When trying to break into the field of journalism, it can be very difficult to focus on anything other than the final pay cheque – the one luring on the horizon of ‘publication’. While a lot of journalists now realise the benefits of having a degree, too many stop trying after the assignment deadlines. Attaining a 1st class honours degree will be an extremely valuable credit to your name after graduation, but will it take you anywhere if you haven’t put your skills into practise?
The trouble with working for free is the stigma attached to it. Onlookers will tell you to have faith in your abilities and demand payment or run the risk of being taken advantage of. And, while taking advantage of writers-in-training unfortunately isn’t as unheard of as you might hope, if made aware of the signs there is nothing stopping you from speaking up about it.
Something important to remember when writing for non-profit or free labour publications – generally student magazines and newspapers committed to giving inexperienced writers a start – is that they are reliant upon submissions to stay afloat. This means that while you may have loosely committed to contributing a certain amount each week/month to a publication, you have complete flexibility should circumstances change and you find yourself overwhelmed by workload. This works both ways, however: if you commit to a voluntary position like it were responsible for your whole income, you will reap the benefits.
Not convinced writing for free will benefit you? I suggest you continue reading.
All in all, the work you produce is only half of the battle as a student journalist. Dedicate your time to unprofitable activities which show a variety of other good things about your work ethic in order to guarantee employers that you are in this field for the sheer love of writing – not just for the nice paycheque that might follow.
Photo: Mustafa Khayat