Do you like attending workshops and special events? Do like checking out exotic places? Do you like meeting celebrities? Do you like getting gift items and souvenirs? Do you like lots of good food? Seems like a charmed life? You can actually get paid to have all of these things. Just get yourself a job as a journalist.

That was my first big break after graduation. I became a staff writer for a small, but respectable community newspaper called The Village Voice, which holds office beside the DLSU annex in Malate. I walked in with my résumé (with a picture!) and they immediately asked me to type a short essay on why I would want to become a staff writer for the paper. I wrote it in about 15 minutes. The editor looked at me, looked at my work, looked at me and told me I was hired.

The Village Voice is a newspaper that caters to expats and residential owners in the more affluent areas of Makati, Alabang and Ortigas. All the straight news articles will come from the municipalities and local city governments. So if you donÕt want anything to do with disgruntled government employees, do not get this job. Many government workers will give you the runaround before giving you information. You just have to be vigilant: be wary on whom you approach. You have to be really tenacious to survive in this beat. And just like any publication, there will be long nights ahead. Work starts late in the afternoon and stretches until midnight to early in the morning. I dreaded commuting home late at night or early in the morning where I might encounter drunkards or vandals. My mom worried about me constantly.

Writing can be very fulfilling especially when you see your name in print. What is good and bad about this job is writing about things you may or, conversely may not care about. I experienced a lot of stress especially when I had to write about something I did not care much about. For example, local government issues were a real bore for me. I was at my best when I wrote feature articles. It really helps if you like the audience you are writing for and the scope of the topics that you have at your disposal. Although it is an advantage to gain experience first by writing for any publication; finding the right publication whose market suits your personality will make your work more enjoyable.

Make sure to check whether the publishing company you are writing for will reimburse you on any expenses that you might incur while writing your article. Transportation fees, film purchase and developing, even food qualify for reimbursement. Immediately after they hired me, they handed me P500 for the trouble that I went through to go to their office. I knew right away that this is the kind of company that knew how to take care of its employees.

One of the most memorable moments I had was just before Christmastime during my first year as a staff writer. I was able to get a really good story on (of all things) garbage disposal and a dental health project in a local center in Alabang. All my articles occupied the whole front page. I felt so proud of my work.

A week after that, an article in a major daily came out and copied the article that I made concerning dental health. Although the experience can be flattering (hey, they used my article! IÕm that good), you have to make sure that other publications do not unwittingly plagiarize your hard work without giving credit where credit is due. If this ever happens to you, inform your editor about it, and demand credit and compensation from the publication that copied your work. In my case, I was new to the industry and didnÕt really know that this was something I needed to act on.

Here are 13 pointers, in starting a career in journalism:

Bring your press badgeÑthis will establish your credibility and will help your work progress faster.

Be conscious of the time. Make allowances for traffic and commute.

Always have a pen and a notebook handy. Unless you have photographic memory, how do you expect to catch a good story when you see it?

Bring a camera. A good article will come out better when you pair it with a good picture.

Make the most of opportunities. I was talking to a participant in a crafts fair I was covering and ended up writing an article on one of the showcased products in the fairÑan instant side-bar story.

Write down names, titles, contact numbers. Keep a database of contact people, and youÕll be sure youÕll find these handy in the future.

Read newspapers and magazines especially about current events.

Do your research before you have an interview so you know what questions to ask.

Do not bring friends to paid events. You donÕt want to burden them unnecessarily, or yourself for that matter!

Be curious about everything and anything. Topics for articles can come to you anytime.

Keep honing your writing skills. ThereÕs always room to be more perfect

Be persistent, but do not be rude. If someone does not want to be interviewed because he/she is busy, look for other people to interview.

Stay well groomed even if you had to commute and itÕs sweltering outside. Wear comfortable clothes. Maintain a professional image.

By Andrienne Gaerlan