How to Become a Journalist


Learn the Basics of Journalism

Journalists assess, gather, create, and present news and information, and seek to communicate the who, what, when, where and how of a story. Journalism differs from other forms of communication, such as opinion pieces, tweets or emails, in that the intent of true journalism is to provide verified information; the facts and the truth behind the facts. 

Journalists typically use a computer, writing and editing software, such as Story Planet or Pearltrees, Animoto and Buffer, and must possess exceptional research and writing skills, a confident speaking voice (particularly necessary for broadcast journalism), the ability to meet deadlines, attention to detail and accuracy, as well as an unbiased understanding of what makes a good story. 

Most journalists will research, write, produce, and edit stories, either solo or as a team, and will have a complete understanding of every part of the production process.  But, competition is fierce, so most prospective journalists, unless deciding to freelance, will usually begin their career in a support position, or as an intern. 


Learn Methods, Techniques & Formal Concepts

Formal concepts in journalism are the roadmap for a story, and include a full understanding of yellow journalism, web blogging, watchdog journalism, soft news, video or broadcast journalism, transitivity, style guides, etc.  Coursework in a degree program may include English, rhetoric and writing, humanities and composition, social and behavioral sciences, and much more.  Coursework within a journalism program will differ from a communication program in that a journalism program typically examines a narrow approach to news and information, which is targeted toward a board audience, and a communications degree covers a broader range of disciplines and is often aimed toward a narrow audience.  However, like communicators, journalists must have a good understanding of written, verbal, and visual techniques to spread information.  

Journalism Methods 

Methods in journalism serve as the nucleus of a story, and include the who, when, what, where and how of a story. Journalists will avail themselves of research methods, interviewing, source development, and records requests, along with archival video digging and social media to substantiate a story.  However, not all sources are created equal, and a true journalist will authenticate a source through diligent and painstaking research.  Managing this process and applying critical thinking and organizational skills will ensure a successful outcome, equaling mass viewership/readership. 

Journalistic Techniques

Journalistic technique answers such questions as: Is the story necessary? Is the story relevant? Does the story answer a question or questions and fulfill the objectives of being informative and informational? It examines all aspects of a story, and may include elements like spoiler, stereotype, and target audience. Technique also examines the various tools necessary to frame a story, through the written word, visual or video cues, or broadcast, and involves using creative or technical writing skills, software, English language (or other languages), style guides, etc. 


Build a Strong Portfolio & Industry Connections

Today, more than ever before, competition for jobs in the field of journalism is extensive and scary. What is someone else writes better or has a better speaking voice? What if they have an education from a renowned institution?  What if they crush me?  All valid concerns.  But creating a stellar portfolio and networking with people in the industry are things you can do to make sure your resume is at the top of the stack, and you land the job.  

Whether online or in print, a strong portfolio is a necessary step in a journalists’ career.  As a writer or speaker, you may not feel a portfolio will help you get your foot in the door, but you’d be mistaken.  Besides having a great resume, a portfolio filled with examples of your writing or voice clips will show prospective employers that you can write in a variety of styles, or that you have a quality voice for broadcast journalism.  As you gain experience, either through an internship, volunteer-ship, writing for a school newspaper, your portfolio should be updated; highlighting only your best work.   

Acquiring industry connections and networking are also indispensable to your career.  This begins in college and continues throughout your career.  Even if you choose to work as a freelance journalist, maintaining old and generating new industry connections will ensure a constant stream of work.

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