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A person who wants to become a war correspondent can pursue several different career paths to start reporting from war zones. One option is to attend journalism school and get formal training in journalism and related topics. Another is to start working from the ground up in news agencies to eventually acquire a position as a staff correspondent. War correspondents can come from very different backgrounds; the military uses journalists, for example, and military service can be another way to start a career as a war correspondent.
War correspondents travel to regions where conflict occurs and report on events in a variety of media. Correspondents include writers as well as photographers. The work is highly demanding and can be emotionally and physically stressful as well as dangerous. There is a risk of being killed or kidnapped while reporting, even though international conventions strongly frown on interference with the press.
One traditional way to become a war correspondent is to go to college to become a journalist. Journalists typically have undergraduate degrees in topics like journalism or communications and may pursue a master's degree from a journalism school to get advanced training. While in school, they often work for their school papers and pursue internships with the media to acquire skills and professional contacts. When they graduate, they can apply for jobs in the media and may express an interest in working as war correspondents.
Another way to work as a war correspondent is to start in an entry-level position in a newsroom and work through the ranks. This method can take more time but will provide people with valuable experience as they move through different staff positions. It can also allow a journalist to establish a track record that the company will consider when deciding who to assign as a foreign correspondent or war correspondent. Turning in good work, especially under pressure, can be critical.
A journalist who wants to become a war correspondent should also consider whether she wants to provide commentary, or simply news. Some correspondents end up in the position by establishing careers as editorial writers and then traveling to conflict zones to see situations first hand. Others may want to stick to reporting the facts, and could focus on developing a reputation for meticulously sourced articles and detailed factual reporting with limited bias.
While on the path to become a war correspondent, it can be useful to join professional organizations of journalists, including war correspondents, to keep up on industry news and job openings. It helps to have excellent interview skills to become a war correspondent, and it can also be beneficial to know one or more languages. Journalists often use the services of a “fixer,” a member of the local community who can assist in-country, but it is also helpful to be able to communicate without an interpreter. Flexibility and reliability are also useful traits.