I’ve been reading The Cut with fervor since I was 15. I'm now 23, inching up to an uncertain 24. I’m an editorial assistant at [REDACTED ACADEMIC PRESS], but I’m trying to figure out how - and if I should - get myself mired in journalism.
I've been in this predicament for a long time. My parents are journalists, and I adamantly avoided the trajectory toward that career path in college, all the way up until my graduation in 2014. Journalism major? Crazy competitive internships? School newspaper editor fueled by shitty coffee into the wee hours of morning? No. English major? Scholarly papers? Possibly a PhD in literary theory, impracticality be damned? All the way.
But as it turns out (and not entirely to my chagrin), I feel like this is what I really want - to write like you all, and for the same audience.
I hope this doesn't come on too strong, or too long, but I think I would regret it more if I never sent this. Maybe I'm that crazy chick who thinks bloggers are her friends - but I suspect that maybe you'll understand where I'm coming from.
First off, I gotta tell you that being 23 is hard! I'm pretty sure that was the worst year of my life. I had a nonprofit job I hated, a self-absorbed boyfriend, and I felt like I wouldn't ever be able to do anything of importance. I was dead broke but I was trying to save up money so I could spend a few months as a barely-paid intern and break into journalism. I ended up applying for and getting an internship at Mother Jones magazine in San Francisco, which was the impetus I needed to dump the boyfriend and leave New York.
In some ways, journalism was totally different then (2005). Blogs were brand new and there was no twitter and Facebook was still kinda for ivy league college students. Essentially the whole internet was ignored by prestigious higher-up editors, which meant that it was a much easier place to start off. I started blogging with a group of women I knew, and I wrote for Mother Jones' website. Those were my first real footholds in journalism, I think, even though I'd gone to j-school and had newspaper internships. (Much of my newspaper experience didn't really translate to the magazine-style work that I do now and wanted to do then.)
Anyway, not sure how helpful this is in 2016 now that things have changed so dramatically. But I do think there are a few things that carry over: The fact that I created something, with friends for accountability, that gave me an outlet for my work and something to show to potential future bosses and editors. And the fact that I had to do kinda-shitty jobs in journalism for years and years before I knew enough people and had enough experience to do work that I love. In other words, you have to be patient but you also have to KEEP WORKING in the meantime. You're not a writer if you aren't writing. So you have to keep at it, even if you don't think anyone's paying attention or willing to pay you for it.
That was a real ramble. But if you love the Cut, for example, a good place to start is thinking about what topics/articles might make sense there that we aren't covering. Try to come up with ideas that are similar to the Cut's tone and style, but maybe offer a new perspective or angle. Make a blog or something where you post that stuff-- it doesn't have to be public and you don't have to promote it. But I guess what I'm trying to say is that, if you have a specific type of writing in mind, you can definitely try to start honing the skills you want to someday be paid for doing it. Apply to jobs and internships that seem closer to the type of journalism work you want to do, but don't wait for someone to offer you the perfect opportunity to get started writing.
You're not crazy. Sending emails like this is good! I wish I'd done more of this when I was younger-- I was always too scared to reach out to writers I admired.