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Getting started

Paige Brown Jarreau discovered she had a "secret weapon" for dealing with her PhD exams — she could write fast, because she blogs: "If I could recommend one study tip for students out there, especially students in journalism and mass communication programs, and particularly graduate students, it would be this: blog. Blog on a weekly basis about your course readings, interesting applications from your classes, or even news items you see related to what you are learning."

Writing on SciLogs, Kirk Englehardt recounts a career change that eventually led him to a research communications job at a major university. Englehardt offers this advice to students — especially those who are pursuing advanced degrees in research but considering a course change into science communications: "Don’t listen to anyone who tells you communication is a 'lesser' career than research. Communication is a science, an important one with real-world impact."

Should experts charge a fee for mentoring beginners? Anna North finds some in writing and other fields who are doing exactly that: "Charging for what might once have been informal counsel is becoming more common — and the growing freelance economy may be behind the shift," North writes. "While those who work in offices may be able to buttonhole their colleagues with questions, people working for themselves may have to seek out friends or acquaintances for help."

Scott Rodd had hopes for a media internship as he neared graduation from Susquehanna University: "At the top of my list were publications like the New Yorker, Time, Esquire, the New York Times, and Harper’s, among others. Harper’s may have been the place I was most interested in." Several months later, he began washing dishes at a French bakery in his hometown. He writes about his experience in Salon, and gets lots of advice (and criticism) in the comments.

Try to write "everything about something." That's Jay Rosen's advice for people just starting out in journalism today. What he means is starting a "niche news service" that provides lots of detail on a subject that a few people care about deeply: "You don't need permission to do it. Initial investment: less than $1000 for design, hosting … Building a niche site is hard work, turning it into a business harder. But it's a plausible route for someone starting from zero."

There are many hopeful contenders for the title of America's Best Journalism School, but the standards for measuring such things are weak at best, Eric Newton writes on the Knight Foundation blog: "The opaque nature of journalism education quality and the lack of general transparency is bad for the next generation of content creators, young people who increasingly struggle to get through college, all too often graduating after six years with a large student loan debt."

The European Journalism Centre is registering students for a free five-week online course, scheduled for early 2014, in the fundamentals of using data in journalism. The course includes modules on the skills required to do data journalism. how to find data for stories, how to use spreadsheets and statistics to find patterns in data, basic cleanup techniques for "dirty data" sets, and using infographics and interactive presentations to tell the resulting stories.

NASW student members looking for great internships, or news and science organizations looking for top interns should plan to attend the 2014 NASW Internship Fair. The fair will be held Saturday, Feb. 15, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago. Read on for important preparation details.