who picks up a knife that the waitress drops. I’m more comfortable with a person who does this.
4. Alertness. During our on-site interview, I want you to engage in our surroundings. Interrupt me occasionally during conversations to have me elaborate or clarify a statement; observe and dissect things in our surroundings and tailor some of your questions to those situations. (Within these past three bullets, I find clues that will tell me if you're going to be a reporter who engages a source or will you sit back and write what they say and follow their agenda.)
5. Something Should Go Wrong. You got lost and are late for the interview; the hotel reservation was screwed up; your waitress brought you Diet Coke instead of regular; someone cut you off as we drove to lunch. I hope for some of these (not all - I’m not that cruel) to happen during your interview to see how you handle it. How you react in those situations tells me something about you and how you’re likely to act when you’ve got 20 minutes to file a story. I haven't done it yet, but I’d love to compete with a candidate (pool, golf, racquetball, Scrabble, etc.) to see how they are in competition. A person's true character is often shown when their mettle is tested.
Hiring is a tough job. But like other skills, you get better with time. The above approach has not always yielded good staffers for us. But more times than not, it has.
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