Breaking Into International News

I’m not going to lie, I expected this session to be epic. I was prepared for tales of storming into foreign embassies and demanding information, all while dodging bullets. While the session was much more mellow than I anticipated, I found some helpful information for not only strengthening my chances of becoming an international reporter, but of becoming a reporter of any kind.

While many have lamented the “death of the foreign correspondent” due to the financial crisis and apparent limited interest in foreign news, the speaker at this session, shared some interesting news trends that I hadn’t previously heard of that are creating great opportunities for students looking to report internationally. But not without a lot of hard work.

While organizations such as Global Post, AP and other wire services, the blogosphere and financial business reporting are growing, that doesn’t mean they are markets that can necessarily be easily broken into. On the other hand, it takes a lot of preparation…and that preparation needs to start now, as a student. This includes finding internships, mastering a foreign language from your area of interest and becoming an expert on that same area. While these may be requirements expected for an international writer, I was surprised by other points that the speaker made. He encouraged students to take classes in entrepreneurship, since, essentially, freelancing may be the best way of breaking into the international news market. And, as freelancers, aren’t reporters basically a one-man business? The speaker also encouraged students to become versatile, meaning not just reporting on news or features – basically, break out of your comfort zone! Write sports, business, finance, anything to get your foot in the door and your story on the desk of a bureau chief somewhere around the world.

While I can picture myself working as a foreign correspondent at some point in my future, I hope to continue to work within this country following my graduation from Elon. But that doesn’t mean these same points shouldn’t be required of me as well. While I will always prefer news writing, I have a deep respect for every section of the newspaper and every form of communication, whether it be sports reporting, shooting video at a talent show or taking portraits of a teacher of the year. After all, isn’t each telling a story? Sure, I may never write for ESPN and I will most likely not sure as the anchor of my local TV news station, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have those skills readily available as a communicator. Each speaker I have attended this week has emphasized the competitive nature of the current job market for journalists. It may feel like a lifetime away, but in just two and a half short years, I will a part of the job market. And, by then, whether I’m looking to break into international news or the news down the street, my skills need to be top-notch.

-Caitlin O’Donnell



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