Career Transition

The First 90 Days in a Journalism Career: Your Insider Guide to Navigating the Newsroom

So you’ve unpacked your bags, set up your desk, and brewed that first cup of newsroom coffee. Welcome to the bustling, chaotic, and downright enthralling world of journalism. You’re probably a mix of excitement, nervousness, and curiosity, like a cub reporter on the hunt for their first big scoop. So, let’s help you navigate the maze that is your first three months in a journalism career.

Month 1: Settle In but Don’t Settle Down

Your first month in a journalist role is all about orientation, but let’s not kid ourselves; this isn’t summer camp. Expect to get your first assignments quickly, sometimes within days or even hours. Use this time wisely:

  • Know Your Team: Take time to meet editors, senior reporters, and even the tech guys who can save you when your computer crashes.
  • Learn the Tools: Familiarize yourself with the Content Management System (CMS), social media protocols, and any news-gathering software your outlet uses.
  • Digest the Style Guide: Every publication has its idiosyncrasies in how they like their stories told. Learn them.
  • File Your First Story: Don’t aim for a Pulitzer. Your first stories will likely be small pieces to test the waters. Focus on accuracy and clarity.

Month 2: Flex Those Reporting Muscles

Alright, you’ve dipped your toes; now let’s dive in. The second month is about upping the ante.

  • Pitch Stories: By now, you should have a feel for what kind of stories resonate with your audience and editors. Start pitching.
  • Expand Your Network: Continue to meet more people both inside and outside your newsroom. You never know who might give you your next big story.
  • Experiment with Formats: If your newsroom allows it, try your hand at different types of stories: feature pieces, interviews, and maybe even some multimedia content.
  • Feedback Loop: Make it a habit to seek feedback from your editors and even your peers. It’s the fastest way to grow.

Month 3: Find Your Groove

You’re no longer the ‘new kid’—well, at least not the newest. Month three is about refining your process and starting to specialize:

  • Own Your Beat: Whether it’s politics, culture, or technology, start to focus more on the areas that interest you. Become the go-to person for that subject in your newsroom.
  • File Faster: You should be comfortable enough to produce stories more quickly without sacrificing quality. Deadlines are the bread and butter of this industry.
  • Explore Side Projects: Got an idea for a podcast or a video series? Pitch it. Newsrooms love initiative.
  • Self-Review: Look back at your articles from the first and second months. Notice the improvements and understand where you need to focus more.

Quickfire Tips for Your First 90 Days:

  • Stay Curious: Always be on the hunt for stories, even when you’re off the clock.
  • Verify, Verify, Verify: Never sacrifice accuracy for speed. A retraction can set you back far more than a missed deadline.
  • Respect Off-the-Record: If someone says it’s off the record, it stays off the record. Period.
  • Listen More Than You Speak: The best stories often come when you let other people do the talking.
  • Stay Humble: You’re going to make mistakes. Own them, learn from them, and move on.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the initiation of your first three months in journalism. From here on out, the stories are more significant, the deadlines tighter, and the coffee probably just as terrible. But hey, you’re in it for the bylines, not the brews, right? Welcome to the tribe.

Like what you’re reading? Sign up to get our best career advice and job search tips.


Career Transition