A journalism career provides an enthralling and fast-paced work setting that is ideal for anyone who loves current events and storytelling.
It’s not surprising then that this job title is much sought after amongst truth-seekers, writers, and adventurers. If you’re thinking of starting a journalism career, there are some things you should keep in mind – most especially, making the most of your career as a journalist.
What Does a Journalist Do?
When the word “journalist” is mentioned, there’s every chance that most of us will think of Barbara Walters, Walter Cronkite, Christine Amanpour, etc. This is perfectly understandable as they’re icons in the field. They also serve as inspirations as I’m sure there are lots of people who want to become journalists because of them.
However, these people aren’t the only journalism faces. Granted, they’re the most popular faces on the news, but with a growing where people get news from social media, blogs, and websites, there are now different faces of journalism.
“Journalist” as a term can be used to describe anyone who writes articles and publications for print publications (e.g., magazines or newspapers); a reporter who covers natural disasters or attends press conferences and then talks about findings in front of a camera; or a freelancer whose job is to write online articles.
The job of a journalist is to tell stories and present facts so audiences can form opinions themselves and make decisions based on those opinions. This work entails more than putting your byline on a piece or looking pretty for the camera. Journalists are in charge of extensive research, fact-checking, and writing articles – not to mention having to maintain relationships with interview subjects while also watching for a new story.
How to Become a Journalist
The following are 10 tips that will put you on the right path to becoming a journalist:
1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree
This is the minimum educational requirement for a lot of media corporations. For a journalism career path, it is preferable to get a journalism or mass communication degree. However, people that have graduated with related degrees such as English or Public Relations may actually be considered for journalism positions, especially if they have attained suitable experience that will supplement the degree.
In the course of getting the journalism degree, you should take courses covering important journalism skills like media ethics, interviewing, writing, and researching. You will also be taught the various mediums of modern journalism, which include video, print, and online.
2. Work in the School Media
Colleges will provide excellent opportunities for journalism aspirants to acquire experience before entering the labor market. In the field of journalism, it is important to gain as much experience so as to make things easier for you – even when you’re applying for entry-level positions.
Once you determine the part of media you want to major in, it is advisable that you find a job in that field as soon as possible. This could involve working for the school radio or newspaper. This will be a very effective way to start building your portfolio, which should reflect the works you’re proud of, and best portrays your abilities.
In case you’re not sure about the aspect of reporting you to prefer, it’s not a bad idea to gain exposure in various areas during your time in college. This can be further supplemented by teaming up with student media and trying various roles.
3. Start a Blog
Launching a blog is another way to start building your portfolio. With a personal blog, the creator has complete creative control of the subject matter, tone, and format of the writing.
Once you know the field you want to specialize in, streamline your blog to that particular journalism field. For example, an aspiring sports journalist can make a blog that offers a weekly analysis of NBA games.
In the event that you build a significant following for the blog, this could result in professional opportunities. It could also help you monetize the blog. Even though the blog doesn’t end up drawing large followers, you will improve your skills. Through regular content creation, you are preparing for your prospective job and also adding to your portfolio.
4. Make a Portfolio
There are aspiring writers with the belief that a portfolio and a personal blog are synonymous. However, it is important that you create a portfolio that will highlight the best of your work.
If you’re applying for a job and need to submit a link, you’d like to ensure that the person in charge of hiring comes across your best articles instead of any article you have written. That’s why it’s important to pick the best of your works and put them in a polished and professional portfolio. This also applies to printed submissions as it becomes simpler to locate the work you’d like to share.
This portfolio has to be well-curated. In the event that you have covered different subject matters, you can decide on creating various sections in the portfolio and group them into these sections. This will be very helpful to prospective employers who will now be able to look for an appropriate example of a work you’ve done that suits what they’re looking for.
Whenever you’re applying for a journalism job or any other writing job that can apply journalism skills, it is highly possible that the employer asks for samples of your work alongside your resume. A link to your portfolio can be included in the resume’s contact section. All in all, a properly constructed portfolio is the easiest and most effective way to make a lasting impression on hiring managers – and show that you’re a talented journalist.
5. Find an Internship
Once you’ve become an upperclassman, internship opportunities with media platforms should be available. This remains the most ideal method to gain experience and establish connections in the industry.
Even though school institutions and personal blogs provide experience, it cannot be completed to the kind of experience that will be provided in a professional environment. This is also more recognized by other media organizations when you need to apply for entry-level jobs.
If a prospective employer notices you have internship experience, they will understand that you don’t only have basic journalism skills (from schools, blogs, etc.) but also experience from applying those skills in a professional setting. When creating an online portfolio, try to add internships where you received acclaim or praise from your boss. This will surely help.
6. Create a Resume
Even though a resume is not as important in the field of journalism as in other industries (due to writing samples providing more compelling evidence), it is still advisable that you create one.
In the experience section of the resume, add any work completed for the journalism institution of your school, any internship you completed, and all the professional experience you might have gained. In the event that you received acclaim for a story, you should not forget to note it in the awards and achievements part of your resume or under the position where you got the award.
7. Factor in Job Postings
During your applications for journalism jobs, you should try to curate your resume and samples to match the job description. When it is possible, try to focus your writing samples and work experience on the specific field of the position.
There will be times when your writing experience doesn’t match the job listing, but that shouldn’t dissuade you. You can select from your samples using the tone and style of the employer as a template. You will have a better chance of getting the job if your work and resume are directly applicable to the listed job.
8. Find Freelancing Opportunities
The world of media has embraced freelance work over the last few years. This means that many people have the opportunity to work freelance while searching for full-time jobs.
The simplest method to start a freelance career is to come up with a story idea and pitch it to media platforms. Once you start getting your pieces published as a freelance writer, it will make finding additional work easier. It will also serve as work that you can add to your portfolio, which will help you find a full-time job.
9. Create Connections With Editors and Reporters
It doesn’t matter the field you’re in, networking is very important. This applies to the field of journalism, which is communication-focused. The most effective way to network is by communicating with editors and reporters and setting up a time for conversations. When you have connected with them, disclose your experience and goals, and then ask them for advice to help your career.
It is advisable that you follow up with a phone call or meeting. You should let them know you appreciated them taking out time to help you out and that you benefited a lot from the meeting. This will help to maintain the relationship.
10. Make Yourself Available
If you’re really insistent on becoming a news journalist, there’s no denying that you have to be available to cover breaking news – no matter the hour of the day.
After writing for one or two publications, if they like your work, they may begin to reach out with assignments – especially ones they need to cover at the last minute.
Try to be available most of the time. You can send emails (and work samples) to editors in bigger publications, letting them know you’re available to cover breaking assignments.