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What steps did you take in high school to start your journalism career?

I am Alex Torres, a 16 year old junior who is eager to start my sports journalism career. I always wanted to be a sports journalist because of my passion for sports and willing to start taking the necessary steps to start my writing career #sports #journalism

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Conor’s Answer

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I'm currently in a graduate program in Science Writing at MIT; it is technically a journalism program although obviously my field of focus as journalist is different from sports.


From what I see, journalism is changing fast, in fact, so much so that what it is like today will likely change dramatically by the time you are 22 and out of college.


It used to be that you did not have to have many qualifications to be a journalist, and that you could start at a small local paper, get some "clips" (published pieces with your name on it), and use that to "work your way up" to eventually write for a national magazine or newspaper. That is no longer the case.


Today there is more competition for less jobs in journalism because we are more connected online and a single piece of writing can be read by many more people. In other words, writing well has never been more important because more people are getting their information from fewer writers.


The way things are going, only the best journalists will get to keep their jobs but the ones who do so will be paid increasingly well as a result of their writing being read by more people.


So: what does this mean if you are 16?


I would say it means that to be a sports journalist you will need to demonstrate a lot of knowledge about the sports you want to cover, and be really, really good at writing, which is best accomplished by practice: writing for a school newspaper, writing a sports blog, etc.


In an ideal world you would play some of the sports you want to write about, for the rest of high school and in college, because that will give you instant credibility, but this is secondary to being able to write well.


Also, a college degree is essentially a prerequisite, so you might want to consider a school that is known for an outstanding undergraduate program in journalism like Northwestern, which would also give you connections and a way "in".


The hardest part will be starting out because getting noticed is never easy, but if you seek out and follow up with writing opportunities now, at an early age, you will have a high degree likelihood of success by the time you are out of college: not many people 'practice what they preach' for a long enough time period to realize the gains that the practice provides.

Thank you comment icon Nice post. I need to step up my game :) Gary Toscano
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Hannah’s Answer

Hi Alex. I'm not a journalist, but I do know a bit about writing - and one of the first lessons is Write Write Write! Whether you are writing something personal (a journal) or more public (starting a blog) try to do a little writing every day. Find ways now to get involved in journalism. Does your school have a newspaper? Or perhaps the city where you live? See if you can get involved with one of those, either as a writer or in some other way, to start learning about the world of journalism. Also, of course, read! Find a few journalists (or sports journalists in particular) to follow and read their stuff. This will help you learn what other people are writing about and see/learn about different writing styles. Good luck!

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Billy’s Answer

All I did was write for my high school paper. That's a good way to guage whether this is something you really want to do. But if you haven't or won't be able to do that, you are by no means underprepared. A ton of my colleagues never wrote for their high school paper, but got interested in journalism later on. The biggest thing to focus on is education and getting to college. You're last two years of college are really important for gaining experience, whether at a college paper, college TV or internships. And yes, journalism is evolving. Some newspapers are folding while news web sites are popping up. Advertising revenue from the Web is as of yet nowhere near what it was for print, causing many places to not pay real well or hire a lot. But as long as you follow what's going on in the industry, you'll be able to evolve with it. If you can learn to take good photos and shoot and edit videos to supplement you're writing, you'll be in great shape to get a job post-college.

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lori’s Answer

Getting a degree in Journalism is important, but not always a pre-requisite. I have a degree, but my job offers came primarily because I worked as a stringer early in my career. Stringers do not make much money, but the experience is golden. You learn to meet deadlines, as well as understanding what you can and cannot do.
Don't be so eager to make a name for yourself that you violate someone's trust. In addition to good writing skills, you have to have good judgement.
Working for a large daily newspaper is very different than working for a small-town publication.

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Roman’s Answer

I didn't get interested in journalism until I started working on my college newspaper. I found I had some talent, and it gave me confidence and I invested a lot of time in all communication opportunities, including internships and doing broadcasts for the local cable company. Practical experience is the most important educational tool you can get.

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