If you're lucky, they'll put you on the copy desk. I know a woman who started out as sports clerk and became a sports copy editor. She's been doing it for 20 years or more.
You won't make a ton of money — I think the local newspaper pays $8 an hour for a sports clerk — but you'll learn.
Newspapers have cut back on freelancing, but ask the news editor (sometimes called the metro editor), the sports editor and the features editor if they could use freelance stories. They might suggest stories, or they might assign them. Or they might ask for suggestions. Again, you won't get paid much, but the experience is priceless, whether you're in college or still in high school.
Oh, did I mention that you'll learn? I learned a bit from going to J-school, but I learned a lot more from working at the college newspaper and working for the college information office. And I learned even more from my internship.
Then I got my first of nine jobs, and I learned some more.
Go out and learn.
Contact: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.
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Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie