Q: I've been living in Istanbul for two years, working in another field. But I've had an interest in journalism for a long time and I'm trying to determine what it would take for me to become a foreign correspondent.
I've been published as a freelancer in small journals and as a ghostwriter while working in public relations for seven years. But that's it -- I have no journalism training or experience.
The University of Oregon (in my home state) offers a professional master's degree in journalism -- billed as a one-year program to give people without previous experience the necessary training to start working in the field.
I'm thinking of going back to the U.S. to do the program. Would you recommend such a thing, or is there a way I can acquire the skills and build up the required experience from overseas? Related to that, what are newspapers looking for in a foreign correspondent?
A: You're not asking me to compare programs, but I would say that several programs make the same promise and, if were considering a return to school, I would look at all of them.
Given your interest in international reporting -- and that you're presently located in Turkey, I don't think I would come back to the U.S. to get trained to go back overseas and land a job. The double move, plus the degree program and the fact few programs for beginners are geared toward turning out foreign correspondents, I would be concerned about doing some very expensive wheel-spinning.
I would try a different tack, first. Learn what you can on the job, in Turkey. This may mean that need a job that serves as a run-up to a position in which you can do some writing. Perhaps you become a reporter's assistant or helper, a fixer or a translator.
Learn from a good journalist, looking for opportunities to take a few crumbs to turn into your own stories. Try to grow those stories into assignments that come directly to you and develop your own clientele. On your way toward establishing yourself as an independent journalist, you'll have the chance to try the work on for size -- without moving back to the States and then fretting about the time and money you spend -- and looking for a bridge back overseas.