A career in journalism can be an exciting and fast-paced one. It can also be stressful. However, if you have a passion for journalism, that fast-paced environment is something that you can thrive on. There are many different kinds of journalism you can get involved in depending on which areas pique your interest. There are a few skills, however, that all journalists must have, regardless of which beat or genre they go into. Learn more about the basic skills you need for a journalism career with this course, which will help to teach you how to structure a news article, how to form an effective news article and the execution of your article.
What Do Journalists Do?
Because of how the media works today, journalists have to know much more than they did years ago. While many think of journalists of writing articles for print publications, journalists nowadays have to be familiar with technology and not only write for print publications, but for the web, on social media, take pictures, video and more. In order to survive and thrive in the journalism field, you have to be well rounded in terms of media familiarity and confident writing in various mediums. In addition to that, there are key skills that all journalists must have.
One of the most important aspects of being a good journalist is having good people and communication skills. Journalism is not just writing articles. It also involves interviewing multiple sources and asking good, thought-provoking questions that will get your sources to open up and give you the quotes you need.
Being able to communicate is also extremely important for journalists because there will be difficult questions they have to ask in order to get the story they need. Even the most seasoned journalists still have trouble asking the tough questions. To help break the ice and dive into the tough stuff, we offer a course that can give you the skills for starting a difficult conversation. This will not only help in your professional life as a journalist, but it can help in your personal life as well.
You don’t expect to write articles for a living and not have any writing skills, do you? Probably the most important part of being a journalist is knowing how to properly tell other people’s stories in words. And not just telling them, but write them in a way that is interesting, compelling and with integrity.
Journalism is a different form of writing completely. Journalists have to write concisely and objectively in order to present the story. Many articles are no longer than 400 words. That is not a lot of words to tell a story in. Sometimes, you have to write an entire story with an even smaller word count. Because of this, journalists have to be to-the-point with their storytelling. They don’t have the room to be long-winded or expand on their thoughts. In fact, a paragraph can be as short as one sentence in the journalism world.
Another aspect of storytelling through articles is using the inverted pyramid. This is exactly how it sounds. Take a pyramid and flip is upside down. This represents the story. The most important information must be included at the top of the story, with the ‘fluff’ more toward the bottom. As you read further down the article, the less important the information is to the story.
The first sentence of your story is called the lead (another spelling is ‘lede’). This is the most important sentence in your entire story. It is the sentence that draws the reader in, where the reader will decide whether they want to continue to read the story or not. Because of this, you need to make your lead quick, catchy and interesting. The best leads are less than 30 words and are in the active voice. Stay away from question leads and quotation leads. These kinds of leads are usually not interested or provide the facts the reader needs to know about the story.
A couple paragraphs below the lead is the nut graph. This paragraph is basically the point of the story. If the lead is what you use to hook the reader, the nut graph is where they will learn about the story. It tells the reader how the lead connects to the meat of the story and provides a transition from the lead to the story’s core. From there, you can go into the story’s details and finish up the story with a quote or light ending.
Journalist Job Duties
A journalist doesn’t just sit at a computer and write all day. They also have to be out in the field, going to events, covering stories and interviewing people. This is where the fast-paced aspect of the job comes in, because they have to do all this and work on tight deadlines.
For many journalists, the job isn’t a typical 9-to-5 gig. You will sometimes have to work nights and weekends, depending on your position and your beat. Journalists in the hard news beat have less-structured hours since news is happening every day and needs to be covered, even on nights and weekends. Many times, you will be sent to cover an event, interview a couple people and turn a story around an hour after you have conducted your interviews. This is where it is important to know how to work under pressure and under tight deadlines.
The phone can be a journalist’s best friend as well. We live in an age where we are so connected to technology and social networking. This is great if you want to give your readers updates, but when it comes to reporting, you have to go straight to the source. The best way to do that is by picking up the phone. An email can be deleted or ignored. When you get someone on the phone, however, it no longer makes you easy to ignore. This is why calling your sources is the best and quickest way to get information. This is also where good communication skills come in handy as well.
Types of Journalism Jobs
When it comes to jobs in the journalism field, there are plenty of different kinds. You could go into print and electronic journalism or you could go into broadcast journalism. It all depends on your preference. There are also different genres within these types of journalism. Here are a couple of examples of different journalism jobs.
- News Journalism
This kind of journalism can range from your local news to national news. You could work at a daily paper or go into large-circulation papers. Your hours and what you cover will depend on a few things: the seniority at the business, the type of news, your talents and more. If you are going into broadcast journalism, you could work on the morning, 6 o’clock or late-night news, all giving you different hours. With this type of journalism, you will report on news daily, ranging from large, national stories to smaller local stories.
- Political Journalism
This type of journalism covers all aspects of politics and political science. You will find more opportunities for political journalism at larger-scale publications and closer to capital cities. With this beat, you will not only have to know journalism basics, but you will also have to understand and have a strong comprehension of politics and political science. This beat also has a lot of opportunity for national and international travel, depending on the subject matter you are covering.
- Entertainment Journalism
This type of journalism immerses you into the world of entertainment and pop culture. It’s the more rock ‘n’ roll side of journalism. This kind of journalism is a little harder to break into because of its more ‘fun’ coverage, but it is possible to break into the field through freelance journalism.
- Business Journalism
This can be done on the local and national level. There are plenty of local publications devoted to that region’s business news and trends. There are also larger-market publications as well. In order to go into business journalism, you need to have a strong understanding of the business world and business trends. To learn more about how to strengthen your business writing, you can take this course.
For more information about what journalists do and a deeper look into the field, you can read more at this blog. If you have decided that the journalism field is something you would like to jump into, start pitching stories to editors and sending your resume out. You can also take this course, which will help you to better learn how to write for publications. As a journalist, you will work hard and not only reap the benefits of a great story, but get a rush when you see your name in print.