A blog on becoming a journalist

I’ve been thinking about the purpose of this blog for a while. I’ve come to the conclusion that it could fill a certain gap.

Try typing “blog on becoming a journalist” into Google and see what comes up.

Most of the top few pages either offer careers advice, give a few general tips on journalistic skills, or  attempt to sell you a course.

Only one of the first ten is the blog of a young journalist trying to get into the trade. Even that page is more to showcase his – admittedly admirable — talents than to instruct others.

So where are the blogs where a journalistic newby puts down his thoughts about entering the world of freelance journalism? Where are the embarrassing stories about spilling wine on the white shirt of an important contact? Where is the nitty-gritty stuff about actually starting getting things into print?

I for one would value a step-by-step account of the working process behind some great article, whether it was written by Robert Fisk or by a complete beginner like myself.

Where did the original idea come from? How did you proceed? What were the dead ends? And perhaps most importantly, how did you home in on the story amongst all the fluff?

I guess we don’t write about that stuff because we are too concerned with promoting ourselves as ambitious and of course, eloquent achievers.

Are we reluctant to display human shortcomings that might, if the editors knew, prevent us from getting that dreamed-of commission from the Financial Times?

(By the way, if any former colleagues are reading this, Mum’s the word, eh?)

Perhaps, too, we don’t want to give away any secrets to our rivals. But I don’t think there are many secrets. The advice new journalists need is out there, if they’re prepared to dig for it. If you’re trying to make it as a journalist but you’re not prepared to research, then shouldn’t you perhaps be considering another profession?

Well, for what it’s worth: I’m a newby in Istanbul, trying to become a freelance journalist. I’m fairly hard-working, and I’ve read a few books about journalism. Sometimes, especially after a bottle of nice wine, I like to flatter myself that I’m smart enough to make it.

Disclaimer: I also happen to be a very new hand in Istanbul. My handle on the Turkish language stretches all the way from “how much are the apples?” to “do you have any beer apart from Efes?”

On the journalistic side, I haven’t spoken to a magazine or newspaper editor of any rank for at least a couple of years. I’ve dabbled in journalism before, but I’ve been up to other things.

Back to that Google search. Although the sites weren’t what I was looking for, some of them were excellent – I found this article particularly good.

Another, from the previous site, offered this advice:

“Start a blog and specialise. Don’t just write about whatever comes into your mind, as this will spread you too thin…pick an area and focus on it.”

So, my specialist topic is: becoming a journalist.

To be continued… for a while, I hope.

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