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Advice from a journo
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jimmctague


Jan 7, 2011, 6:17 PM

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A great first step to break into journalism is to go to work for a specialized newsletter. The pay stinks, but consider it reverse tuition: You are getting paid to become an expert. You want to learn an area that is of interest to people willing to pay big bucks for information: Finance, banking, defense, medicine , technology, etc. Armed with this knowledge, it is far easier to make the leap to a larger publication.
If I had my life to live over again, I would have moved to Washington, D.C. right out of grad school. What I actually did was graduate in 1972 into an economy very much like the one we have today. I worked at a series small weekly and daily newspapers, covering school boards, the cops, and finally state government. Then in a eureka moment, I decided to become a financial writer. So I left journalism and worked for three years as a stock broker. I worked for Merrill Lynch, which had a first-class training program at the time. When I returned to journalism, I was a hot item.
I became a banking expert, worked for several financial newspapers, and every year wrote the banking article for an encyclopedia. I've been at Barron's for 16 years.I now cover politics as well and have a White House pass.
I have an MA in English and love fiction and worte four novels, all unpublished. Fiction is earier to write than good non-fiction because you simply manufacture the events. But getting it in print is another matter.
I've just completed my first non-fiction book and the research was intensive. I taped every interview. I footnoted virtually every reference. When I delved into history, I cross-referenced old articles with books and other articles to ascertain I had an authentic recounting of events. I had an advantage. Having been a journalist since 1972, I am a fast and efficient researcher. I also had free access to Dow Jones Factiva and other great data sources. The book is due out in March. I really enjoyed it and am hungry already for the next book. And by the way, I am working on a fifth novel.

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