How To Make Money as a Freelance Journalist

Learn how to get a job as a stringer, or freelance journalist, for a newspaper and make a part time income.

| November/December 1972


A part time job as a newspaper freelancer is a great way to make extra income.


Even if you live in the most out-of-the-way place in America you can make headlines—and good money—by working as a correspondent or "stringer" for a newspaper. Newspapers, large and small, have a crying need for people with a "nose for news" and the ability to relate what's happening in a forthright, interesting manner. This is especially true for areas which receive little or no news coverage at all.

Traditionally, "stringers" have been little old ladies who gossiped across the back fence, found out who visited whom over the weekend and wrote it up for the local Clarion. Each LOL was paid by the column inch for such drivel and she kept track of the amount of her copy that was used by measuring it off with a piece of string in which she tied knots to mark the length of each column. At the end of the month the LOL sent the Clarion editor her ball of twine of received a check in return.

While there are still a few such stringers around, the kind of "social" columns they produce for small weeklies are rapidly being replaced by more new worthy stories and articles. If you can write these "harder" features (especially from an out-of-the-way area), you should be able to sell them to the larger metropolitan dailies. Such newspapers cannot afford to send union reporters to every area the publications serve, and so they rely on free-lance correspondents to gather the news in small communities and rural counties.

How's the Pay?

Stringer pay isn't great (but it's not bad either for the number of hours usually put into the job) and it's good enough to supplement your income while you're doing different things . . . like farming.

Currently, I'm a stringer for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the largest newspaper in the state of Hawaii. I'm responsible for covering the western side of the island of Hawaii . . . a region about half the size of Connecticut. My time is pretty much my own and I average approximately 16 hours a week. For my efforts I'm paid a $75-a-month retainer, 50¢ per column inch for stories published, varying rates for photographs and 10¢ a mile for auto expenses. Generally, this totals out to around $200 a month.

I'm not saying you'll do this well, at least not in the beginning. Then again, on an adjusted basis, you might do even better. Most newspapers on the mainland should pay at least 35¢ a column inch for stringer material. That's less than I earn out here in the islands all right . . . but the cost of living on the mainland (especially in farming regions) is also less too.

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