These days, news is everywhere. From social media to email newsletters, the newspaper and journalism industry has adapted to new technologies and modes of communication. If you’re wondering how to become a journalist, the path still exists, and the opportunity is perhaps greater than ever before.
Let’s uncover what it’s like to work as a journalist. We’ll also share the top tips to master this field.
What Does a Journalist Do?
Journalists are responsible for reporting information to the public. Their role entails performing investigations, collecting facts, and sharing what they find with the intention to remain unbiased.
Journalists work for various outlets. The traditional media consists of newspapers and television broadcasts, but journalism also exists in magazines, websites, podcasts, blogs, and social media platforms.
Depending on the type of journalism a journalist is tasked with, they may be in the field conducting interviews or in the office conducting research. Across the board, journalism is investigative in nature and relies on strong communication skills.
How to Become a Journalist
Due to the nature of the business, the best journalists possess distinct characteristics that make them good at their job. Along with being avid communicators, journalists also tend to be critical thinkers and truth seekers.
Whether you’re looking for how to become a freelance journalist or to work as an employee, here are the top six steps to follow to work in this role:
Earn a Degree
Journalists aren’t required to possess certain educational degrees to enter the field. Yet, employers like magazines, broadcast stations, and digital publications do want to know that you have what it takes to fill the position. As such, it’s helpful to have a degree. This could be a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree. At some schools, journalism is its own department, whereas many will have journalism under the umbrella of communication.
Enroll in Journalism School
Since a degree isn’t always required, then it makes sense that a graduate degree isn’t either. However, many journalists who have gained experience in the fields and are looking to progress further will choose to enroll in journalism school. Some schools that offer this master’s degree include Columbia University and UC Berkeley. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a related field like business, sociology, psychology or law, then you can always change careers by obtaining a master’s degree in journalism.
Journalism is one of those fields where internships and on-the-job training can be considered to be the best type of education. Even within the classroom environment, many courses will include real-world and practical experience like writing for the school newspaper or in production labs. Media outlets offer internships and are in partnership with universities in many instances. Additionally, prospective journalists can also find summer journalism programs.
In the past, journalism fell under the category of print or broadcast. As briefly touched on before, journalism now exists across various digital channels. As such, the route for specialization has only grown. Journalists can choose to work in specific niches, like: sports reporting, news reporting, feature writing, financial reporting, broadcast journalism, and environmental journalism, to name a few.
Enter the Field
With or without a degree, you have to land an entry-level position to start a career in journalism. One of the best ways to begin is to have a portfolio ready to show off work you’ve either completed on freelance gigs, during an internship, or within a classroom setting. It’s also possible to start your own blog or pitch stories to editors so you can begin being published.
Continue Education/Advanced Degrees
Journalism is constantly evolving. In the world of media, technology, and communication, changes are always occurring. This means that there are updates to what journalists learn on both a theoretical and practical level. Journalists can continue growing through fellowships, free online classes, and workshops.
What Do You Learn in Journalism?
In associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and online degree programs, there are many courses you can expect to take that prepare you for the field of journalism. Some course titles you may take may include:
- News writing
- Broadcast journalism
- Mass communication
- Social media journalism
- Investigative reporting
- Mass communication law
- Advanced reporting
A Word of Advice: Networking
As any type of journalist, one of the most important things you can spend time doing is networking. Along with developing your writing or speaking skills, networking proves to be an invaluable skill. You’ll want to network with other professionals in the industry. This includes: editors, news reporters, and fellow journalists. As your network grows so does your opportunity to cover stories.
How to Become a Freelance Journalist: Top Tips
Many journalists seek the path of freelance journalism. This means that they can contribute to whatever outlet they see fit, rather than being employed by a single publisher or broadcaster. Working as a freelance journalist will greatly depend on your ability to network, pitch, and produce valuable pieces.
Keep in mind these best practices if you want to pursue the freelance journalist route:
- Never stop networking
- Research editors and publications and know their audience so you can pitch accordingly
- Find stories that people are missing so you create added value
- Be prepared for rejection, but don’t give up!
A World of Reporting
News comes in many forms. If you’re looking for how to become a journalist, the good news is that there are many ways you can do it. As a good first step, it’s good to know what your own interests and passions are so that you can follow those on your journey to reporting.
It’s also helpful to understand your preferred medium of choice. Do you like sharing news on social media? Can you see yourself writing newsletters? Or, do you prefer a traditional route like working for a newspaper or television broadcast station?
No matter what you want to do, you can either begin with formal education (earn a degree) or start pitching to build your portfolio. Importantly, networking will always be a big part of the business, so it’s never too early to start building your network.