prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

What does it take?

Posted by prof e on April 13, 2008

What does it take to be a journalist? What kinds of skills are necessary to succeed in the role of news observer/reporter? And perhaps most importantly–what kinds of character traits are essential? Ask five practicing journalists and you’ll get at least 10 answers. But I’m sure that most would agree on some of the basics, such as: curiosity (with a healthy dose of skepticism), tenacity, ability to tell a story, attention to detail, high regard for accuracy, moral fortitude, and the courage to question authority.

It doesn’t hurt to have an area of expertise. Business reporters, medical correspondents, and sports journalists tend to have backgrounds in those areas and have the necessary expertise to know what questions to ask. If you want to report on global events, a second or third language could come in helpful. And if you want to have a career that lasts beyond 2010, consider digital media skills such as photography, videography and multimedia. The days when you could count on having a staff at your side to handle the “technical” matters is long gone and the crew of one is the norm.

But perhaps my leading advice to someone who want to report the news is simply to start doing it. You have access to an internet-connected computer and know how to type? Well get after it. Get yourself a Blogger or WordPress account and start writing. Report on issues that concern you, and, to stretch yourself, address other issues that are outside of your comfort zone. But write! Take an issue, dissect it, and put it back together. Try to find the story in something as mundane as a mill levy hike or something as controversial as a proposal for drug sniffing dogs in the high schools. Invite readers and their criticism. If you push a few buttons inviting criticism shouldn’t be difficult.

And if after a few months you find that you’re not excited by the process of researching, writing, posting and receiving feedback, do yourself, and the world, a favor and consider a career in accounting.


10 Responses to “What does it take?”

  1. Teresa Dupuis said

    In the world of digital technology, it is all to easy to write and distribute without a “gate keeper”. Living in a digtal age has allowed for people to not only post their own oppinions, but becasue of open sourcing, many people who want to write may inadvertently mis-state information. That is a risk mostly for those who use the internet for their reasearch.
    Granted, a true jouranalist will want to get out and investigate the story, interview the people, and find information out from the source, rather than through questionable web-sites.
    As noted, there are several different views on what is important for “making it” as a journalist. However, it is important that any person who wants to work in this field is able to communicate well. Not only is there the need to communicate with sources, but being able to communicate the point of the story with the “common man”.

  2. Zane Stockbridge said

    When it comes to making sure the information is accurate, a reporter can’t rely on just one source. If they interview a single person there should always be skeptism. After that one interview a reporter should do further research to see if what the one individual said is indeed true.

    A reporter for a broadcasting company would also need to know a bit about production too. That way they can appropriately splice the important parts of their story together in a way that doesn’t confuse or bore the audience.

  3. Cody Ethredge said

    The world of reporting and media has become so cluttered with bias. It is either democratic, republican, liberal, its all so swayed to one way depending on where the money comes from. It always comes down to the money before it does to the actual interview, maybe the person said one bit of information, well the paper will distort a few words to spin it in another way, their way.

  4. Kenneth Moses said

    When it comes to journalism I feel that there is allot of bias dealing with any topic that is brought up. I remember in class our professor had asked us what are some qualities that you must have to become a journalist, and some responses was that you must have an open mind, must be a credible source, and last but not least they must know about the issue they are talking about. journalist are extremely import to some people that why I feel as if they need to speak the truth about politics and not be bias about topics they talk about.

  5. Caitlyn Jewell said

    In response to doing the job for money, I disagree. You better be in it for more than just money considering what journalist goes through to do their job. It does take curiosity, and drive to continually ask questions, to find numerous of sources, and to question authority. We emphasized in class how it is important to write objectively and to be neutral, but a few of the comments above state that there is too much bias. Bias is a good thing, it shows that the journalist reporting the story is human. People would argue that neutrality is important because it states both sides, and leads the viewer to decide for them self. How does one really measure that this story EQUALLY state both sides? Besides even if the story is bias the viewer can still decide for himself to take a stand with the report or not.

  6. Devin Alfonso said

    A lot of things are required to be a journalist. I think the most important are accuracy and being unbiased. A story that is inaccurate can cause a lot of problems. And all journalists that are not editorial writers should be unbiased. The point is to report the news, meaning the facts. Journalists should not try to put any kind of spin into a story. I was an editor for our high school newspaper, and this was very hard for people to learn. The smallest words can be biased, like saying good luck at the end of a sports article. Any kind of bias, no matter how small, should be included in any news story

  7. j.payne said

    My major was going to be journalism until I found out that I didn’t like everything that came along with it. I like to write and think that I could make it as a writer, but being a journalist takes much more behind the scenes work. it takes a lot of worry about not offending anyone by the words you use, knowing your facts about what is being written and bringing life to what you are writing are just a few things a journalist need to be able to handle. theres just a lot of hidden detail that comes along with it. Also, you need to know what going on around you within the world including, TV,politics,radio, ect….

  8. Rachel Espinoza said

    In journalism there has to be some sort of knowledge for what your writing about. A lot of it is bias. Like you mentioned journalism is the first rough draft of history. Someone can come along who knows more about the subject and have a whole new opinion on that same subject.

  9. Kimberly Finnie said

    Journalism always had a sort of romantic glorious undertone to me until I had to participate in writing for my school newspaper. I envisioned being able to write about subjects I was interested in and about things that would inspire that people. I quickly realized journalism is not for everyone. It takes a lot of hard work. If you can remain enthusiastic throughout boring work, long days/nights, and about subjects you may not be interested in in the slightest then journalism will be suited for you. I think it takes a definite passion to be involved in journalism as cliché as that may sound. You have to be able to adapt to the times, to continue your search of knowledge. Of course you have to be inquisitive and you have to be critical about everything around you. You have to be the annoying stickler for precision. Yet you have to be something more personal, you have to be the voice of the voiceless. I don’t believe you can be intimidated in the least, you have to be able to question authority to ensure the powerful remains uncorrupted. Lastly if you are one that can take criticism , whether constructive or not, then you would have what it would take to be a journalist.

    Kimberly Finnie
    June 3 2008

  10. Joseph Foley said

    I believe that in Journalism it is good to have a background in the particular area you are writing. It will help you understand what the person is talking about and help you write better stories and have better interviews. I don’t believe being a journalist is for everyone but if you really want to be a journalist then just having a passion for the subject will greatly help you.

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