Q: I spent three years as a beat reporter at a pair of small newspapers, picking up a statewide award for my reporting at one point, before taking up work as a freelancer at a major American newspaper.
My writing has improved, but I'm eager to get back into a newsroom and, most of all, to find a mentor. It looks like a small newspaper (circulation 50,000) with a decent reputation is about to offer me a job. I like the editors at the paper - they seem ambitious - but I wonder if I should hold out for a bigger paper at this point.
Am I likely to improve as I'd like at a small paper? Will my resume look odd if I go from a large paper (albeit as a freelancer) to a small one? Is the job market so forbidding these days that I should take what I can get?
A: That 50,000 paper could be a good base to build from.
Compared to the place where you're freelancing, 50,000 seems small, but it is mid-size, at worst.
The 100 largest dailies in the U.S. are roughly those above 100,000 circulation. The next 100 are roughly between 50,000 and 100,000. After those 200, there are almost 1,300 more. So, 50,000 is not quite circulation and professional Siberia, especially if you have had a chance to check the place out and have found it to be ambitious and inveted in people's growth.
Most of the work will be up to you, of course, but I would expect that, given your major-metro experience, you should be able to advance quickly. Good work on some significant stories could pop you up above 100,000 in a few years.
I would not be dissuaded by the 50,000 circulation.
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