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How to become a good journalist

Updated on October 8, 2011

How to become a journalist

A journalist is any professional who provides information for public use mostly through print media like newspaper or electronic media like television, radio and the internet. Journalists include; editors, photographers, reporters, correspondents, researchers, cameramen, broadcasters and publishers.

Functions of journalists

Without journalists the world would be a very boring place to live in, people would be un-informed about their surroundings and other places as well. A journalist is primarily in the business of informing a large section of a town, city, state, country or countries. His/her duties include providing factual and accurate information for use by the general public. With that in mind, a journalist must also be objective as his duty is not to form people’s opinions for them but to inform them about people, events and places.

Classes of journalists

  • Reporters are journalists who state things as they happened. They simply record events as they occur then write or talk about them at a later time. Most reporters work with both print and electronic media as employees although some others are freelance.
  • Correspondents. They are journalists who either write or relay events as they occur. Most correspondents work with the electronic media especially television were live events can be captured in real time.
  • Photo journalists. These could be photographers or cameramen whose duties include capturing events in pictures.
  • Editors decide what report or story is newsworthy and hence decide how best to caption same.
  • Researchers are journalists who carry out special duties like features and documentaries. They investigate, analyze and make deductions on facts whether previously available or inferred from analysis. Researchers work mainly with magazine and documentary programs both in the print and electronic media.
  • Newscasters are journalists who read news on television or radio
  • Broadcasters are involved in the packaging and presentation of television and radio programs. Broadcasters include; Presenters/TV hosts, Anchors, Directors, Producers, Cameramen and sound engineers.
  • Publishers are usually the owners of their own newspaper or magazine although they are still journalists. Sometimes the publisher could be the chief editor of his/her establishment.

How to start a career as a journalist

Before venturing into journalism, there is the need to carry out a self assessment test to see if you fit the requirements spelt out for men and women who could excel in the field. Journalism requires certain qualities in its aspirants like;

  • Good communication skills especially writing skills. This is however is more applicable to the print media although the electronic media also requires both writing and speaking skills but with more emphasis on speaking skills.
  • A strong desire to share information
  • A good ability to learn from people and events quickly
  • Dogged and fearless behavior, ability to walk up to anyone and initiate a fruitful conversation
  • An eagle eye for information. Most information is not spelt out but is hidden in comments, remarks, opinions and statements. As an aspiring journalist you have to demonstrate an ability to ‘see’ information as it is being conveyed from source to destination.

Get professional training in the field. Many universities and colleges offer mass communication and other journalism relate courses. A first or second degree in this field is an advantage although not the ultimate since in most countries of the world there is free entry into the field of journalism. Just having good communication skills and a strong interest in informing people is enough to make one an entrant. However professional training in journalism is considered an advantage in the job market. Even at that one could still be a journalist without professional training but this will likely restrict you as a freelance journalist especially as a reporter if there is stiff competition in the job market.

What medium of communication do you prefer is it writing or speaking? If you prefer speaking then you should pursue a career in broadcasting. If you prefer writing, then print media is for you. To successfully take off you will have to prove to yourself first that you are qualified as a journalist. You will definitely need to make your bones as a newcomer or intern in journalism by enthusiastically undertaking assignments and ensuring that they are excellently done. This is because a meteoric rise in the field usually visits hardworking, resourceful and highly skillful individuals.

Practice amateur journalism before hand covering events with your own digital camera, mobile phone or laptop taking photos of events as they occur or writing articles and reports. Write as many articles as possible if you prefer writing and try to have them published online on blogs and websites. You could also post photos and videos online on flickr or you tube.

Offer to work for free with well established media organizations through internship or industrial training programs. The reason you are doing this is to get you acquainted with the field and also prepare you for future responsibilities and challenges. The period in which you were employed as an intern could serve as an eye opener into the real benefits, challenges and opportunities of being a journalist.

Above all remain focused and determined to overcome obstacles between you and your desire to be an accomplished journalist.

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