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How To Become A Journalist in 2021

October 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Journalism is considered the backbone of the media sector as almost all media occupations require journalism. The journalism profession is suitable for individuals passionate about storytelling, writing, and current events. We know a journalist reports news on media outlets, but there is more to the journalism profession than meets the eye. Journalism is a type of writing that depends mainly on media coverage. Journalists investigate an issue of interest, collect information, and present the information through magazines, blogs, television broadcasts, newspapers, and other digital platforms. 

If you’re considering pursuing a career as a journalist, then you’re wondering how to get started. Aspiring journalists need first to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism. A bachelor’s degree in journalism provides aspiring journalists with the foundational knowledge they need to become successful journalists. Depending on the type of journalism an individual wants to pursue, they should pick a major suitable to that specific type of journalism. The common types of journalism include broadcast journalism and investigative journalism. 

Upon completion of the bachelor’s degree, go to a journalism school to earn your graduate degrees. Additionally, you need to complete internship programs which might be an avenue for an entry-level journalism job. Journalists have always been confused with reporters. However, the journalists and reporters work within the same settings, they have relatively different professions. In this article, we will extensively cover the path to becoming a journalist, including: 

  1. Role of a journalist 
  2. Education needed to become a journalist 
  3. Skills a journalist needs 
  4. Components of a successful journalism career

Role of A Journalist 

Journalists play a vital role in the media industry, making them the backbone of the media industry. The primary function is to investigate and gather information, write news reports, and present the news negatively. In addition, reporting current news, a journalist writes articles that influence public opinion. A journalist is likely to work within an office or field, depending on their assigned duties. 

This makes the journalism profession ideal for individuals passionate about writing, assessing information, and covering current events. Before enrolling for an online journalism bachelor’s to pursue journalism, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the journalist roles. This ensures the roles and responsibilities align with your personal and career objectives. This page explores the role of a journalist and the difference between a journalist and a reporter. Keep reading to get the insights. 

What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Journalist?

The roles of a journalist largely depend on their area of specialization. As a journalist, you might opt to specialize in political journalism, broadcast journalism, among other areas. Regardless of your focus area, there are several roles and responsibilities common to all journalists. Are you considering becoming a journalist? Here are some of the typical roles and responsibilities you likely accomplish: 

  • Reporting Duties 

Like reporters, journalists also perform various reporting duties. Before writing about a particular subject, they must gather information by investigating the issue. Mainly, this involves interviewing people who are familiar with the matter. For instance, a political journalist investigating a political issue will interview various politicians to gain insights into the covered subject. Additionally, they might peruse public records and databases to find information as a backup to their news story. Therefore, as an aspiring journalist, it is essential to note that you will spend more of your time tracking down information. 

  • Legal Responsibilities 

Journalists play a critical role, especially when it comes to matters of law. Regardless of the nature of the subject issue, journalists must always follow the federal and state laws governing journalism. For instance, when gathering information, they must protect the confidentiality and privacy of those they interview. Also, they need to protect the privacy of those they write or report about. When interviewing a person of interest, federal law requires a journalist to seek the interviewer’s permission before recording them. Hence, you must always inform your sources you’re recording them before beginning the interview process. Going against the federal laws governing journalism could have severe legal implications for a journalist. 

  • Inspiring Entertainer 

Some types of a journalist such as broadcast journalists entertain and inspire audiences. They create entertainment pieces and present them in newspapers, magazines, entertainment blogs, and television and radio programs. 

  • Community Advocates 

Journalists cover various issues right from the community to the national levels. They cover news on the plight of vulnerable populations, such as security concerns, health care issues, and poverty. A journalist writes informational blogs in newspapers and magazines to help inform the general public and government on the plight of a given community within the country. The advocacy role of a journalist has helped improve the living standards of vulnerable populations. 

What Does a Journalist Do?

Journalists right from newspaper journalists to investigative journalists perform various roles. Some of the typical functions for the journalists involve: 

  • Reading news reports 
  • Researching and writing articles 
  • Attending various events to providing coverage for the events 
  • Tracking down information and those knowledgeable on a specific issue 
  • Interviewing sources to gather information 
  • Analyzing and verifying statements and reports to ensure they are accurate and factual 
  • Analyzing records and databases in the public domain to gather information 
  • Working with a multidisciplinary team consisting of editors, photographers, and designers to present informational pieces. 
  • Establish and maintain trustworthy relationships with sources and contacts for future research 

What’s the Difference Between a Reporter and A Journalist?

Reporters and journalists are essential professionals in the media industry. They inform the general public on recent happenings through news stories and other informational pieces. Although the U.S Bureau and Labor Statistics classify reporters and journalists under one category, they are distinct professions. The two disciplines are independent of the other. Are you stuck between a career as a reporter and a journalist? Well, here are some of the notable differences to help you make a choice. 

A reporter is usually an individual who reports on new happenings around the world. Reporters present the provided piece of information and don’t add any analysis or opinion to the report. Reporters might gather information from primary sources such as attendees of an event, first-person interviews, or news conferences. On the other hand, a journalist is directly involved in investigating and analyzing events and information. Hence, their duties go beyond routine reporting. Reporters who craft stories based on their research might be considered to be journalists. According to BLS, reporters and journalists earn relatively different wages, depending on their employers. 

Education Needed to Become a Journalist

A journalist uses skills and knowledge in interviewing, researching, writing, and reporting to inform the public on the current happenings around the world. Depending on the type of event they are covering, a journalist might attend crime scenes, conferences, political events, or sporting events to gather information and report the story to the public. The journalism profession is quite a fascinating field that requires hardworking and enthusiastic individuals. 

The path to becoming a journalist is relatively straightforward as it involves fulfilling specific educational requirements and developing the skills needed to become a successful journalist. If you’re considering becoming a journalist, you need to know the education required to become a journalist. This article gives a detailed analysis of the educational requirements, including training and certifications. 

What Are the Requirements Necessary to Become a Journalist?

Are you considering becoming a journalist and probably don’t know where to start? Well, you don’t need to panic. This page explores the steps and requirements necessary to become a journalist. They include: 

  • Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism

Currently, there isn’t a typical educational requirement to become a journalist. Nonetheless, those seeking to become professional and certified journalists need to have the proper knowledge and practical skills required to accomplish various journalism tasks. A journalism degree, preferably a bachelor’s degree, is the most preferred educational requirement by employers. Journalism is quite broad and encompasses different types of journalists, including broadcast journalists, investigative journalists, political journalists, and many more. Hence, students should consider pursuing a four-year journalism degree program and specialize in a journalism major of their choice. 

Others might opt to pursue a two-year associate degree program and later transfer the credits earned to a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Those considering to advance to higher journalism levels and broaden their career prospects should pursue a master’s degree in journalism. The master’s degree programs are offered in journalism schools across the country as online journalism programs or on-campus programs. The educational requirements enable aspiring journalists to learn and develop their writing skills. 

  • Complete Internship Program 

In the past, aspiring journalists mainly learned journalism through internship programs which provided students with hands-on experience in journalism. Today, the aspects of journalism, such as writing and reporting are learned in classes and perfected through internship programs. Graduates are usually encouraged to gain journalism experience from radio stations, television stations, and newspaper companies. 

  • Choose an Area of Concentration 

Unlike before, when journalists mainly specialized in two main areas: broadcast and print media, the journalism industry has evolved, including digital journalism, leading to more areas of specialization. Some of the common areas of specializations include: 

  • Broadcast Journalism 
  • Feature and magazine writing 
  • International Journalism 
  • News reporting 
  • Photojournalism 
  • Sports reporting 
  • Political journalism 
  • Land an Entry Level Job                                                                                   

After completing your education and internship programs, the next step will be to land an entry-level job. Entry-level jobs are always the fastest route of beginning journalism practice. You should seek employment opportunities from television, radio, and newspaper stations. 

What Do You Need to Study to Become a Journalist?

At a minimum, you require a bachelor’s degree in journalism to become a journalist. The journalism degree is quite comprehensive, with the coursework covering several courses. Some of the courses you must study to become a journalist include: 

  • Broadcast Reporting 
  • Investigative reporting 
  • Advanced reporting 
  • Mass communication law 
  • Social media in journalism 
  • News writing 

What College Internships Do You Need to Take to Become a Journalist?

Completing college internships is the most effective way of exploring potential career options for journalists. Internships for aspiring journalists are wide-ranging, honing your skills and knowledge by giving your hands-on experience in journalism. Here some of the college internships you need to take to become a journalist:

  • Editorial Intern 
  • Journalism intern 
  • Social media intern 
  • Content marketing intern 
  • Broadcast intern 
  • Copywriting intern

Skills A Journalist Needs

You need to possess a particular skillset to become a successful journalist. The skills set ranges from soft skills to technical skills. This page explores some of the skills you need to become a journalist and the daily activities you need to become a good journalist. Keep reading. 

What Skills Help Journalists Find Jobs?

Several skills can help you become a journalist, including: 

  • Time Management: Time management is an essential skill that all journalists must possess. Journalism has strict timelines that they need to meet. A story must be written and published before other stations or writers do. Hence, your ability to gather information, investigate, analyze and write an article concerning a story or person within a tight deadline is critical. 
  • Strong Communication Skills: As a journalist, you will always be in constant communication with others. Journalists must have strong verbal communication skills to help them translate information accurately. They also need a good command of written communication skills. Journalists interview different people either in person, on the phone, or through digital platforms such as emails. They need to be able to gather vital information from interviewees without missing crucial information. 
  • Enthusiasm: The journalism career requires hardworking and enthusiastic individuals. Interestingly, this is a skill that every employer wants to see in every journalist. Enthusiastic journalists are always eager to do something new. With this, they can go beyond the typical ways to cover current events. Besides, they are always passionate about their jobs despite the financial rewards of their career.

What Technical Skills Do Journalists Need?

Journalists require technical skills to accomplish their activities effectively. Unlike soft skills, mainly in-born, technical skills are acquired and developed by enrolling in a journalism degree program. With the proper journalism education, an aspiring journalist will learn and develop various technical skills, including: 

  • Research Skills: One significant difference between journalists and other media professionals is their ability to research, collect, and interpret information from records, published sources, or databases. Adept research skills will help journalists know the crucial information they need and where to find it. 
  • Writing skills: Journalists spend most of their career time sourcing information and writing articles to present the gathered information to the public. To communicate effectively with their target audience, they must have clear and concise creative writing skills. They must ensure their articles are free from grammatical errors and can easily be understood by their audience. 
  • Critical Thinking Skills: While gathering information, journalists should be able to discern facts from misinformation. To achieve this, they must have solid critical thinking skills to identify factual and false information. Besides, essential skills of thinking are quite necessary when interpreting information provided by multiple sources. 
  • Data Analysis Skills: The ability to synthesize and analyze information quickly and accurately is critical in a journalist’s job. Journalists must be strong readers of people and text and must present information that is easy to read and understand. 

What Should You Do Daily to Become a Good Journalist?

Becoming a journalist could be a walk in the park as it mainly involves fulfilling specific education requirements and completing a hands-on training program. However, there is a lot involved in becoming a good journalist. A good journalist possesses comprehensive knowledge and skills that put them ahead of the competition. Besides, they have strong networks that enable them to source information easily. Are you seeking to become a successful journalist? Here are some of the things you should do daily: 

  • Improving on their Writing Skills: Reporting and editorial work requires a lot of writing. The journalist is actively involved in sourcing information and writing news in newspapers, magazines, articles, and other digital platforms. To become successful in your career, you need to improve your writing skills daily. Take new writing challenges daily as this will help develop your writing skills. 
  • Networking: Having the right network comes in handy for most journalists, including newspaper journalists and investigative journalists. Journalists should strive to build and maintain strong relationships with other professionals. Besides, they should develop long-lasting relationships with their sources and contacts. The sources and contacts might be beneficial in future research. Also, your network can advocate for you when newer positions open up. Do not underestimate your network.

Components of A Successful Journalism Career

A successful journalist is among the most sought-after professionals in the media industry. Whether you are a music journalist, broadcast journalist, or practicing as a freelance journalist, you need to have the right journalism components to become successful. Some of the components of a successful journalism career include having the right skill set, the appropriate media communication education, tools, and technology. 

These components enable a journalist to become competitive in the market. For instance, pursuing a journalism career with a bachelor’s degree puts you ahead of journalists with a two-year associate’s degree in journalism. Are you an aspiring journalist? If you do, you should be well informed about the components of a successful career. If you lack the knowledge, you need not worry. The subsequent sections cover the components in detail. 

What Makes a Journalist Successful?

In addition to good writing skills, several other qualities make a journalist successful. Critical thinking, passion for current news, and thorough knowledge are essential qualities that make a journalist successful. If you are aspiring to become a successful journalist, here are the qualities you should have: 

  • Comprehensive Knowledge

To become a successful journalist, you need to be aware of the current happenings around you and globally. A good journalist should read a wide range of digital and print news sources to keep abreast of current events. Your research skills enable you to find the right information needed to write your story. 

  • Confidence and Professionalism

 Even if you’re in an entry-level position, you should consider yourself a professional. To be a professional, you should be able to take tasks despite their complexity. Besides, you should be able to accept criticism from other staff, especially editors. Good journalists should meet strict timelines and reflect a high level of confidence in their dealings. Notably, a successful journalist is eager to learn new ideas and enhance their skill through continuing education and other programs. 

  • Ethical Journalism 

Ethics is an integral aspect of every profession. Currently, the journalism industry faces a lot of competition, with most journalists striving to earn more money and abandoning ethics for journalists. However, behaving ethically makes a journalist successful. Honesty and accuracy should always be the motive of any of your informational pieces. 

  • Tech-Savvy

Today, technology has become an integral part of journalism. Therefore, journalists must embrace technology to remain competitive in the market. They should be able to handle digital cameras and digital recording devices that are interfaced with satellite equipment, handheld devices, and laptop computers. Besides, they should use social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and other digital networking platforms. Successful journalists are also familiar with spreadsheets, databases, and other digital reporting components. 

Where Can You Work as A Journalism Professional?

A journalism degree unlocks several career opportunities to graduate students. Graduate journalists get hired in various work settings, including news agencies, newspaper stations, radio stations, and television stations. If you’re considering a career in journalism, here are some of the possible places you’re likely to work as a professional journalist: 

  • News Agencies: There are several news agencies currently seeking to fill various journalism positions. As a journalist, you might work in different departments in the news agency. Some of the viable careers you might pursue in the companies include becoming a broadcast journalist or an investigative journalist. 
  • Newspaper Stations: The demand for print continues to gain momentum despite the increased digitalization of the media industry. Professional journalists might pursue various careers in newspaper stations, including becoming print journalists. As a print journalist, you will perform multiple tasks, including writing articles published in newspapers, magazines, and journals. 
  • Television and Radio Stations: These are the largest employers of professional journalists. Working in any of the stations can be fascinating and challenging at the same time. You get to network with different personalities who broaden your career prospects. Besides, as a journalist, you will be able to travel around the country covering major events. You can work as a news copy editor, photojournalist, or investigative journalist. Television and radio station jobs are quite competitive. Hence, to gain employment in the companies, you need to be highly skilled and have advanced education levels. 
  • Self-Employment: Instead of working for journalism companies, you might decide to work as a freelance journalist. Freelance journalists are highly flexible and choose what to write. Most freelance writers work part-time. However, they ensure all clients’ needs are met, even if it means working odd hours. 

What Does a Day in The Life of a Journalist Look Like?

Journalists accomplish a lot of tasks daily. The tasks range from researching various issues to covering breaking news. If you’re considering becoming a journalist, you probably wonder what a typical day for journalists looks like. The journalist’s typical day depends on the type of journalism profession. However, here are some of the tasks common to journalists: 

  • Staying on top of the current happenings, including breaking news and ongoing events that are of public interest
  • Researching on various stories and sourcing for information from potential contacts 
  • Writing and editing articles for newspapers, magazines, and digital blogs 
  • Interviewing people to get more information on a particular event or issue of concern 

In Summary 

Journalism is an integral aspect of our lives as it informs us of the essential news and happenings locally and around the globe. Journalists work for magazines and newspapers. They also work for broadcast networks performing investigative roles, gathering information, and writing articles based on their findings. Others work as freelance journalists writing personal blogs for specific clients and target audiences. 

Before becoming a journalist, you need to pursue formal education. While most employers prefer a bachelor’s degree in journalism or a related field, one might pursue a two-year associate’s degree in journalism. Other employers require the services of journalists certified and accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists. Depending on the route you take to become a journalist, you need to ensure that you have all the qualities required to have a successful journalism career. 

A successful journalism career component entails having the proper skill set, both soft skills and technical skills. Some of the skills needed include critical analytical thinking skills, communication skills, enthusiasm, research skills, and data analysis skills. Besides, you should be passionate about new events and happenings around the world. With increased digitalization, one must be tech-savvy to succeed in the industry. 

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