Journalism is one of the most honorable careers today and has been so for a long time. Journalists appear on TV screens around the world looking prim and proper, and for many, this is the allure. Journalists cover some of the most pressing stories and the latest news in print or visual media. These professionals often make reports from the field, so they are sometimes considered real-life superheroes. Ultimately, a journalist’s power is in telling the truth and keeping the world informed.
Starting a career in journalism takes a decent amount of effort and determination. This article covers all the due diligence required to become a journalist. It includes getting a clear idea of the profession, the different areas, some insight into the history, and critical steps to achieving this career path.
Journalism involves collecting information, news or stories from reliable sources, and then preparing and dishing them out through media outlets. These professionals break the latest news and cover events as they happen. Other times, it’s necessary to shed more light on already existing stories. Any new information, even on an old topic, is newsworthy material.
The journalism process is very thorough and requires taking interviews, sieving through files, and following up on leads. What comes after the news gathering is preparation. As this profession is bound by honesty and correctness of information, there are often editors to go through the content and confirm its veracity before dissemination.
The primary distribution channels for journalism are:
- Print media – Newspapers, magazines, books, postcards, product packaging, etc.
- Electronic media – Television, radio, internet.
- Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.
Types of journalism
Live TV reporting often comes to mind at the mention of the word journalism. In reality, this is just one aspect of the profession. There are several others, as given below.
This kind of journalism seeks to uncover the truth about stories, events or individuals. It involves going in-depth to find facts and details that might have been hidden from the public eye.
Investigative journalism is more invested in uncovering stories on corruption, violence and other types of serious crimes. It’s not unusual that research for these stories takes several years. These journalists usually go undercover, search through public records, and rigorously search for clues to get to the bottom of a story.
This is the most popular type of journalism. It involves reeling out the facts and details of events or stories as they happen. This type of journalism does not consider the writer’s or editor’s opinion. It only aims to inform the public about current issues and new developments in real time.
Review journalism takes into account the creator’s opinion. It’s usually not all subjective, as there must be facts about the matter that are then balanced with informed opinions.
Due to the nature of journalism and how far-reaching the contents are, reviews are often from qualified individuals. These experts help to put the subject matter in a better context.
A popular application of review journalism is in politics. Because of the delicate nature of political topics, getting all the facts might require reading between the lines, which these reviews help to unravel. In TV review journalism, experienced political analysts are invited to shed more light on current government issues.
Many newspapers, magazines, and other print have regular columns for journalists to give their views on particular issues. This type of journalism is reserved for professionals with unique, informed, attention-grabbing perspectives on subjects.
A columnist may focus on sports, beauty, relationships, education, etc. They usually function as freelancers and do not work for any particular media company. Attaining success in this type of journalism requires a great deal of confidence in your opinions.
The modern journalism setting is predominantly digital, thanks to the onset of social media, blogs, newsletters, etc. This type of journalism involves distributing content through any available internet media channels.
Although digital journalists also require some of the basic skills of their traditional counterparts, the online space offers a more flexible stage. Here, stakeholders simply need to fuse the best digital marketing strategies into their content to gain traction.
Also, online users do not consume information the same way as radio listeners or television watchers. There is a shorter attention span on the internet. Readers want to get the full gist in the first paragraph. Consequently, digital journalism relies heavily on eye-catching headlines. This is not to be confused with clickbait. Online readers want to be attracted to a topic but also expect appealing content. A significant social media following is also essential for a successful career in digital journalism.
Why you should choose the right type of journalism
Many factors differentiate a lasting career in journalism from a fleeting one. One such factor is choosing the right journalism path, and you can only do this with adequate knowledge of the different aspects of the profession. Once you settle on the correct type of journalism for you, here are some benefits you’ll experience:
- Easier job hunting – Having an idea of the different types of journalism allows you to find the most suitable one for you. In addition to discovering the perfect area of journalism to specialize in, you also become aware of job offers to apply for or avoid.
- Clear career plan –Planning is essential for any career, and what better way is there to plan than by understanding the different aspects of your profession? For instance, if you have a clear goal to become a news journalist, right from your undergraduate years, then you’ll already know what skills to develop and have a longer time to hone them. Figuring out what aspect of journalism to specialize in as early as possible is a major advantage.
- Impress employers –A reliable understanding of what you want encompasses knowledge of what you do not want. All media organizations have a clear vision and usually look for employees with a similar vision. More importantly, understanding the perimeters of this profession makes it easy to discern what an employer is looking for.
You’ll already have a good command of the skills required and can highlight your application (CV and cover letter) with them. In a nutshell, this increases your chances of being the best person for the job.
Steps to starting a career in journalism
Like every other noble profession, getting to the top of the echelon requires a lot of hard work and dedication. Here are seven steps to building a career in journalism.
- Get a degree in a related course
Generally, the minimum academic requirement for this profession is a bachelor’s degree in journalism or mass communication. However, some media houses are liberal and allow graduates in English and public relations or other degrees with some relation to journalism. In such considerations, the candidate must possess special qualities or experience that will benefit their duties.
A bachelor’s degree in journalism offers well-grounded knowledge in media ethics, research, interviews, writing and content creation. A standard degree in this field also suggests a good understanding of navigating the modern means of journalism. It’s usually a four-year program with a curriculum that covers the following:
- News writing
- Broadcast reporting
- Advanced reporting
- Mass communication law
- Investigative reporting
Besides a bachelor’s degree, you can further your education by obtaining an online journalism master’s degree, which helps you expand upon all of the above by also helping you build your own brand as a journalist and understanding data and coding to boost your digital storytelling prowess. A quality academic background makes it easier to advance in this career.
- Gain tangible experience while in school
Journalism has become such a highly sought-after and competitive profession that skills and talent might not be enough. Nowadays, experience is critical, and most schools provide opportunities for this through their media space. Lots of colleges and universities have in-house newspapers and radio stations where students can gain experience.
This early exposure helps build confidence and makes it easier to find the area of specialization you prefer. Such a strong background will ultimately come in handy in the labor market.
- Create a personal blog/vlog
Digital journalism is the easiest way to gain experience in this profession, and starting a blog is a heavy ingredient in a journalist’s portfolio. Naturally, you’ll first need to establish the field of journalism you want to focus on, after which you can begin by covering subject matters that you are passionate about. There are a lot of blogs out there that cover some of the most popular sports events. Most of these webpages attract the attention of many readers as they are regularly updated in a diary style, which lots of people can connect to.
The connection is even more profound for vlogs, which take the audience on a visual journey, informing them in the process. A typical example is a YouTube vlog following the events of an international competition and the athletes’ preparation processes.
Creating a blog or vlog will help you build a good audience or following, and it can attract the attention of brands and sponsors. It opens doors for professional opportunities and is great for generating revenue. Established blogs and YouTube channels can be monetized in several ways.
- Create a solid portfolio
A portfolio is a journalist’s signature, showing their best works. Before media houses employ a journalist, whether online or in person, they often request to see content samples. So, when starting a career in this field, there is a need to have a sound portfolio.
The requirement for a good portfolio is valid for all forms of journalism. You can create a portfolio of your podcasts, voiceovers, or other projects that properly capture your talent. A good portfolio is the best way to make yourself visible and simultaneously put your best foot forward.
- Apply for an internship
There are so many ways to gain experience in journalism, and an internship is one of them. Doing an internship is especially advantageous for this profession. You not only need a theoretical understanding of journalism, but you also need to know how to apply that knowledge under pressure and with tight deadlines.
Running a blog or a YouTube channel from the comfort of your home is great, but employers are sometimes skeptical about how well a recruit will fare in a professional setting. Prospective journalists who have completed an internship would likely be favored in a news station where there’s a constant race to be the first to deliver breaking news.
In addition, getting into an internship program exposes prospective journalists to critical networks in the industry. Some of the connections you make at gatherings or among high-ranking members of the media organization might help you attain your dream job afterwards.
- Create a CV and submit applications
Sometimes, journalists are able to catch the attention of media organizations and get employment without even submitting applications. These journalists are scouted for some project of theirs that has gained recognition. In most instances, however, prospective journalists need to apply for jobs with a CV.
A good CV should highlight all your qualifications, skills, area of expertise, and experience. Feel free to add any commendations, awards and honors you’ve received. It’s crucial to show your strengths, and what employers can gain by getting you on their team. There are several ways to write a CV, and the internet has several template resources you can duplicate.
The second part of the equation is knowing what to do with the CV. Depending on your specialty area, you can apply for job openings with this document and relevant samples. Besides the regular writing, newscasting, editing and marketing jobs in traditional media organizations, there are also lots of online platforms where journalists can get good positions. Indeed and Upwork are two such notable organizations. Make sure that you tailor your CV to suit the particular job or media outfit you are applying for, as this leaves a better impression than a generalized document.
- Become a freelancer
Another dimension to job hunting in journalism is freelancing. Instead of working full-time for a single company, freelance journalists pitch ideas and sell them to media organizations. This could be a story, exposé, exclusive interview, or other appealing content.
A benefit of freelancing is that you can decide your pay rate. While full-time employees get a monthly salary, freelancers are compensated per story. The average income is approximately $50,000, more or less, depending on the type of journalism, location and experience level. On the other hand, freelancing can be more lucrative depending on how many jobs you take on. Getting your first gig might not be easy, but once you do, it becomes easier to find additional freelancing work.
History of journalism
The inception of journalism can be traced to ancient Rome, where news sheets were hung in prominent and common places for all to see. These hand-curated news bulletins, called Acta Diurna, contained information about daily events, festivals, etc. Circulars were also popular in China, especially during the Tang and Qing dynasties.
The introduction of newspapers as they are known today came in 17th-century Germany. This new method of journalism initially suffered massive backlash due to restrictions from the government. By the 18th century, newspapers enjoyed more freedom as they improved the spread of information at an unprecedented rate.
New technologies, such as electric-driven presses, also significantly contributed to the growth of print journalism. Much later, magazines came into the picture with more opinion-based content on current affairs and events. Here, journalism became more colorful with illustrated magazines.
By the 20th century, the history of journalism achieved probably the most groundbreaking milestone with the invention of the telegraph, the radio and television. This increased the speed at which people consumed news and other content. It also began reaching a broader audience. In the later part of the century, it got even better with the advent of satellites and the internet. Now, with the far-reaching transmission of content, residents in the US can watch live feeds of a reporter covering a foreign war.
Throughout the history of journalism, technological innovations have fueled the growth and prominence of journalism. However, credit is also due to human contributions such as:
- Increased professionalism among journalists.
- More literature and education on mass communication and journalism.
- More organizations and bodies to regulate journalism.
- Increased responsibility on the part of journalists to provide correct information and expert perspectives.