Steps to Become a News Journalist

Learn how to become a news journalist. Research the job description and education requirements, and find out how to start a news journalism or reporting career. View article »

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News Journalist Career Info

News journalists gather and report information on stories for a variety of media, including print, broadcast, and Web outlets. Also known as reporters and correspondents, these professionals must be able to research, investigate, interview, develop leads, and analyze information. They also need to effectively communicate what they've learned in a clear, direct style.

News journalists often travel to locations to gather information for their assignments, and they might end up in dangerous situations. They also might have to work unusual hours, and they must deal with regularly occurring deadline pressures. These professionals should have strong written and verbal communication skills, objectivity, good people and listening skills, persistence, and familiarity with video, photography, audio, and computer graphics. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reporters and correspondents earned a median annual salary of $36,360 in 2015.

Get Bachelor's Degree

The first step an individual can take to become a news journalist is to obtain a bachelor's degree in journalism or mass communication. These undergraduate programs provide both classroom education and real-world experience in different aspects of news reporting for television, print, and Web media. Journalism students take courses in writing, media ethics and law, visual communications, and television production. Students can also study mass communication, which encompasses modern mass media fields, such as advertising, public relations, and journalism.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employers look for journalists with reporting experience, even for entry-level jobs. One way to gain such experience is to work as a reporter for a college newspaper. Similarly, prospective news journalists can act as correspondents for campus radio or television stations.

Gain Work Experience

After graduation, news journalists can gain reporting experience by working in entry-level positions at local news outlets. Journalists might find it helpful to initially submit articles on a freelance basis. Freelancers do not have set employers and receive payment only for published stories on an article-by-article basis.

Many positions require journalists to work quickly when news breaks. A proven track record of delivering accurate news under time constraints can help aspiring journalists get an edge in this competitive field. A willingness to work long or odd hours could also be a plus.

Hone and Gain Skills

Recent posts for journalism jobs stressed the need for experience shooting and editing video footage, using social media to engage readers and posting content to websites. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online resource, journalists may be required to use tools ranging from digital camcorders and cameras to microphones, video editing equipment, and mobile broadcast units. A familiarity with database query software, map creation software such as ESRI ArcView, and video editing software such as Apple Final Cut Pro may also be a requirement.

Consider completing a school's standalone courses or certificate programs to fill in gaps in knowledge. These can cover such topics as multimedia storytelling, journalism technology, and visual communication. Other options include online videos and vendor-sponsored classes.

Consider Grad School

Graduate-level journalism degrees are also available and can expand employment possibilities for those working in the news industry. These two-year programs typically emphasize reporting skills and cover a number of different media tools. They also allow students to focus on such topics as videography or magazine writing. Work experience with professional newspapers or television stations is often included as part of the curricula, and some programs facilitate national and international experiences.

In sum, aspiring news journalists should complete an undergraduate program and earn hands-on training through an internship or similar experience before seeking an entry-level position in the field.

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