International reporting in the digital age

5 11 2009

I posted an earlier blog on international reporting, but this past week during the 2009 National College Media Convention, I had the opportunity to meet Kathleen Struck, newsroom manager of GlobalPost, an online-based international news agency catered to the digital age.

She talked about things aspiring journos should keep in mind if interested in international reporting.

Here are six things you should do if you are thinking about being a foreign correspondent. The six she mentioned, and the descriptions I have elaborated more on:

1. Leave the United States (or your native country).

Actually go to the country or area where you want to report, if possible. Get immersed in the country’s culture, history, legal system and politics.

2. Get a couple strings.

Making contacts to different news companies and organizations who would be interested in your work is crucial, especially as a freelancer.

3. Writing is important, sometimes more than reporting.

People have been dying in wars, poverty and famine since the beginning of history. As Kathleen said, “Why should I care?” Compelling writing, and being able to be an engaging storyteller can be a big help in trying to write obscure and foreign topics not many might be initially interested or knowledgeable in.

4.  Be easy to work with.

This is a no brainer. No one likes having to be around people who are hard to get a long with. Be willing to compromise and work with editors back in your home country if they want to cut that 2,500 word story you wrote to 800 words, or if your editor wants you to approach your story with a different angle.

5. Luck has a lot to do with it.

In sports photography (and photojournalism in general), a good chunk of what ends up being a front-page shot is anticipation. Like when you cover a sports game, you have to make an educated guess the subject’s anticipated movements and actions to create a compelling image. It’s about guessing what’s going to happen next, positioning yourself, and hoping that what you guessed ends up right. And then the stars align…

6. Be your own entrepreneur.

The younger generation is defining what journalism will be in the future. Kathleen said although it is a tough time to pursue international reporting with the state of the industry, now can’t be a more better time to jump into it. Be an innovator.

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