A Different Type of Freelance Job

Wednesday, June 11, 2008
They used to be called "stringers." Newspaper editors would measure these reporters' articles with a piece of string and pay by the inch for their articles. Today, newspapers refer to these freelancers as news correspondents or contributing writers.

I work as a news correspondent for the newspaper, The News-Gazette, in Champaign-Urbana, IL . Am I going to buy my next mansion with this freelance job? Nope, but I wouldn't quit it for the world. It provides me a regular "writing paycheck" each month, loads of experience in interviewing people and meeting deadlines, and a chance to meet interesting individuals I would have never met before. I've interviewed people such as a champion dressage rider, a 90-year-old Humane Society Garage Sale volunteer, and a soldier getting ready to go to Iraq. I've covered coffee shops, town meetings, and youth hang-outs. I've made between $50-$300 a month and usually cover a library board meeting, village board meeting, and school board meeting each month. One of the biggest benefits of being a news correspondent is I see my articles published quickly, and this provides me with a lot of published clips.

If this sounds like a gig you'd like to explore, feel free to email me at margo@wow-womenonwriting.com with any questions. I found my news correspondent's job through the want-ads in The News-Gazette. The ad asked if anyone lived in an outlying area and liked to write. That was me! I emailed the regional editor and told her I was willing to drive to cover meetings or interview anyone she wanted. With my first assignments, I delivered the articles before deadline and did anything my editor asked. After she knew she could trust me, I started to get more assignments, including a few features on the front page of the Living section.

If you don't see an ad like this in your newspaper, email or call the regional or managing editor. Explain that you are a freelance writer, who would like to gain some newspaper writing experience. Be willing to drive farther to remote meetings at first. Take any opportunity presented to you. You can always take better assignments or different jobs once you get to know the editors and the way the newspaper staff is organized.

I'm glad my articles are not measured with a string, and I'm paid a little more than just by the inch. But I wouldn't give up being a "stringer" as part of my freelancing career. Explore this freelance option for yourself. It may open new doors for you.

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill



Annette said...


What a great way to get a recurring writing gig!

When I was in high school, I was co-editor of The Bruin, our school paper, and I wanted to get a job as a stringer when I graduated, but I didn't know where or how to do it.

Which brings another point to mind--how is it that even at the university level, there are no classes to teach English majors how to make a living (other than teaching)? I spoke to a class of college sophomores at my alma mater and the students had so many misconceptions and complete vacancies when it comes to knowing anything about publishing or freelancing--and the same was true of the professors!

It seems like aspiring writers have to either get into an MFA program or seek out classes and workshops on their own.

Something that makes you say: "Hmmmm...." (Or at least it makes me say that.) ;-)

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