How to Become a Columnist

NSNC sometimes receives inquires from aspiring columnists about how to be a columnist. This answer covers it for almost anyone interested.


From: Jameson
Date: May 6, 2010 8:06 AM
Subject: Becoming a Columnist
[This mail was sent via contact form on]

Message Body:

My name is Jameson. I am a senior English major at a college in Virginia. I have a passion for writing, and would love to establish a career in this field. I was wondering if you could send me any kinds of information, or small tips, on achieving this goal to become a columnist. Writing is my true passion, and I know I would be dedicated to my work.

Thank you for your time,


—–Forwarded Message—–
From: David Astor
Sent: May 6, 2010 3:27 PM
To: Jameson
Subject: Re: Becoming a Columnist

Hi Jameson,

Thanks for writing!

I’m Dave Astor, a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists board. There are various ways to have a chance to become a columnist. Here are some of them:

— Work as a reporter for a newspaper for a while, and then ask to do a column on the side or to become a full-time columnist.

— Start a locally oriented column and try to freelance it to your local daily or weekly newspaper.

— Start a non-local column and try to self-syndicate it to various newspapers around the country.

— Start a blog (many blog posts are similar to newspaper columns) and hope it eventually draws some attention.

— If you end up going to graduate school, see if you could write a column for the university newspaper.

Becoming a columnist is not easy, especially in this difficult publishing market, but some people manage to do it. Good luck!

Also, you’re welcome to attend the NSNC’s annual conference, if that’s something you can afford (info is on Many young columnists have picked up tips at our meetings.


Dave Astor
NSNC, Archivist
Columnist, Montclair (NJ) Times

—–About the Author—–

Dave Astor has written the “Montclairvoyant” column for The Montclair Times since 2003. The weekly topical humor feature won both first and second place in the 2009 New Jersey Press Association contest.

Between 1983 and 2008, Astor covered columnists, cartoonists, and syndicates for Editor & Publisher magazine. In 2006, he received the “Ink Bottle Award” for service to cartooning from the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

Before joining E&P, Astor was editor-in-chief of the Rutgers Daily Targum and a reporter for two New Jersey newspapers: the Daily Register in Shrewsbury and the Herald News in Passaic. He has a B.A. in English from Rutgers College and a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.


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