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What is Journalism?

Every day, people are curious about events happening all around them. Some will sit nestled with their morning newspapers at their breakfast nooks. Others peruse their weekly news magazines as soon as they hit the mailbox. Television newscasts and informational websites are also very popular for keeping abreast of current events. Without the art of journalism, however, staying in the know about local and world events would be very difficult.

Journalism is considered to be the investigation and reporting of news, including political or social issues, current events, and popular trends. The main purpose of journalism is to inform the masses. Although newspapers and magazines were once the most popular way to stay informed on these subjects, television newscasts quickly became popular after televisions could be found in nearly every home. Today, with the popularity of the internet, news and journalistic websites are also rapidly becoming popular as well.

A German-language newspaper printed in 1605 – entitled Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien – is often considered to be the world’s first newspaper. The first daily English newspaper, however, was the Daily Courant, which was printed for nearly 35 years, starting in 1702. Nearly 550 years after the first newspaper was published, the first television newscast aired in the United States in 1948.

Today, nearly every city and town has either a newspaper or a local television news station. The internet is another excellent source of news and current events, especially since anyone can read news from all corners of the globe.

What Does a Journalist Do?

One of the main responsibilities of a journalist is to investigate a situation or issue and provide a comprehensive summary. Typically, a journalist will attempt to summarize a situation by including the main points. This can often be done by answering a list of five questions. These questions are often referred to as the “Five W’s”, and they are as follows:

  • Who is it about?
  • What happened?
  • Where did the event occur?
  • When did the event occur?
  • Why did it happen?

In addition, many journalists will also attempt to answer one additional question about how an event occurred.

There are a few common types of news stories that a journalist will pursue. Breaking news is often one of the most sought after types of news stories that many journalists will try to tackle. This type of news story requires a journalist to report news as it is happening. Reporting some breaking news stories, however, can be somewhat dangerous, depending on the situation. For example, a journalist would be reporting “breaking news” if he investigated and reported about a bank robbery while it was in progress.

Investigative stories, on the other hand, are news stories in which a journalist will attempt to uncover some information that nearly no one else know. Many times, this type of news story uncovers some type of shocking information. A journalist that investigates and finds that the mayor of the city was behind the bank robbery would typically have all of the necessary ingredients for an investigative story.

Human interest stories are journalistic pieces that require journalists to present certain situations or people in emotional lights. For example, a journalist doing a human interest story using the above example might talk with the bank robber or his loved ones to find out why he may have felt so desperate for money that he would stoop to illegal means to obtain it.

Feature stories, however, require journalists to summarize all aspects of a situation. These stories typically require a journalist to investigate all aspects of a situation and compile them into a detailed and interesting story.

There are a number of ways that a journalist can gather information and get all of the facts for a story. Interviewing individuals that are in the midst of an event is one of the best ways to collect facts, for instance. A journalist can also observe a situation as it happens, or read about it in other news stories, public records, or other written reports.

After all of the facts of a story have been gathered, a journalist is then responsible for putting it all together and reporting it. This usually involves writing out the story, especially if the journalist works for a newspaper or magazine. Television journalists, however, might also be required to write their story before reporting it as well.

In general, most journalists must work on tight deadlines. This means that they must have their reports and stories compiled and ready to present to the world by a certain time.

Where Does a Journalist Work?

A journalist that works in print media often has a couple different choices when it comes to their work environments. Some choose to work as freelance journalists, writing news stories and submitting them in hopes of a newspaper or magazine buying them. A freelancer that contributes regularly to a particular newspaper or magazine is often referred to as a stringer. Other journalists work as staff writers and reporters.

Journalists that work as television reporters, on the other hand, typically work in television studios.

What Are the Necessary Education Requirements for a Journalism Career?

Education requirements for a journalism career might vary, depending on what type of media an aspiring journalist hopes to work in. These professionals should be very articulate and able to communicate effectively, however, no matter what type of media they work in. Because of this, most journalists will take several English, language, and writing courses.

Degrees in journalism, English, or communications are usually required in order to get started with a journalism career. Aspiring journalists looking to work in television, however, should consider degrees in broadcast journalism.

While earning their degrees, most future journalism students will also be encouraged – or possibly required – to participate in extracurricular activities such as writing for college newspapers or working at their universities television station. These types of activities help prepare future journalists for their upcoming career by allowing them to gain valuable work experience.

What is the Average Salary for a Journalist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reporters and correspondents, which are broad terms that include journalists, made an average salary of $43,640 in 2010. Those that worked for newspapers and periodicals made an average salary of $39,130, while those working in radio and television studios made $51,410 in that same year.

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