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You've landed your first news job. Now what?

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You've landed your first news job. Now what?

Veronika Belenkaya | June 09, 2011

You’ve kept your fingers crossed for months, killed two trees copying your clips and tripled your cell phone bill calling to check in on the status of your application.

Finally – you’ve landed your first news internship or job. Now what?

IJNet is here to help with 10 tips on succeeding at your first reporting gig.

1. Dress the part. Newsrooms aren’t the most formal work environments, but consider the dress code business casual. A newspaper editor was once overheard telling an intern wearing a button-down shirt and shorts on his first day: “Well, you got about half of it right.” Don't be that guy. Keep a spare dress shirt and decent shoes in the office for last-minute press conferences or events.

2. No whining. If you’re assigned to report on a story – don’t complain that it’s too far or that you’ll get lost. Bring a map and follow your instincts. However, If you find yourself in an unsafe situation or the address doesn’t make sense – speak up.

3. Ask, don’t pester. Your editor is juggling 20 stories. If you think you’re asking too many questions – you probably are. That said, if the assignment is not clear, ask. Missing a story is worse.

4. Find a mentor. Don't latch onto anyone who flashes a smile. See who you click with. A mentor can give you valuable insights into the journalism culture and give guidance on writing and reporting.

5. Study office dynamics. Listen and observe: who is admired, respected, feared or dismissed, but be respectful to everyone regardless of their reputation. If the morning editor is known to be cranky before the sixth cup of coffee – don't ask for feedback until after lunch. Avoid office gossip.

6. Sources, sources, sources. If you’re interested in specific issues, say crime or immigration, develop sources to call on when you get that lucky break. A well-connected reporter is painful to lose.

7. Pitch stories. News flash: the last thing your boss likely wants to hear on your first day are your amazing story ideas. Prove yourself on assigned stories first or pitch if your idea is timely. Think through your ideas and how to execute them. Check that the story hasn’t been recently done by your organization or the competition.

8. Know your publication...and the competition. Don’t get caught off guard when your editor mentions a recent story. Knowing your news ecosystem is a good way to distinguish yourself.

9. Get to know journalists at competing news organizations. When you're out on assignment, you'll work with reporters from competing organizations more than your own. Develop a cut-throat reputation and they will act accordingly. You may also burn bridges for future career opportunities.

10. Produce content in your organization’s voice. You think your writing style is great – but your work should reflect the style of your news organization. Period.

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