Our advice for journalists based outside major cities

Big cities seem to be the center of everything, including the media sector. In the United States, one in five editorial employees work in New York, Los Angeles or Washington, DC In the United Kingdom, 39% of freelancers and 49% of employed journalists live in London. For journalism graduates around the world, moving to a big city to find work is almost a rite of passage.

However, metropolitan areas are often expensive, and media jobs are notoriously poorly paid, especially for newcomers. As remote work becomes increasingly popular, many are considering moving to a small town or affordable suburb. But how feasible is it?

Cecilia Anesi, a reporter for the International Reporting Project Italy (IrpiMedia), says you don’t have to live in a big city to have a career in journalism. Based in a small town in central Italy, MI Anesi works on cross-border investigations into organized crime, drug trafficking and corruption. “Big cities offer more opportunities for freelancers, but only if you consider office work,” he said. “If I’m reporting on migrants, I have to go to Lampedusa, [une île italienne au large de la côte nord de l’Afrique]. To report to the ‘Ndrangheta [ndlr : groupe mafieux] and understand the phenomenon, I have to spend time in the region in Calabria.”

Although the lack of public transport connections where he lives makes getting around difficult, the location helps him focus and relax.

The freelance journalist Arlene Harris also sees some advantages to being based in rural Ireland: “The cost of living is lower, [et] the quality of life is better if you want to walk in the countryside before you start work,” he said.

MI Harris writes regularly for Irish Times, Irish Independentand Sunday times. He says freelancing outside of a big city has never been easier.

“After working for about a decade in central London, I’ve been training from rural Ireland for about the same amount of time and actually have more work than ever,” said Ms.I Harris. “As long as you have a good internet connection, there’s no reason you can’t continue to work in exactly the same way as when you lived in an urban environment.”

Emily F. Popek, based in Oneonta, New York, with a population of less than 14,000, is a communications professional and freelance journalist. He signed articles on New York Times and the Washington post, and also noticed the new possibilities offered by life outside the city. “If your goal is to be part of a newsroom and work in person, there are obviously limited offerings outside of the major cities,” he said. “However, I think the pandemic has paved the way for more remote working, even in companies that previously required all of their staff to be on-site.” It is now possible, for example, to accept jobs that previously required relocation.

MI Popek lived in rural areas most of his life. He enjoys the community, quiet and natural beauty. He added, “I like the relatively low cost of living, so when I get a higher payment order, I get more for my money.”

So you want to succeed as a journalist outside of a big city? Here are some tips to help you.

Plan your trips strategically

You may need more time to arrange your trip if you live in a remote area with poor public transport. Make strategic decisions. “Plan your trips [de reportage] in advance, and give yourself more time for each trip,” advises MI Anesi. “Bouncing from place to place like a crazy ping pong ball won’t help you focus or achieve your goal. On the contrary, give yourself time to learn about places and communicate to the people and resources on the site.”

Network online

Not having co-workers nearby to chat with or even just grab a coffee and catch up can be difficult. MI Harris advises connecting with other journalists online, even if it’s just to chat on social media. “This life can be lonely at times. If you are used to a more demanding or faster daily life, the adaptation can be complicated.”

Check out online communities like the Society of Freelance Journalists, and participate in their virtual meetings and discussion forums.

Build your customer base

It’s easier to work anywhere if you secure your contracts in advance. This is especially true if all communication is done by phone or text. “If you’re planning to work outside of a big city, I encourage you to take the time and effort to build a clientele, perhaps before you move,” Harris says. “If you only rely on email contact, it can be difficult to build trust.”

Join or create a union

MI Popek pointed out that working conditions and salaries in journalism are not always great, especially in the beginning. Bargaining power may be lower if you live in an area with fewer jobs. “You may also not benefit from the camaraderie of other workers if you’re a freelancer or even work in a small newsroom,” he explains.

His best advice is to join a union or start one. The union is one of the most powerful tools journalists have to improve working conditions and make the profession more viable, he asserted: “[Nous] we can fight for fairer wages, better benefits and other things that allow us to continue doing this work without burning out.”

Use your location

“To be successful as a freelancer outside of a big city, I think the key is to make sure where you live works for you, not against you,” Ms.I Pope. For example, when taking orders, a lower cost of living can give you more flexibility to not limit yourself to the highest paying jobs.

“Also, think about the stories you can build, the people and places you have access to, the perspectives you know that your big city editors might not know about. It can be a real asset. your range,” he concluded.

Photo by Monica Bourgeau on Unsplash.

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