University of Wisconsin alumni and freelance journalist Jacob Kushner discussed how to craft pitches and build a network Tuesday night during a career development session for students.

Kushner said he mostly writes for U.S. and U.K. publications, though he is a foreign freelancer. He has lived in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania while reporting there.

Kushner encouraged students to look past their fears of going to a different country, saying local journalists are more in danger, especially when covering controversial topics.

Kushner said there are many privileges of being a U.S. citizen who is also a foreign reporter, such as being able to come home if something goes wrong.

“Most people will never be able to leave the country they’re born in for economic reasons or not being able to get a passport,” Kushner said.

If there is another place that interests you, go there, Kushner said.

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Kushner said it can be hard to make people care about an issue in a different country. Most people in the U.S. are primarily concerned with what the president is doing and who the next president will be, he said.

“It feels like pulling teeth right now trying to get people to pay attention to any international issues,” Kushner said.

It’s hard to pitch stories without an American twist, Kushner said.

It’s easier to do international reporting when someone lives there and embeds themselves there, Kushner said. This allows a reporter to develop relationships with locals and go deeper into the story. 

Kusher said it is important to develop relationships with local reporters when traveling abroad and living in different countries. When he graduated from college he built relationships with local reporters he met while studying abroad, which ultimately got him jobs. 

Local reporters can also help with identifying and contacting sources for interviews, Kushner said.

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Kushner gave advice for writing pitches. He advised students to become familiar with the publications they want to write for and write their pitches in the style of the publications. 

Focus on specifics and narrowing a story, Kushner said. You don’t want to compete against everyone else doing the same thing.

Kushner said freelancers should look up rates other freelancers are being paid to make sure they are receiving fair pay. He also told students to not be afraid to ask for more money.

“I almost always ask for more if it doesn’t seem fair or great,” Kushner said. “Always err on the side of pushing too hard.”

Kushner said students should always write about things they are passionate about because that will make the work most enjoyable.