How Student Journalists Can Build Excellent Portfolios

Portfolios are must-haves for creative students whose livelihoods depend on the work they’ve published. We don’t have to tell you how hard it is to break the first barrier and get published. We can tell you, however, that many online publishers not only welcome student contributors but they also seek them out.

Don’t wait for publishers to come to you with assignments – take the initiative to create content that is irresistible to publishers.

Cover Your Beat

Try to get a regular beat such as covering student government, sports or entertainment. Offer to write content or take photos for free. Use the opportunity to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and dig deeper into stories and ask more questions.

The point of taking chances is to build a portfolio that includes articles that demonstrate different writing styles and skills. Students who can write serious hard news stories, humorous soft news stories, features, long investigative pieces, and stories based on events they witnessed have advantages over students who prefer to play it safe.

To find publishers who accept guest posts, start with Internet searches:

  • guest post opportunities
  • guest blogger
  • guest post guidelines
  • writers needed
  • write for us

This Moz article has great advice for finding publishers.

Build Your Clip Collection

Students with good portfolios of college publication clips should know there are plenty of internships available. The focus should be on applying to community newspapers and/or smaller publications that cover a specific topic, like technology, or a geographical area. Smaller publications are more likely than larger publications to give inexperienced writers a chance to write on a variety of topics.

Larger publications generally prefer interns who recently graduated college, but they will hire students who are between their junior and senior years. They are also more likely to hire students who have won writing awards. College students shouldn’t be shy about entering their best clips in contests, particularly those judged by professional writing organizations such as the Society of Professional Journalists. Check with a college counselor for a list of writing contests.

Master Pitching Stories

Taking the initiative at professional publications is crucial. Waiting for assignments is bad. Offering story ideas is good.

Keep your pitch short and professional. Show that you have done your homework and you understand what the publisher is looking for. Include the topic and why readers will find your article interesting. Let them know what sources you’ll use and how quickly you can turn it around. What is the reader takeaway?

Include a message that you’re looking to learn from seasoned professionals who are willing to work with young writers and help them hone their crafts.

Start Your Own Blog

Starting your own blog can also give you an opportunity to show your writing skills, but the companies that are most likely to offer decent paying jobs might not look at self-edited clips.

There’s one other thing that college students should know – although many publications don’t pay students and interns well, some editors genuinely prefer working with young people because they want to help them build portfolios.

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