The life of a foreign correspondent in the journalism world

By JULIE KRIENKE

The lecture given Nov. 17 by foreign correspondent Kristen Chick, reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, was an enlightening and informative one. At this time, Chick works for the Christian Science Monitor, an international news organization, by covering current events in the areas of Egypt and the Middle East. Chick has a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama, and she fluently speaks the Arabic language. To start her lecture, Chick explained how there are many opportunities for journalists when they work abroad. However, many young journalists do not think about working internationally because they have little interest in global politics. Furthermore, Chick explained that the job market in the United States is currently not doing well, and that many journalists should consider becoming a foreign correspondent. Because of the bad job market in the United States journalism industry, many media companies are looking for more correspondents to cover news in other countries. However, many journalists in the United States do not think about this option because it involves so many risks.

What may be surprising to some journalists is that countless newspapers in other countries throughout the world are currently more successful than those in the United States. Chick used newspapers in India as an example because forms of media within this country are becoming more and more popular in recent years. However, Chick warned that being a foreign correspondent is not for everyone, as those choosing to work in other countries must have an interest in international issues and study the language of the area. In addition, journalists who hope to work in other countries must also be comfortable with living in a foreign country. When a journalist does decide that they will being to do journalism abroad, more doors will open to them as time goes on, according to Chick. Thus, Chick encouraged journalists at the lecture to consider becoming a foreign correspondent in the future because the job market in the United States is unreliable.

Nevertheless, becoming a foreign correspondent requires certain key skills that must be developed by the reporter. Learning to write good pitches is one of the most important strengths a journalist hoping to work abroad must have, according to Chick. When it comes to Chick's work as a foreign correspondent, the beat that she covers is all of Egypt. This means that Chick must generate story ideas by working with people throughout the country and then pitch her ideas to her boss in Boston. When pitching her story ideas, Chick must consider whether people in the United States will care about issue that is being covered. The most important advice that Chick gave to journalists when writing story pitches is to know the publication that they are working for because the pitch should be written for the newspaper. The Christian Science Monitor that Chick currently works for is extremely interested in social justice issue, so she wrote many stories about discrimination in Egypt. Hence, Chick depicted both the problem and the attempted solution within her pitches. An example that she gave was when she wrote a story about a woman in Egypt who was stuck in a marriage that she was unsatisfied in, but it was left up to the church to decide what the outcome would be. The story that Chick wrote focused on the problem that the woman faced, but it also articulated how citizens were pushing for changes in the country's laws. Thus, a skill necessary to journalist working as foreign correspondents is learning to write compelling pitches. Basically, freelance journalists must know their publication and do enough reporting to know how to write a good story pitch to a variety of newspapers. Chick feels that it is important to be interested in the story that they are covering, but it is also crucial to be a salesman about it so that the publication becomes interested. Although she enjoys the freedom that she has as a freelance journalist, Chick realizes that it is extremely important to sell the work that she does if she wants to get paid by her publication.

Later in her lecture, Chick went on to discuss how she did not face much discrimination in the places were she served as a foreign correspondent. According to Chick, many people in Egypt and the Middle East were often more willing to talk to her after they learned that the story would be published in the United States. In this way, Chick developed a network in the area that she covered while reporting, which is important in the career of a journalist. Another skill that Chick explained is extremely important for foreign correspondents to have is knowledge in the language of the area they are covering. For this reason, Chick felt it was important for her to receive a background in political science while in college. When working as a foreign correspondent, a journalist's global perspectives change. For Chick, it was important to keep her opinions out of her work because she did not want them to come back in the future and hurt her. According to Chick, global issues become less clear after being in the Middle East, and she explained that she now has fewer political views. After living in a foreign country for so long, Chick now feels detached from politics in the United States. Clearly, Chick has been affected by working in a foreign country for so many years.

To end her lecture, Chick gave aspiring journalists some advice to improve their writing skills and plans for the future. According to Chick, experience is the most important thing journalists need. This includes getting internships and freelance writing while still in school. In addition, it is crucial to develop multimedia skills so that employers can see that the journalist has a variety of abilities in many forms of journalism. Developing contacts and relationships with people in the industry is important for aspiring journalists. Chick now feels that getting a journalism degree is not as important as it was in the past, but she thinks that college does help develop multimedia skills that will be helpful in the future. According to Chick, more skills means getting more opportunities in the industry. Chick learned the language Arabic in college and studied abroad in Egypt while attending the University of Alabama. This helped prepare her for the future, as she must translate the words of her sources when using quotes. Additionally, Chick must be cautious when working in Cairo, as there are many journalists in that area who are competitive. However, since the Christian Science Monitor has a big appetite for the Middle East, Chick usually is able to write several stories a week. Clearly, it takes someone with a driven and obstinate personality like Chick to take the great risks involved with becoming a foreign correspondent.

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This page contains a single entry by Jour 2101 published on November 21, 2010 12:42 PM.

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