Of course, you already knew all this. What you want to know is how to do it. How does one become a journalist?
Well, it all starts right here and now.
Learn Some Basic Skills
Effective communication skills are essential when it comes to being a journalist. Connections and interpersonal relationships play a key role in your success as a journalist. You will be performing interviews, discussing key details with editors, and compiling everything into a legible product.
As the world continues to become more digital, you need to stay abreast of the latest technology and trends. Understanding marketing, incorporating social media, and utilizing SEO will give you a significant advantage.
If you’re working with mixed mediums, a lot of editors will ask you to edit your own video and audio content. Familiarizing yourself with different editing methods and software is a marketable skill that will open the door to additional job opportunities.
Further Your Education
You don’t have to get a degree for a career in journalism, but there are a lot of benefits to having one. You develop skills and insights that place you ahead of your competition. Mentor relationships with your professors provide invaluable guidance and potential job opportunities as you move forward in your career.
Having a degree in journalism or a related field also shows publications that you are serious about your endeavor.
It doesn’t hurt to double major in a field related to the type of journalism that you want to pursue. For example, if you’re interested in political journalism you could take classes in political science or international relations.
Gaining Journalism Experience
An important aspect of journalism is being able to write content that people want to read. Your stories should leave readers hungry for more and editors eagerly returning to your door. How do you do that?
Write, write, write and when you’re finished with that, write some more. Like with any skill, practice is the key to improvement. It takes time to develop finesse and consistency, especially in a field like journalism, where your content needs stand out amongst your competitors.
Building Credibility & Making Connections
Having a strong portfolio that highlights the diversity and quality of your work increases your credibility in the eyes of potential employers. It gives them a feel for your style and what stories or projects they might be able to use you for.
Unpaid internships are a great opportunity to build up your portfolio. They can even lead to full or part-time positions. If you’re more interested in the freelance route, internships and apprenticeships are an excellent way of networking with industry professionals as you build your journalism career.
There are two main types of journalism: print and broadcast. Once you’ve decided which one of these you gravitate more towards, you can narrow your focus down further by selecting a niche.
Print journalism first appeared in China around 200 B.C. in the form of short bulletins. Today it remains a popular and reliable source of information. It includes physically printed pieces such as newspapers, magazines, and books.
Broadcast journalists present news and current events via audio and visual means. It involves similar responsibilities to print journalism, including:
- Developing and pitching story ideas
- Research and fact verification
- Writing scripts for reports
- Identifying interview subjects and performing interviews
- Collaborating with editors
- Presenting material
You don’t have to be a news anchor to pursue a position in broadcast journalism. Many journalists work behind the scenes to develop stories and scripts.
If your heart is set on a career in journalism but you struggle with producing high-quality writing? Don’t worry, there is still hope for you.
Photojournalism is a style that has been around since the American Civil War but didn’t really take off until the 1920s. Rather than writing, it involves the use of high-quality photos, often in black and white, to tell the story. This is a great niche for those seeking an alternative to traditional journalism.
Niches for Journalism Jobs
When you set yourself up as a “general” journalist, you will often find yourself competing against industry experts. Rather than spread your knowledge thin, it helps to focus on one or two niches or types. This will be especially helpful when you’re starting and building up your credibility.
There are two things to consider when selecting a niche. What topics do you enjoy and how impacted are they?
An impacted niche means there are a lot more journalists than there are jobs, leading to fierce competition. They are often related to hobbies or areas where people feel they have a personal connection, such as travel or celebrity gossip.
Even if you are passionate about one of these niches, it might be better to establish yourself in a less competitive niche first. Then you can use your portfolio, connections, and credibility to transition to journalism in your preferred topic.
The average salary for a journalist in the US is just over $35,000 a year. This amount can vary significantly depending on experience, niche demand, and position type.
Impacted niches sometimes pay less because the intense competition leads people to accept less money if it means they get the job. Experience gives you the upper hand when it comes to coveted positions as well as leverage in negotiating salary.
In-house journalist jobs often pay a bit less than you could earn as a freelancer. However, they offered a guaranteed source of income, vs the uncertainty that comes with working for yourself.
Start Your Career in Journalism
Pursuing a career in journalism might seem intimidating at first glance, but it’s all about building confidence and experience.
Start with a journalism course or degree program. Take advantage of internships and networking opportunities. Write like there is no tomorrow and before you know it doors of opportunity will be opening all around you.
If you are ready to take your journalism career to the next level, check out some of our other posts at Journalism Online.