Recently, I've been sending out resumes to the Beijing bureau chiefs of major US newspapers, hoping to hit the right person at the right time and land an entry-level job copy-editing, clerking, assisting with reporting, ANYTHING to get my foot in the door.
This afternoon I received a response from such a bureau chief, with what I think is a very frank and accurate take on the situation.
Thank you for your note and for your interest. I've had a few inquiries recently from people in your position. Unfortunately we don't have much to offer. We basically have two types of positions, foreign correspondents hired generally after many years of working their way up the ladder in [major US city], and local hires who have the advantage of being Chinese. That includes not only knowing the language, but at least as important, knowing how things work.
As far as advice, I see two routes. You can either apply at the Reuters, Bloomberg or AP or Dow Jones, which is a good way to do a lot of stories quickly, although it will likely be pretty heavily focused on business. Or start a freelance business and hope to eventually get enough articles and enough of a reputation that you can either get a credential from an organization or have a thriving business going.
Unfortunately, given the way the U.S. newspaper business is going, a lot of the mid-size papers, such as the Boston Globe, Newsday, Baltimore Sun and the like have closed shop.
Thanks again for your interest and best of luck in your search.
That pretty much sums it up, huh? What he writes makes perfect sense, and would explain why I'm having so much trouble breaking in.
I'm starting to realize that however good my Chinese is, however smart I am and however good a writer I have the potential to be, if I want to be a journalist, I still have to pay my dues like everyone else.
I think all along I kind of hoped I could just jump on board, and it turns out it's not that easy.