How to Become a Journalist
Journalist Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of a Journalist
Journalist Salary
Influential Professional Journalists
Leading Organizations for Journalists
Top Cities for Journalism Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Journalist

The path to becoming a successful Journalist generally requires a solid education. To begin with, high school programs involving advanced English, social studies and journalism are a good foundation for postsecondary education. Many Journalists choose liberal arts as a college major because of its varied nature and focus on useful courses of study including English with a focus on both creative and non-fiction writing and critique; economics, sociology, history, political science, psychology, speech communications, business administration, computer science and foreign languages. The latter is most helpful for political Journalists or those that wish to work in a bi-lingual or multi-lingual environment.

Currently, there are over 1,500 colleges and universities that offer programs in journalism, communications and related courses. As of 2007, 109 of these programs were granted accreditation by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. Examples of accredited courses include press law and ethics, introductory mass media, basic reporting, copy editing, history of journalism, radio and television news and production, news-editorial journalism and an introduction to online media.

Some Journalists opt to study for a master's degree or doctorate degree in journalism. One of the main focuses of many graduate programs is to prepare students for careers in news. However, there are courses aimed at preparing students to become proficient as researchers and theorists, journalism teachers or advertising / public relations workers. Graduate degrees typically help students to obtain better jobs upon graduation and may allow graduates to advance more rapidly in their chosen career.

In addition to formal training, employers stress that pertinent work experience is required if one wants to advance in the field. Many students may opt to do an internship or externship while in school, which will be an advantage on entering the work force. Many internships and externships are offered by all areas in the journalism field from magazines to newspapers, to radio stations and television stations. Professional organizations may also be helpful in giving advice on how to gain the necessary experience to obtain a desirable job after graduation.

As with many writers, credibility comes with being published. The more news stories or articles one has in a portfolio, the better. This is particularly true of paid pieces since it shows a higher level of professionalism.

What does a Journalist do?

The field of journalism is very varied, particularly in light of the advancements in technology including news sources on the internet. The field includes many different kinds of writers including copy writers, columnists, bloggers, newspaper reporters, news correspondents and radio and television broadcasters. There are basic skills that all of these positions have in common. They are:

Gathering information
Fact checking
Preparing stories
Being aware of international, national, state and local affairs
Current events
Examining and interpreting information
Maintaining objectivity
Interviewing possible subjects or supporting characters

Because the news may be reported in a subjective way, it is important for a Journalist to gather information from a variety of sources and check their facts for any discrepancies. When a Journalist covers a story, he or she is called upon to examine and interpret the news for the general public. Some Journalists are required to travel, particularly those in television and radio. The duties involved in the position of Journalist vary depending on the type of field one chooses as well as the size of the organization covering the news. In large organizations, Journalists may only have to report the news, although this is rare. Generally Journalists write their own stories. However, the more prestigious positions usually have people to check the work to ensure all of the information is correct. In smaller organizations, Journalists or reporters are often required to wear many hats. They may be required to act as the photographer, edit stories, write editorials, do graphic design work including layouts and perhaps even help with the general office work.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Journalist?

Because the industry is so varied, Journalists need to have a wide array of skills and talents. These include computer software skills, word-processing abilities, advanced writing abilities, ability to copy write, copy edit and edit various materials; good communication skills, both oral and written; good organizational skills, ability to work under extreme pressure and deadlines, intermediate knowledge of photography, advanced knowledge of wire and news services, advanced research skills and intermediate graphic design skills.

How much does a Journalist make?

Due to the diverse nature of the occupation, the median annual salaries of Journalists vary widely. As of May 2006, the median annual salaries for correspondents, analysts and reporters were as follows:

The median annual salary for correspondents and reporters was $33,470. The lowest reported income was $19,180; the highest reported income was $73,880.

The median annual salary for correspondents and reporters in the fields of newspaper, books, periodicals and directory publishing was $31,690.

The median annual salary for correspondents and reporters in television and radio broadcasting was $38,050.

The median annual salary for broadcast news analysts as of May 2006 was $46,710. The lowest reported income was $22,430; the highest reported income was $145,600.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Tom Brokaw
Katie Couric
Barbara Walters
Walter Cronkite

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The Online News Association
Society of Professional Journalists
National Society of Newspaper Columnists

What are the top cities for Journalism jobs?

One benefit of being a Journalist is that unless you are involved in television or radio broadcasting, news stories can be written from anywhere. The Society of Professional Journalists has a Freelancer Directory which can be accessed by editors searching for a journalist to commission for a piece. However, there are some cities that offer more opportunities to Journalists working in a variety of mediums. The top cities in the United States for Journalists are:

New York, New York
Chicago, Illinois
Atlanta, Georgia
Charlotte, North Carolina
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Orlando, Florida
Houston, Texas

Other Careers of Interest

Broadcast Technician
Broadcast technicians set up, operate, and maintain a wide variety of electrical and electronic equipment used in almost any radio or television...

Copy Writer
Copywriters create text for advertising purposes and newspaper stories. A copywriter researches, writes and perfects a piece of advertising in...

Editors review the writing of others to rewrite and edit the work. An editor's responsibilities will vary depending on the type and level of editorial...

Film Editor
Film editing is the only art that is unique to the making of motion pictures. Editors must take individual film shots, which are often separated...

Media Planner
Media planners are tasked with the duty of choosing the most suitable media in which to place advertisements on their client's behalf. The media...

News Analyst
Analysts need to analyze and interpret news and information that has been received from multiple sources as well as prepare stories and perform...

Producer / Director
In the film and TV industry, a producer chooses a script and finds investors for the script. A producer then approves developments in the production...

Public Relations Specialist
Much of a company's public "face" is the responsibility of the public relations department. One of the responsibilities of a public relations specialist...

Television Camera Operator / Editor
Television camera operators and editors play a first hand role in entertaining audiences, recording events, and telling stories. They take what...

Video Editor
Video editors arrange, touch-up and otherwise amend footage captured by digital and film-based recording devices. They work for a diverse range...

A writer writes. Period. What a writer writes depends on what type of work he or she is involved with. A journalist will investigate facts and...

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