The Best Job in the World
Writing for an English Newspaper Abroad
The first step in finding a job at an English-language newspaper is getting to know a little bit about
the country. The next step is to find out who runs the paper and the paper’s web address. You can find the URLs for worldwide newspapers at www.world-newspapers.com.
Read the online version of the paper before you send your letter. After six months at the Bolivian Times I was promoted to managing editor and I read tons
of letters from people looking for work. The only people I responded to were those who mentioned something about a recent article in the paper.
Your application should include three to five writing samples, your resume, a synopsis of your experience
with the language of the country you plan to work in, and any other pertinent information about your experience.
Generally, papers will only consider paid positions for college students or graduates with some experience
with the native language. Only the top guns get paid, but papers will often give unpaid internships to people who lack the language skills.
The key to finding a job at a newspaper abroad is not your skills but your willingness to go out on
a limb to get the job. When people showed up in our office with no Spanish or journalistic skills, I said to them, “Go out on the streets, find me
a story we haven’t covered, and write it.” The people who could do this eventually worked their way into paid positions.
Follow your heart in deciding where to go, but beware of editors who say, “Yeah, come down, we
can probably find you some work.”
Once you arrive, the editor of the paper will usually help you find a place to live and help you get
a visa. As you are normally paid under the table, a tourist visa will generally suffice. Read the local dailies and try to get the lay of the socio-political
Being a journalist is as much about research and marketing as it is about writing. Introduce yourself
to everyone, make calls, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and ask the other writers for help.
Most English newspapers in South America do not pay enough to survive on. I was paid $200 as a staff
writer for the Bolivian Times. My wage doubled when I became the managing editor, but still I couldn’t make ends meet. Most of the staff had at least
one second job. Some taught English, others wrote for American and European newspapers and magazines. In the end we all got by.
Being a journalist in a foreign country is quite possibly the best job in the world. For me, it is
the only job for a traveler: not only does it allow you the freedom to travel where and when you want, it also gives you a unique vantage point from which
to gain the kind of intimate knowledge of a foreign land that you would never have been afforded otherwise.
Gregory Benchwick is a frequent contributor to
several guidebooks and magazines.