Why you should apply to become a columnist next year

By Kevin Duvall, Student Columnist, The Daily Athenaeum
West Virginia University official student newspaper

KeyboardThis will probably be the last column I ever write for The Daily Athenaeum, as I am graduating this summer and am uncertain of where or when I will attend graduate school.

Since I’m a Monday regular, I had the last column of the year.

My initial thought was that I should write something important and poignant to send students home with a hopeful and thought-provoking message or pick the dumbest topic I could think of to pull the rug out from everyone.

I couldn’t think of anything stupid enough, so in the interest of helping out my soon-to-be-former employer, I thought I would use my last column to encourage new writers to be my replacement.

Plus, I didn’t have to do any research to write this column. That was a nice bonus.

One reason I recommend the columnist job is the learning experience.

Although I had some experience in news writing before becoming a columnist, I would still say that writing an article every week helped me become a better writer overall in both the conventions of writing, and my own personal style.

In addition to writing practice, being a columnist made me more aware of the news.

I paid attention to the news before, but not as extensively as I do now.

Not only have I been more on top of major news stories, but I’ve read about many fascinating events and issues that I probably would not have known about otherwise.

I would even recommend the position for students who are not in a writing field.

The whole gig is a win-win, regardless of major.

Students who are in journalism or other majors that require a large quantity of writing will benefit from the practice of writing on a deadline.

Those in other majors get to branch out from what they normally do, which would be a valuable learning experience and a refreshing change of pace from their normal work. Also, students would look more diverse on job applications, and diversity is a hot commodity.

Speaking of job applications, the appeal of being a columnist on a resume is pretty good.

I’m writing for a long-running, award-winning newspaper at a university with more than 30,000 students, faculty and staff. From a potential employer’s perspective, this probably looks prestigious.

The employer may think that I had to complete with many people to get such a position.

In reality, the DA ran want ads for columnists all this year, so don’t be intimidated when applying.

I know not everyone who applies gets hired (as with any job), but the odds are favorable.

The amount of work isn’t bad either. It would not be hard to be a columnist while holding another job, for anyone who may be concerned with that.

Most columnists only write one article per week, except for a few occasions when they may be commissioned to write one for a particular event.

Admittedly, writing every week may not be for everyone.

Starting as a news-editorial major and switching to advertising, I’ve spent most of my college years writing nonstop, so the weekly deadlines haven’t been a problem for me.

But I can see why people who are less used to it might find the commitment troublesome, so I’ll outline my column writing process.

My deadline is 2 p.m. every Sunday. On Friday and Saturday afternoons, I read Google and Yahoo news for the stories I think are the most interesting, unless there is a news event big enough that I feel I should write about.

After reading a potential winner, I think about how I will assess the issues at hand, and the larger issues that might stem from them.

I have to have the topic picked out by 8 p.m. Saturday night, so by then I have a good idea of what my position or argument will be. I try to have a little bit written by then, because I usually don’t want to do any work on Saturday nights or do the whole thing on Sunday.

I start working when I wake up and write until I finish Sunday.

I get up pretty late on weekends and still have time to write an entire column if I have to.

That’s really all there is to it. Anyone who finds that process manageable should become a columnist.

You’ll learn, you’ll look good and you won’t have to kill yourself to do so.

Doesn’t that sound like a good job description?

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Copyright © 2010 The Daily Athenaeum, West Virginia University
Used by Permission

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1 comment for “Why you should apply to become a columnist next year

  1. Dirk Weaver
    June 30, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Kevin,

    Good evening! Your article was inspirational and you just ignited a fire. I’ll have my blog up and running by the weekend and make a conscious effort to put something out at least weekly as I have quite a few things that I’d like to touch on. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Dirk

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