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How do I Become a Staff Writer?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2018
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A staff writer is a reporter for a media outlet like a newspaper, magazine, or website. If you would like to become a staff writer, you will need excellent journalistic writing skills, the curiosity and creativity to conceive interesting story ideas, the persistence to secure interviews, and the dedication to meet frequent deadlines. You will likely also need a combination of a writing-related degree and proven experience as a reporter.

Generally, a staff writer is a permanent employee of a particular media outlet rather than a freelance contributor. As a staff writer, your duties will typically include meeting with the rest of the editorial team to discuss current newsworthy issues, pitching story ideas, and finally researching and writing articles. Depending on the size and nature of the publication for which you write, you may report on many different subjects or you might be assigned to a particular beat such as crime or education.

An undergraduate or master’s degree that is heavily writing-based can be very useful if you want to become a staff writer. Many staff writers study journalism in college, while others major in English or creative writing. If you are especially interested in a particular beat, you might consider tailoring your course choices to that area. For instance, if you know you would like to write about government policy, you might undertake a double major in journalism and political science.

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Even if your college studies did not relate to writing, it is possible to become a staff writer by proving to a potential employer that you can write and report well. You can do this by assembling a portfolio of published writing clips. These clips might include samples of freelance work you have done in the past or even articles from a college newspaper or other student publication to which you have contributed. In many cases, potential employers are not interested in the prominence of your clippings as much as their ability to demonstrate that you are a capable writer.

Journalism internships can also greatly help you become a staff writer. Investigate the internship opportunities offered by your local paper or consider spending a summer working in a city with a large number of media outlets, such as New York. Generally, writing internships are unpaid, but in some cases they can count for college credit hours. Most importantly, they can give you hands-on experience working for a magazine, newspaper, or other publication, which will in turn strengthen your résumé.

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