Are you seeking to have a career in journalism, here are some of the things you need to know to make an informed decision.
What does a journalist do?
Journalism is not simply wearing suits and looking pretty on TV or being famous. Being a journalist will require you to have a knack for wanting and sniffing out the truth, it will require you to go above and beyond to get that story that you see on television or hear on the radio or read in the papers. Journalists work in an array of areas, these are television, production houses, radio, magazines and newspapers. You can also work in NGOs doing the same job you could do in a newsroom. However, you will have to choose which kind of journalist you want to be. In brief, a journalist influences public opinion, informs on current events, as well as investigate.
What do you need to study?
To be a journalist, you can study journalism, mass communication or news reporting. Need to change your career, you can as well upgrade or jump right up into it, go to a media house and ask for a job to kick start your career. You can start off as a journalist or news reporter, and keep upgrading to become an editor, producer, anchor and so much more.
What are some of the specific job roles?
As a journalist, your main role is to keep the public updated about what is going on, first in their vicinity, and then the entire world. Below are some of the specific job roles you will be expected to do if you choose this career.
- Meet deadlines
It doesn’t seem reasonable to have this as your first role but believe you me, meeting deadlines is a big deal if you want a career in journalism. For the different media houses, the deadlines change; for example, for a radio, every hour is a news hour which means for your story to make it to the news, you have to ensure that you capitalize on 40 minutes or so to edit your story and hand it in to be aired. This is the same with television although the timelines change, for TV, you may have to target the top of the hour which depends on which a particular TV station. This means you might have to target particular times in which you think your story should run, however, the last word is the newsroom manager or editor or news producer. For a newspaper, the deadline is usually in the evening.
Ultimately, you might have to tighten your stockings to ensure that you meet the deadline otherwise you might fail to have your story run.
- Carefully assess leads
Before you hand in a story to be run, you have to first get a lead, which is basically a hint or a scoop into a potential story. For some, it is a press release, for others it is a press conference, while for others it is a source who has given an idea on something big going on. However, as a journalist, you have to carefully assess these leads to see if they are worth following up. You might have to make phone calls to other sources to confirm the truthfulness of the hint or lead, schedule interviews and conduct the interviews themselves. The main reason why this is important is because you will get to know the validity of the lead. It may also be wise for you to share the lead with your editor such that you get the support and guidance if necessary to get the best out of it.
- Produce a well-balanced story
After assessing all leads and conducting the necessary interviews, you will have to produce a well-balanced story, this means you will have to organize your notes to know the flow of the story and write or edit it according to how you want it to flow. Before this however, you will have to provide feedback to the editor who will want to ensure that the angle you are taking for the story is the best one, and if more is needed this may be the right time for you to go to the field again. Despite your personal misgivings and stand on what you are presenting, the story ought to be balanced or objective. This means your opinion doesn’t mean much at all, your capability in delivering a story is largely dependent on how well thought out it is. This will require you to look for rivals to make a quote on what you are concentrating on.
- Create contacts or sources
Due to the diversity of stories you are to produce, you will end up developing a contact list who you can reach out to in a bid to have them confirm your leads or even generate one. These contacts will help make your story rich and it is important to write them down and create a database later on. This list can be shared with people in your docket or who might be interested in following your footsteps. Worthy to note is that every journalist has a contact list, people who can easily to them about the particular subjects they are interested in; for example, if you are health journalist, your contacts will be full of people in the health sector such that you know where to go to if you want to find information, this may include ministry of health personnel, doctors, nurses, researchers, etc.
- Keep records of investigations carried out
As a journalist, keeping a record of your stories or investigations carried out may be important. Some stories written are very sensitive and you may be taken to courts of law with the intention of producing evidence that what you wrote is what you were given. Your records may save you here. In addition, you might need to make a follow up on a story and these records will help revive your memory about your thoughts during a story. What does that mean; you may want to write down your thoughts in your note book for easy follow up.
- Adhere to the ethical code of conduct
Lastly, as a journalist, you will have to adhere to the journalist ethical code of conduct. This may include being truthful in our reporting and being objective whilst working on your stories. Truthfulness is a big issue for journalists otherwise you will run your media house down when the public knows that you tell lies in your publications. Once in a while, a source may require that you keep his or her name silent and it is up to you to ensure that it remains thus, even when your life is on the line.
Here is a list of particular jobs you can do as a journalist, note that some of these are achieved after upgrading while others are at entry level, while others are not necessarily restricted to studying a journalism but can as well be attained when one studies other fields.
- Freelance reporter
- News reporter
- Communications officer/Manager/Director
- Public relations officer
- Social media specialist
- Camera operator
- Media planner
- Marketing assistant/manager/director