We explore the commonly asked questions: is journalism a good career and offer some tips for wannabe reporters and journalists.
Journalism is a highly rewarding career option, but it is not without its challenges. It is an excellent career for many. But, to succeed, you need passion and skills for the news, current affairs, and media. If your interest is in print media, then you should have a good base of writing skills before embarking on this career.
If you see yourself more in broadcast journalism and multimedia is your passion, then your communication skills while on-camera should be top-notch.
Most importantly, to work in any field of journalism, you will have to demonstrate a strong work ethic, a ‘nose for a story’, and put in the hours to learn this ever-evolving trade.
Why Is Journalism Important?
Journalists fill an important role within any democratic society. As gatekeepers to information, they hold those in power accountable for their actions. As the BBC puts it,
“…journalism serves as a public ‘watchdog’ by monitoring the political process in order to ensure that politicians carry out voters’ wishes, and that they don’t abuse their positions”.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to all journalism. For instance, the above can hardly be applied to some reporting within the likes of entertainment, business, or sports journalism.
However, that brings us to another reason why it is an important vocation; journalists allow the public to make informed decisions. It also collates and distributes information equally, so one portion of society isn’t more informed than another and it acts as an important record of history.
In short, mass communication keeps the public informed and an informed public is better equipped to make the right decisions.
As was reiterated on the BBC’s website, “if the media was not allowed to facilitate open and free discussion, the views and concerns of ordinary people might not be heard”.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 45,000 people employed in this sphere throughout the US.
There was a time when most journalists got their start from gaining an internship and working their way up through media companies.
However, nowadays, the more usual way into the industry is to study journalism, gain a journalism degree and get a graduate job in a media organisation.
If you are in high school and considering this career, it is never too early to prepare. If you start writing for your school newspaper now, you will learn more about the job, but you will also have a portfolio to present when you apply to journalism school.
What Makes A Good Journalist?
Today, the media places a stronger emphasis on digital channels than it ever did before. However, many of the interests and skillsets a good journalist requires are still the same.
For instance, many people who have had success in this career choice have a strong interest in current affairs. That is as true now as it was 50 years ago.
Also, typically people who enjoy writing and are good communicators are drawn to the profession.
Other timeless trends include that those who have an eye for detail are often drawn to photojournalism, while avid readers often end up in the editing department proofreading. However, in truth, journalism is a huge industry, where the people involved are as varied as you could imagine.
Tip: Using the right tools can give you an edge over other journalists. We’ve rounded up the best apps for journalists. Check that out!
How Do I Get a Journalism Job
The world of journalism is constantly changing, with new media and digital platforms offering new opportunities for those who are interested in spreading the news.
If you are looking to start the media industry, you should consider going to journalism school and getting a degree. If you are already in a job, or have graduated in a different area, then a master’s degree might be the option for you.
There are many options out there, including the more traditional approach of internships and local journalist job opportunities. A lot of people who are now working in the national media got their start in local media.
You probably shouldn’t think that your first job will be with a massive organisation. Most people don’t start in the New York Times.
If you are serious about being a journalist, you should pick up work experience and build working relationships with news editors.
Of course, there is a huge amount of competition for journalism roles out there. Therefore, if you do decide to follow this career, you should have a passion for the news and an unrivaled work ethic.
To get started, read our guide to the best writing jobs.
What Are The Challenges Of Being A Journalist?
Journalists today are working in an ever-changing industry, with media trust, an unstable job market, and balancing the digital landscape amongst the most prominent issues.
A recent survey by BusinessWire showed that almost half of journalists saw a lack of trust in the media as the biggest issue for the profession.
As Raisa Acloque put it, this worry has its roots in other issues that exist within the industry. She wrote:
“The “fake news” narrative (has fed) on crisis of confidence in the journalism industry… This distrust in media is also attached to various unsolved industry difficulties – the increased pressure on journalists for an on-demand, 24/7 news cycle, newsrooms facing a shortage of revenues and resources, and the discourse of disinformation and misinformation on social media.”
There is little doubt that there is a battle around misinformation and ‘fake news’ within the digital media. Many excellent journalists are part of this battle and are doing their best to restore lost faith within the industry.
For example, Danish publication TjekDet is conducting important investigative work to check stories for factual accuracy.
We are stating this because this career path has its issues, but there are brilliant people within it who are doing their utmost to solve them.
Resources For Journalists
FAQs About Is Journalism A Good Career
Is a career in journalism worth it?
Journalism is a worthwhile career, as you keep the public informed on the issues that matter to them and keep those in power in check.
If you are getting into this career for purely financial reasons, there are more lucrative options. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the median pay for journalists is around $48,370 per year.
Is journalism an in-demand career?
Journalism jobs are more varied than ever before, with many graduates also going into public relations and content writing positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020 there were approximately 46,700 people employed as news analysts, reporters, and journalists.
What is the highest-paying journalism job?
Working for high-profile national organisations will garner a higher salary than working in local news. However, these jobs are not plentiful. The median hourly wage for a journalist in 2020 was $23.26 per hour.