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Journalists research, investigate, interpret and communicate news and public affairs through newspapers, television, radio and other media. They investigate leads and news tips, read documents, observe events taking place at the scene, and interview people. Journalists play an important role in our media-savvy society; compiling information, writing stories and broadcasting news that informs us about current local, national, and international events and the conduct of public officials, corporate executives, special interest groups and others who live in the limelight. The ultimate goal after gathering and synthesizing information is to figure out how to present it logically so that people can understand, enjoy and use it in their daily lives.

Entry-level journalists and those working for small weekly newspapers may be assigned a variety of tasks including writing headlines, taking photographs, doing page layout, editing and writing editorials or columns in addition to covering all aspects of local news. This is a great environment for a journalist to start in because they learn a broad range of journalistic skills and can decide to specialize in a particular area they enjoy working on the most. The title journalist is quite broad because journalists do a number of different things: Some cover a "beat" (one news area such as police, city hall or law courts), others write more analytical material or columns, some report for news services that provide printed material to subscribing newspapers and magazines, such as Reuters, while magazine reporters may do extensive in-depth research because magazines have relatively specialized readerships. Some journalists specialize in fields such as health, business, film, sports, social events, science and religion.

Journalists must decide what piece of information to "lead" with; this is always the most important part of the story. If a journalist cannot grab a reader's attention immediately, then their endeavor was not entirely successful. A journalistic piece must be as unbiased as possible and not favor any viewpoint for the journalist's job is to report on the story in a meaningful and insightful way, but not in an editorial fashion. Editorials are something completely different and deserve their own merits. Journalists are usually confined by specific word counts and must have excellent grammar and writing skills. They often cover more than one story a day so they must be on their toes.

Journalists are dedicated to providing accurate and impartial news. The reason accuracy is so important is to both to serve the public with correct news and because slanderous and libelous statements can lead to costly lawsuits. It is also important that they know about journalistic ethics and laws related to journalism such as defamation law, but those principles are well covered in journalism school. It is crucial that journalists have a complex understanding of different cultures. Most stories are about diverse and interesting people therefore, journalists must also be culturally sensitive. Sometimes journalists also take their own pictures.
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  Interests and Skills  
Journalists must be naturally curious and have a nose for news. When it comes to interviewing people, they should be interested and respectful about the answers and know what types of questions to ask. Obviously this also requires great people skills and written communication skills. They must be 100 percent accurate in their fact checking therefore people who can pay close attention to details and are scrutinizers would be perfect journalists. They must also be open-minded, because they have to understand and see a story from both points of view in order to cover a story properly. Journalists also have extensive stamina that helps them cope with the pressures of the industry.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Collect local, national and international news through interviews, investigation and observation
  • Write stories for newspapers and magazines
  • Cover all the stories for specific subjects such as health, sports or arts
  • Write editorials and commentaries on topics of current interest to stimulate public interest and express the views of a publication
  • Write critical reviews of literary, musical and other artistic works based on knowledge, judgment and experience
  • Receive, analyze and verify news and other copy for accuracy
  • Make shorthand notes and/or record information on tape
  • Conduct interviews as part of research and carry out background research for stories or features
  • Discuss work with editors
  • May take photographs
  • Journalists work both indoors and outdoors in a variety of conditions. Their work is usually hectic and stressful. Since they are under great pressure to meet deadlines, reports are often written with little time for preparation. Successful journalists may work in comfortable, private offices while others work in large rooms filled with the sound of keyboards and computer printers, as well as the voices of other reporters. When on location, they may work in unpleasant situations, such as crime and accident scenes. Similarly, covering wars, political uprisings, fires, floods, and similar disaster events can often be dangerous.
  • Actual working hours are irregular. Morning newspaper journalists often work from late afternoon until midnight, whereas magazine journalists usually work during the day. Sometimes hours fluctuate when a deadline must be meet, or when a story breaks at night. The work also requires travelling to locations in order to cover stories. For some journalists, the travel can be international.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Journalists typically work for newspapers, magazines, journals, governments, advertising agencies, private consulting firms, television stations, radio stations and other publishers. Freelance journalists are self-employed and work only on contracts. Journalists are constantly meeting new people and traveling to sometimes foreign and exotic places. A journalist's career may include anything from reporting from war zones and crime scenes to interviewing world leaders, celebrities and street people. Most tend to specialize in a particular area, once they are established.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Many entry-level journalists that work on small publications in rural areas can easily move up into larger urban publications with experience. Starting on a smaller publication is considered valuable by editors and publishers and a move to a larger station or publication is often a deserved promotion. Experienced reporters may advance to editorial, production and publishing positions.

Since journalism is such a highly competitive industry, competition for even entry-level reporter jobs is tough. Journalists with experience often write columns in newspapers, magazines and on television or move into related occupations such as technical writing, advertising copywriting, public relations and media consulting, organizing large events, educational writing, fiction writing, screenwriting or editing. In the broadcast sector, some journalists move up to become producers and beat writers. Some journalists become independent freelance writers. Although the Internet is taking over our traditional print media, there are still journalists needed for writing positions in these media.

  Educational Paths  
Most journalists have a university degree or college diploma in journalism or a related field, such as communications or English, however it is not 100 percent crucial in certain areas of journalism. Newspapers, however, usually require some form of formal training at a minimum and a few years reporting experience just to get one's foot into the door. Some people get liberal arts degrees and then attend a one or two year postsecondary college program in journalism.

Journalists must possess a detailed knowledge of the geography, history, economy, politics, media law and social life of the communities and countries in which they work. Columnists and critical reviewers also need specialized knowledge in a particular area such as theater or international politics. Newspaper and magazine journalists can gain practical experience by working on high school and university publications or small rural weekly publications. Broadcast journalists should look for experience or volunteer work at smaller, rural or local community cable television or radio stations.

Most reporters start at small publications or broadcast stations as general assignment reporters or copy editors. Large publications and stations hire few recent graduates; as a standard industry rule, they require all reporters to have at least several years of experience. Journalists suggest constantly writing, reading and practicing your writing skills as a tool for success. Lately, there are so many places to get published and have your voice heard, such as school publications and the Internet. The more practice one earns, the better chances they have of landing a job.

There are also many journalism scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships awarded to college journalism students by universities, newspapers, foundations, and professional organizations.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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