How do I Become a Foreign Correspondent?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2017
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Someone who wants to become a foreign correspondent has a number of ways to pursue this career. The important thing to be aware of is that journalism is a competitive industry, and slots for foreign correspondents are hotly contested. Not least, this is because many media organizations are cutting down on their budgets and are subsequently reducing the number of overseas correspondents they maintain, downsizing or eliminating foreign bureaus, and sourcing syndicated material for foreign news coverage. This makes it more difficult to find a job than ever before.

Some people interested in journalism careers start by going to school. Programs in journalism are offered at numerous colleges and universities. A student who wants to become a foreign correspondent could take the coursework while also working on internship and job opportunities to gain work experience. Many journalists say that while journalism school can be valuable, and a degree can help to get a job, practical experience is key, and the sooner people start working, the better.

After completing journalism school, a would-be foreign correspondent can apply to a specific news agency. It is not uncommon to be placed locally at first, and to be relocated to a foreign bureau later. Journalists who are not demanding about destinations are more likely to find work they like. Instead of insisting on being posted to a short list of locations, someone who wants to become a foreign correspondent should indicate general interest. Having foreign language skills and travel experience also helps.

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Other people opt to enter the market as freelancers. Some freelance foreign correspondents are graduates of journalism schools, while others have simply worked their way up in the field to become a foreign correspondent. Freelancers usually relocate and pitch stories from their location. With experience, a freelancer may eventually be able to pitch stories which involve traveling to new places, using clippings and references as supporting evidence to show that they will be able to generate a good story.

Whether freelance or not, someone who wants to become a foreign correspondent needs to be prepared to always be looking for the next story and subject of interest. It is critical to be several steps ahead to catch breaking news while following social trends which may yield longer, more expository pieces. Even when a journalist is not working on a specific job, he or she should be observing, writing, photographing, making interviews, and amassing material for the next story.

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Discuss this Article

drtroubles
Post 3

@lonelygod - I can imagine how tough it must be to always be on the road and really look at the horrors in our world. I think that to become a foreign correspondent you have to be really brave and willing to sacrifice a great deal of your life to get the real news.

A few years back I went to a book festival, and one of the authors was a foreign correspondent. You could really see the toll the job had taken on him. He loved his job, but talking about being shot at and fearing for his life on a regular basis makes the whole job seem outrageous.

Nowadays, with the help of social media, I can imagine that we'll see fewer people willing to risk their life to get footage that ca now be provided by the locals. Perhaps that is a good thing.

lonelygod
Post 2

If you want to really know how to become a foreign correspondent it is a good idea to get into a good journalism college to get the facts on the position. It can seem glamorous globetrotting, but the dangers involved in the position become obvious once you see reporters stationed in war zones and other areas of civil unrest.

For the most part, I think that the foreign correspondent is a rare breed of reporter that has real drive to follow in the footsteps of greats like Christiane Amanpour. Read some of her interviews about dealing with what it is like to walk through a village burned to the ground, and with the stench of rotting bodies in the air, and you'll begin to see why the job isn't for everyone.

Kat919
Post 1

Are there a lot of jobs for foreign correspondents these days? It seems like becoming a foreign correspondent might be a challenge because newspapers are slashing their budgets so much.

I'll be honest; I'm thinking of the HBO series "The Wire." They did a season partially set at the Baltimore Sun (I think; might have been a fictional newspaper) and they were running into problems because of staff cuts. I don't remember them mentioning a foreign correspondent, but, for instance, they cut their local court reporter and missed out on some stories because of it.

It seems like probably more papers would be just buying foreign news stories from places like the Associated Press. Is that how it works?

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