Does a career in journalism appeal to you? Then, develop these 7 journalism skills to make it successful!
If you love information and have good writing skills, a career in journalism could be a good fit. This career path is not for the faint of heart but is also never dull. You will always be able to find a lead to chase as you pursue your journalism career, and those leads can take you on some exciting adventures. Many people have a romanticized idea of what journalism looks like.
They picture a reporter with a pencil tucked behind their ear rushing off to chase an ambulance or head to the crime scene. While this is sometimes what a journalist does, the reality is often much less Hollywood inspired and far more research-driven. The modern journalist will spend time interviewing people and researching on the back end to create written works that people want to read. That said, journalism does require some specific skills.
To build a successful journalism career, you will need to develop the necessary skills to grow in this career path. From natural curiosity to knowing how to use the computer, these are the seven journalism skills you need to grow.
7 Skills You Need to Succeed in Journalism
If you are interested in pursuing a career in journalism, you will need the right skills. These seven skills may be naturally part of your personality, or they may be things you need to develop. Either way, you will set yourself up for success by understanding what it takes to succeed in journalism.
1. Natural Curiosity
Journalism is a career where you are constantly researching different topics and events. A natural curiosity and desire to research and learn about those things is essential. You must learn to imagine details about an event or subject, and then find a way to shine a light on what readers need to know. Journalism is, by its very nature, a proactive art. You must proactively ask questions and find new topics to write about.
If events are not happening, you must come up with topics to research and questions to answer. Consider, for example, a journalist writing about a car accident. The facts of the car accident come from the victims and local law enforcement. Yet there is much more to the story if you can dig and ask the right questions. For example, curiosity would cause the journalist to ask:
- What kind of cars were in the crash?
- How did they crash?
- Why did they crash?
- Who was hurt?
- Where are the injured people now?
- Who was at fault?
- Was anyone arrested?
Asking these questions and finding the answers will make the resulting article much more interesting, with information beyond what the law enforcement agencies have already given.
How to Develop Natural Curiosity
If you want to be a journalist and feel you lack enough natural curiosity, you can develop some. First, learn to use your imagination about events you see and observe. Learn to look for little details that others might not see. Ask questions about everything, and your natural curiosity will grow.
2. Organizational Skills
The image of a frantic reporter arriving on the scene of a crime and scrambling for their notebook is quite unrealistic. However, if you are going to be a good journalist, you will likely have many leads and stories you are handling simultaneously. Therefore, you will need to be quite organized. Organization refers to physical paper documents as well as digital documents. Mental organization is also helpful as you keep the various ideas, interviews, people, and events straight in your mind.
How to Develop Organizational Skills
If you are not naturally organized, you will want to put systems in place to help. Talk to people you know who seem naturally organized. See how they do what they do, and learn to implement systems that make organization automatic. Over time, you can build habits that will make you feel more organized and in control of the data in your life.
3. Strong Ethics
To be a journalist whose writing people want to read, you must be a journalist people can trust. This requires ethical journalism. Journalists must have a strong ethical core. It can be very tempting to go for the scoop at the expense of other people or sensitive information. This might cause you to get a good following, but if you use unethical means to get or publish information that should be kept private, you may ruin your career.
Similarly, you must follow all rules and regulations when seeking information. It takes just one poorly timed story with information acquired through ill-gotten means to destroy a journalist’s career, so don’t go there.
How to Develop Strong Ethics
Ethics are more a character issue than a skill you can develop, but commit yourself to work ethically in everything you do. Make it part of your character, and it will also be part of your journalistic work.
4. Excellent Research Skills
The heart of journalism is the ability to dig into data and research facts that others don’t readily know or find. There is a reason it is sometimes called investigative reporting. You must be able to look at an event or subject from all angles, dig into public records, interview people and represent your findings clearly and engagingly.
Along with your research skills, you will need tenacity. Sometimes, a lead looks like it is going nowhere, but your tenacity will cause you to find the answers if you keep digging. Learn to grab onto an idea and never give up until you find the answers. You will not be a good journalist if you are not a good researcher. Learn how to use the tools at your disposal to build your research abilities, and you will be able to apply those skills to your work as a journalist.
How to Develop Excellent Research Skills
To develop research skills, consider these strategies:
- Learn where the public records databases are in your community and how to access them.
- Learn how to search Google expertly.
- Trace citations in the articles you find to learn even more.
- Be willing to call witnesses and ask for an interview.
- Have a system to record and manage references for later use.
- Build relationships with your local public records office or library librarian, who can help you with your research needs.
5. Solid Interviewing Skills
Interviewing is at the heart of modern journalism. It lets the writer get to the source of information and makes the finished piece trustworthy. As a journalist, you will use interviews to:
- Gather information
- Verify information
- Uncover new perspectives
- Collect quotes about a topic
- Give your piece authority
Interviewing is about more than just asking questions and recording answers. If you are going to have successful interviews, you need the ability to connect with the interviewee, so they will want to answer the questions. This means strong communication skills and the ability to make a personal connection with people. When people feel comfortable with a journalist, they will divulge more information than if they are uncomfortable. So putting people at ease and then using your communication skills to draw information from them is essential. These are skills you will develop the longer you do interviews, but they are crucial.
How to Develop Solid Interviewing Skills
If you have not done many interviews, take some time to study good interviewers through online videos. How do they use body language and tone of voice to connect with the interviewee? Can you mirror that in your interviews? Then, do some mock interviews that are not for a particular project. Practice what you have learned until it feels natural and comfortable for you. Then you are ready to start interviewing people for your journalism work.
6. Computer Literacy
Over the past two decades, journalism has changed. Today, adults prefer to get their news from digital platforms, not paper ones. They will listen to podcasts or browse social media to find out what is happening in the world rather than opening a newspaper or magazine. Thus, today’s journalists must be savvy users of all things digital. You must be able to use the computer and websites, design programs, and online organizational tools to be a skilled journalist.
Today’s journalists publish their works online, using these platforms to reach their target audience. If you are not comfortable with basic word processing, image collection and sharing, app usage, and social media, you will struggle to connect with your audience and distribute your work. In addition, all basic office software, including spreadsheets and slideshow generation, are tools you may need.
How to Develop Computer Literacy
If you lack computer literacy, you will need to learn it. First, figure out where you lack abilities. Next, you need to pinpoint where your problem lies in many aspects of computer literacy. Then, find a class at your local community college or library to help you add those skills.
7. English Grammar Skills
It may go without saying, but you must know how to write well to succeed as a journalist. Publishing works with grammar and syntax errors will cause you to lose your audience and followers. It will also confuse your readers. Strong journalists are strong writers. Learn grammar, and then use grammar-checking software on every piece you publish to avoid problems with typos and grammar errors.
How to Develop Grammar Skills
If your grammar is weak, find an online grammar class to take. Then, use a tool, like Grammarly, that provides grammar suggestions and reasons for those suggestions. Finally, if you make the same mistake regularly, start making adjustments in your writing. For more, read our Grammarly review.
Resources For Journalists
What Is An Inverted Pyramid in Journalism
11 Best Journalism Tools For Busy Professionals
What Is Muckraking Journalism?
What Is Watchdog Journalism? A Helpful Guide
What Is Science Journalism? A Detailed Guide
10 Best Tools for Data Journalism For Research and Data Management
5 W’s of Journalism: Everything You Need To Know
What Is Editing In Journalism? A Comprehensive Guide For Budding Journalists
What Is Gonzo Journalism? Explained
FAQs About Journalism Skills
How can I improve my journalism skills?
If you find that you are lacking in one or more of these journalism skills, here are some strategies to use to improve them:
1. Be a continual learner: Find where your weaknesses are, and then find classes to fix them. The more you work on yourself, the better your skills will become.
2. Learn from your mistakes: If you make a mistake, don’t let it derail your career dreams and goals. Instead, learn from it and avoid making it in the future.
3. Keep writing: You will learn the most if you keep writing. Learn to be concise, clear, and respectful in your writing, but don’t stop. Skilled journalists write all the time, so get a journal and write all the time.
4. Get a degree: A final way to build your journalism skills is to earn a degree in journalism. This will ensure that you study journalism from every angle, including the ethics of journalism, to graduate with exceptional skills.
What personality do you need to be a journalist?
To be a journalist, you will need to have the right personality. While you may be able to grow some journalism skills, in reality, you will need a basic personality to do well in this field. Some personality traits include:
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