does it take to be a Journalist?
(Provided by the Canadian
The newsroom is the glamour end of
a newspaper, the place where a newspaper's best face is made
up each day. It's where you'll find beat reporters, copy editors,
columnists, editorial writers, editorial cartoonists, critics,
photographers, artists, page designers, librarians, clerks, and
editors assembling, distilling and disseminating all the news
the reader needs or wants to know.
Persons considering journalism careers
should first answer the basic question: Why are you interested
in journalism? Most admission requirements to journalism schools
require applicants to write a short essay on why they want to
pursue a career in journalism.
So, start by interviewing yourself.
Do you like to write? Are you curious about everything? Do you
read newspapers and magazines regularly? Do you wonder why things
happen? Are you interested in news, history, geography, politics,
A journalist must be well-rounded and
knowledgeable in the arts, humanities, sciences, business, and
skills and traits
Be personally interesting;
don't be boring
Be able to tell stories
Be curious; be open
to seeing, hearing and knowing what is going on around you
Be persistent, quick,
accurate, and able to give a balanced view of the story
Have a social conscience,
a world view; believe in the importance of an informed public
Be computer literate
Be iconoclastic, be
radical in your thinking, avoid being entrenched in middle-of-the-road
Be someone who cares
about people; a nice person
Be a visual thinker--understand
the importance of pictures and graphics to telling the story
Have a well-rounded
educational background, backed by liberal arts courses; know
media law like libel and contempt of court
in college or in business, and then practise journalism
show calmness in the face of pressure
Be well read, a
Today's reporter is expected
to be conversant--and to make his or her readers conversant--
with such matters as curriculum quality, budgets, provincial
grants, personal investment, taxes, life skills, relationships,
health, diseases, sports, culture, and national unity, and world
affairs. It is not enough to report the results of a meeting.
A reporter must help readers understand what the story will mean
Besides reporters, there is
another breed of journalists who prefer the anonymity of being
a copy editor--a behind-the-scenes person, often working the
overnight shift as news stories are prepared for the morning
There is a serious need for top-quality
copy editors. Their role is to put news copy in acceptable form
for publication by correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation;
checking story angles, names, dates, places and other facts;
looking for potentially libellous comment; and writing clear,
concise, and informative headlines for stories. In many cases,
copy editors also lay out pages on modern pagination terminals
and are responsible for editing photos and other news judgments.
It's a rewarding (pays a bit more than reporters on many newspapers)
and is normally the launching pad toward a career in newspaper
management. Some have begun their careers as
reporters; some have graduated right from university onto the
Another key news function is
photojournalism, a profession unto itself with no single path
to admission and success.
Some evolve into photography by showing
an interest while studying journalism; some seek out educational
institutions that offer photojournalism training; others are
self-taught but have demonstrated an innate ability for great
news, sports and feature photography; still others combine successfully
both photography and writing skills, something that is very important
on smaller newspapers.
designers, graphics: Behind
the visual appearance of newspapers today are artists and page
designers who take basic text and present it in eye-catching
packages. Most use common desktop publishing pagination and graphics
software found on the market today.
A skilled infographics journalist can
take routine statistical information and, by using a PC, turn
it into a high-impact infographic that tells the reader in a
flash what is happening to, for example, bank interest rates,
pork and beef prices, or newsprint sales.
An often-forgotten but invaluable
adjunct of the newsroom is the library, more often called an
electronic resource database in today's lexicon. It is also a
place where dictionaries, atlases, back issues, reference volumes,
official reports, etc., are filed. No one can do a complete,
knowledgeable job in journalism without an effective library.
Larger newspapers have librarians, and they are all familiar
with modern electronic storage and retrieval systems.
More than 30 post-secondary schools offer journalism training--some
in universities, others in community colleges. Some place an
emphasis on academic courses, others on practical training; some
prepare graduates for work on large dailies, others tend to feed
smaller dailies and community newspapers; some provide degrees,
others present diplomas.
You can choose among four-year, three-year, and two-year programs.
Or, those already with a degree in another discipline may want
to choose a post-graduate journalism program of a year or two
to gain practical journalism skills.
Getting into a journalism program is not an easy matter. High
school scores should be very high, as should your aptitude to
journalism. It helps to have had some journalism experience while
in high school, perhaps on a school newspaper, perhaps as an
intern at a community newspaper.
And while you are studying journalism
in college or university, it is advantageous to seek part-time
work in journalism, primarily to build up a dossier of clippings
and samples of your work to bring with you to your job interviews.
Some prominent newspaper people have been able to forego journalism
education. They have earned a degree in a discipline like business
administration, law, or political science and gone right into
Others have started in a non-journalism
position at a newspaper and moved into a reporter or copy editing
function later in their careers. Others have begun their careers
in small town weeklies right out of high school and have moved
up the ladder.