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Freelance Journalism

Reporting takes many forms

Although most of us think of journalism as news reporting, the actual definitions are much broader. Here's the first listing in Dictionary.com, from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition by Houghton Mifflin Company:

  • The collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or news articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts.
  • Material written for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for broadcast.
  • The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and magazines, consisting of direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation.
  • Newspapers and magazines.
  • An academic course training students in journalism.
  • Written material of current interest or wide popular appeal.

There's a ton of opportunity for freelancers within these definitions


Note, you're not even restricted to news, which by itself is a delightfully broad word. Any material written for publication and broadcast falls under the rubric of journalism. In fact, the only restriction is your own imagination.

Getting Started in Freelance Journalism

One of the best ways for a new freelance writer to get started and get some credits is the local weekly newspaper. Almost every community has at least one, and metropolitan areas tend to have many. The small weekly runs on a shoestring and often welcomes contributions that reflect what's going on in the community they serve. The pay runs from nothing to $10 or $20, but getting an article or two or three published there gives you some real clips. Writing for a weekly also gives you a sense of writing on deadline and is a good way to discover if you like this sort of writing.

If you discover you like reporting, approach a larger newspaper in your locale and see if you can interest them in some stories. This is a tougher market, but the pay is much better.

Stay alert for happenings in your area that might make a good think piece or human interest story. Some of these can be sold to both newspapers and magazines. News happens in the strangest places; you certainly don't have to be in a big city.

Breaking into radio or television requires a whole other set of skills. Writing is certainly part of it, but developing scripts is an art. You can go to school or, if you get lucky, a local station may make it possible for you to write for them. You'll never know until you ask.

Research for news sources is another possibility and a real specialty all on its own. If you're good at it, ask if any of your local papers, radio stations or TV stations can use you.

A bit of journalism, whether it's for a weekly, through a course or in some other way can lead to bigger things. It's absolutely amazing how many of our famous writers got started doing reporting of one sort or another.

Why not you?



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