Journalists are communication experts in charge of finding information, summarizing it, and writing it in a way that can be easily understood by specific audiences or by the general public. Their main goal is to keep people informed. Journalists are most commonly employed by printed and digital media outlets (e.g. newspapers, magazines, and their online versions) or by the broadcast media (e.g. television and radio stations). They may also be self-employed by selling their stories and articles to any publishing media.
Journalists seek to engage with the audience of their field of interest (e.g. entertainment, economy, or politics). A great part of their job consists on collecting information. In this regard, Journalists conduct research, perform interviews, and analyze opinions and impressions uttered by people. Their goal is to report and publish what was gathered in an opportune, effective and attractive manner, always aiming to transmit real, verified, and reliable information. Similarly, when performing their job, Journalists must try to be as impartial as possible, avoiding conflict of interest and showing different approaches to the same news.
More and more Journalists are now in charge of other related journalistic tasks that used to be assigned to other professionals in the field. For example, it is not uncommon for Journalists to take care of the visual aspect of their story, meaning that taking or acquiring pictures now also falls under their responsibility.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Journalists are required to complete.
- Conducting research on any given topic, its historical and cultural aspect, or any other relevant detail that could serve the story’s purpose.
- Attending press conferences and media events in order to get interviews and important information regarding specific news.
- Gathering testimonies from the general public during political, cultural, or any other given events.
- Recording and typing all the information they gather.
- Studying and analyzing topics of current interest to prepare editorials and commentaries, or conveying the opinion on the ones released in a publication or by a broadcasting station, with the aim of attracting the audience:
- Being aware of what’s going on in their community, their country, and around the world, so as to report any relevant activity and update.
- Sourcing, shooting, writing, interviewing, and presenting information to audiences:
- Generating fresh and interesting story ideas;
- choosing from a variety of writing formats (e.g. columns, stories, or reviews) or audiovisual formats (e.g. live coverage or edited footage) to best suit each story;
- sourcing and selecting eye-catching visuals to help tell the article or story, shooting and/or editing photographs when required;
- editing both digital and printed content for spelling and style; and
- ensuring the accuracy and the authenticity of the content to be published by following all applicable journalistic standards and practices.
- Asking for other colleagues’ help when necessary (e.g. other Journalists, Editors, Cameramen, etc.), especially when it comes to related news or field research.
- Posting content to websites and social media site when required:
- Editing or creating high-quality web content including, but not limited to, text, video, and interactive digital journalism, taking search engine optimization (SEO) guidelines into consideration.
- Developing and maintaining a strong network:
- Liaising with Public Relations specialists in order to publish interesting content; and
- working alongside other Journalists, Photographers, and Editors-in-Chief.
- Keeping up with all important, outstanding events.
- Knowing all journalistic regulations, laws, restrictions, and work ethic.
- Conducting research, drafting copies, and verifying all the information before bringing it to light.
- Writing interesting and engaging news stories and features to a weekly deadline and providing accompanying artwork when required.
- Proofreading and editing content.
- Posting content to websites and social media sites.
- Complying with the applicable journalistic standards and practices.
The average Journalist salary in USA is $49,538 per year or $25 per hour. This is around 1.7 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $35,000 while most experienced workers make up to $69,000. These results are based on 37 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Strong editorial judgment:
- Having proven news judgement and an excellent work ethic;
- being objective and offering factual and un-biased information.
- In-depth knowledge of news and current affairs.
- Outstanding creativity, insight, and a positive, go-to attitude:
- Being able to write interesting and engaging pieces for specific audiences or for the general public; and
- being a creative thinker and having an innovative vision in order to produce unique and original pieces.
- Impeccable interpersonal, communication, and synthesizing skills:
- Communicating clearly, especially in writing, in order to convey news effectively and to catch the public’s interest;
- being able to simplify complex content in order to make it understandable for the general public; and
- possessing strong interviewing skills, knowing how to ask sensitive and difficult questions.
- Excellent computer and social media management skills:
- Being proficient in word-processing programs and editing tools; and
- being able to manage the basic social media platforms.
- Great attention to detail and high levels of thoroughness:
- Having outstanding writing and proofreading skills so as to accurately and efficiently review creative documents.
- Strong organizational and time management skills:
- Being capable of managing multiple projects and prioritizing tasks effectively;
- being able to work independently and as part of a team in a dynamic, fast-paced environment;
- being able to make quick decisions, especially when doing live broadcasts; and
- being versatile, flexible, and willing to work under pressure on tight deadlines.
- Motivated, independent, result-oriented, professional, resourceful, and energetic with a strong desire to take initiative.
Aside from the aforementioned skills, Journalists are required to have a bachelor’s degree in Journalism or in a related field, such as Communications, as well as at least 2 years of experience in the area or working in a newsroom. Internships and summer jobs count as work experience, as they allow aspirants to develop the aforementioned professional skills. Additional preparation (e.g. courses, workshops) is highly rewarded, as they help candidates improve their writing skills and learn new working techniques.
The perfect candidate must also possess proven writing abilities (e.g. having their own blogs, having worked for a magazine or newspaper) and these skills should be demonstrated in a portfolio containing their best work. Journalists not only need to possess an excellent and updated knowledge of news and current affairs from a variety of sources, but they also need to have an extensive general knowledge.
Many Journalists start out their careers by taking on the role of Writers for publication companies and agencies and then working their way up by displaying high levels of professionalism, dedication, and competency.
Journalists must be willing to work flexible, irregular, long hours, depending on the assignment they are given. Besides, even though most media outlets have their own headquarters, Journalists can work from home and, essentially, anywhere. Their workplace will change depending on where they are conducting interviews or writing articles. Some employers may even require the candidate to have a valid driver’s license in order to cover any possible news.