Journalism is an industry that requires an unmatched level of initiative and drive. Volunteering in journalism is a great way to show potential employers you have passion for the field, and the tenacity to dive into it without a focus on monetary compensation. Additionally, volunteer work abroad shows employers and graduate schools you have an adventurous side, a worldly curiosity, and a yearning for a better picture of the world, all invaluable characteristics in the field of journalism.
Why Volunteer Abroad in Journalism
There are abundant opportunities to volunteer abroad in journalism. In newsrooms, for example, producers, reporters, and editors are always in need of additional staff to assist them with their daily task flow. Volunteering in a foreign newsroom will give you remarkably unique work experience and the chance to make connections you may never have the opportunity to make otherwise. Therefore, becoming a volunteer abroad in journalism will also give you a big boost in the job market, or it could pave the way for your acceptance into graduate school.
Many countries throughout Africa, Asia, and South America are experiencing increasing access to fair media coverage, but there are still many communities that live without it. By volunteering in journalism abroad, you will contribute to news access abroad. Additionally, you can help promote fair, unbiased, honest news reporting. Due to censorship issues, many people are provided with inaccurate accounts of events, because of this organizations have developed, such as Al Jazeera, that seek to provide free discussion and information consumption for all, regardless of nationality. Conducting volunteer work with this type of media organization will no doubt be a learning experience and a chance to learn and share invaluable skills.
Journalism changes dramatically with each region of the world, and learning from these differences will only make you a better journalist. The majority of volunteer work in journalism is located throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
In Asia, news outlets want to expand their reach into the English speaking world. Therefore, news agencies in Cambodia often look for volunteers to help with increasing English speaking circulation and visibility in print publications and web outlets. In Mongolia, native English speakers are needed to help further flourishing newspapers and other types of media outlets.
Many African nations have high demand for journalism volunteers who want to help raise awareness and help increase access to news across the region. Similar to Cambodia and Mongolia, Morocco often welcomes English speakers to proofread scripts and web copy for reporters and contributors so that news agencies can build their reputation and increase the quality of their reports. In Ghana, news agencies are making a particular push to raise awareness for sanitation and stopping the spread of disease. Volunteers will need to use their creativity to come up with new and effective ways to get the word out and help motivate the public to take action through their journalism work.
European news agencies tend to compete in stark contrast to the appeal-based way U.S. American news competes. You will see much more long-form journalism, panel discussions, and correspondent reporting in the European press. Volunteering in journalism in Europe offers individuals a window into war reporting and how respondents living in different countries and cultures, and speaking different languages, can collaborate to generate reports that can not only inform but promote change. You will likely find that journalism volunteer work in Europe is most often located in England or France.
Volunteering in Journalism
Journalism volunteer placements can range in length, and some may be dependent on local events, but typically only minimal experience in the field is required to participate.
Brand Awareness. Many agencies in developing countries are looking for qualified volunteers to help them improve access to free information that is as uncensored as possible. Other unique opportunities, such as placements with agencies like Journalists for Human Rights, allow volunteers to work to improve access to quality journalism and reporting on human rights issues in developing countries.
Production & Web Assistant. Those who volunteer abroad in journalism in a newsroom setting will help with a variety of tasks, which may require a range of skills or experience. Volunteers can expect to review or write copy written in English in order to help agencies expand coverage in English available on the web. Proofreading scripts is also frequently needed for reporters who are not native English speakers. Additionally, volunteers will likely be tasked with going into the field on assignments, from summits to political protests. Volunteers with camera experience may be able to help with shooting stories, while others may be responsible for handling equipment, talking to sources, and much more.
Digital Production. Media agencies today, especially new ones trying to break into a new audience, are transitioning to more web-focused content production. Volunteers with knowledge of social media, interactive presentations, computer programs and editing software, and how to engage and market to users on the web will be very useful in a newsroom or other type of media agency. Many large newsrooms and media agencies that has staff and journalists who have been in the industry for years rely heavily on volunteers to provide web expertise, since it is such a new portion of the field. Volunteers may help make news reports more social, more interactive, and brainstorm ideas to help boost web presence.
Pay Your Dues. Volunteering is almost an unofficial prerequisite to any job in journalism. At some point, you’ll have to do a little of it to earn the respect and experience employers want. Volunteering in journalism abroad, as opposed to at home, is exponentially more beneficial, as it will open your eyes to other ways of thinking about journalism and what it means to inform the public.
Language Skills. Having language skills outside of the English language will be highly valuable in the field of journalism. By volunteering in journalism abroad, you will inevitably develop your foreign language skills, or improve on your current skills, which will help you become more marketable and valuable to future employers.
Connections. You will meet more people than you can count and build relationships you will work hard to keep strong. Volunteering in journalism abroad will improve your cultural sensitivity and no doubt, make you a better journalist, as you’ll learn to think about an issue from the perspective of many types of people. Agencies are known to offer their favorite volunteers jobs at the end of their volunteer tenure, so standing out is always good.
Contribute Skills. Media agencies trying to break out in societies hampered by corrupt governments often find it hardest to use the internet. Your creative problem solving is needed, regardless. When you become a journalism volunteer abroad, organizations will often want to hear your reflections about the company’s news and current affairs coverage, and your ideas to improve it. This is your chance to start a real, sustainable change.
Wherever you go, be sure to take the time to experience the people and the place. Volunteering in journalism is about more than just the work itself. Finally, regardless of where you go or who you work for, volunteering in journalism abroad is an invaluable experience that will bring you further insight into the world of international news, improve your cultural and religious awareness, and make you a better journalist.