Fifteen years ago this week, I landed my first writing gig.
I was unpolished, young, and inexperienced. And I hadn’t found my voice yet. My “Teen Beat” column, however, helped jumpstart my career.
Writing for my community paper eventually gave way to stints at my university’s conservative newspaper, an internship at Media Research Center, and co-launching several blogs. In 2013, I finally got my big break publishing this article here at Townhall.com.
Fast forward to today: I’ve been fortunate to have bylines in national publications, an award to my name, and a sizable social media platform—things I value and don’t take for granted.
Has the journey been smooth sailing? Far from it. I’ve faced my share of failures, rejections, missed opportunities, and bad experiences. Everyone has their ups and downs. But I wouldn’t change anything I did.
I have no doubt some young people reading this are contemplating a career in conservative media. What advice would I impart to them? Here are some helpful tips for “making it” in the industry today.
Create Original Content
So you want to be a TV commentator? A political columnist that is read by legions of fans? A full-time YouTuber? Perhaps you want to launch a podcast to monetize one day?
Great! The aforementioned scenarios, believe it or not, are quite doable—even in today’s crowded media ecosystem. Nevertheless, you’re worried it’ll be difficult to get noticed. It’s natural to feel this way.
What can you do to stand out and get people to consider your work? My suggestion: Create unique or original content across print, video, and/or social media.
Simply re-hashing or regurgitating your take on a hot and trending topic isn’t going to suffice. You’re competing with countless others who are likely mirroring the same thoughts. Frustrating, right? We’ve all been there. That’s where channeling some creativity comes into play here.
Where can one draw inspiration for content creation? Simply look around you. Chances are human interest stories are slipping under your radar.
Tip: First start local and then expand from there. Pitch content to outlets or start your own. Speak with candidates running for local or statewide office. Interview small business owners who are persevering and rejecting big government politics. Cover legislation, ordinances, or breaking news affecting your community, county, or state.
Don’t Make ‘Owning the Libs’ Your Central Focus
Emerging or aspiring commentators and writers sometimes fall prey to focusing on ‘owning the libs’. Truth be told, that’s a fool’s errand.
While there’s a place and time for poking fun at our political opponents, cultivating a reliable brand or writing beat should be your ultimate goal.
Ask yourself this: What’s your purpose? To change hearts and minds, or to only trigger the libs? If you want to have an impact working in commentary or journalism, incline yourself to the former.
Tip: When creating content, have fun but lean on substance. Conservatives are happy warriors. Share your personal story of why you’re a conservative or interview others about their views. Pick your battles wisely and look beyond Twitter for inspiration.
Attend Trainings and Apply for Fellowships
Let’s say you’re a Millennial or Gen Z-er that’s amassed a large social media following posting about conservative topics. You think you’re invincible and your strategy is perfect. Think you don’t need any polishing or training? Think again.
The visible young conservatives who’ve made it in the media today? They didn’t just wake up and have jobs lined up at Fox News Channel or similar outlets. They started from humble beginnings and worked their way up—first with an internship or fellowship.
Success isn’t built overnight. It takes years to establish yourself as a writer, TV commentator, or podcaster.
Tip: Take a Leadership Institute training. For media fellowships, check out Young Voices. To jumpstart your career, consider applying to YAF’s National Journalism Center, Campus Reform, or Media Research Center.
Let me confess: Sustaining a career in conservative media, full-time or part-time, isn’t easy.
It requires adapting and evolving to new mediums. It requires hard work. It requires developing working relationships and building rapport with others. And it requires maintaining some consistency and constancy.
It doesn’t take much to “make it” in conservative media today. But it takes time, true grit, and originality to have a lasting impact.