Journalism: 411

You’re sitting at your office desk, and the phone rings. You pick it up. It is your boss saying that there is a breaking story at such a location and to get on the scene immediately. You grab your tape recorder, pen, paper, and run to the scene. You take notes writing down what is going on around you, the surroundings, the location, everything. Once you have your information you quickly gather your thoughts and creatively and clearly write your article in order to meet your demanding deadline. Then, moments later it is published.

This is the exciting life of a high qualified and experienced journalist.

Journalism is an exciting occupation, since nothing is the same everyday! Journalists investigate a news story through research, interview sources, and collaborate with a professional photographer in order to capture images that involve the story. Deadlines are a key factor in a journalists career.  Doug Robinson, reporter from Area News Group, stresses the importance of deadlines and how deadlines are the main factor in this career.  Journalists only have a certain time length to write and finish their final news piece, then it is sent to the editor in order to be reviewed and finally published (“School Required”). The second important factor for becoming a great writer in this field is being accurate and factual in what is being reported.  Karen

Plumley, another reporter from Area News Group, states, “… being accurate, not only following the writing guidelines but also getting the information right in your articles is really important.  It is worth having multiple sources to double-check your facts…This is one of the toughest parts of being a reporter…sorting out the facts from fiction.”

There are several different types of journalism. Some of these are print journalism, broadcast journalism, and internet journalism. Print journalism refers to newspaper and magazine writing. Broadcast journalism refers to an electronic form of media via radio or television. The newest form of journalism is internet journalism, which refers to blogging, websites, and webcasts (Green).

An individual who writes for a newspaper, magazine, or any printed publication is a print journalist. Often times these types of journalists are called reporters. There are several different fields for print journalists, but how often a print journalist has to publish a story depends on their publication company. A newspaper columnist may have to write a story once a week or once a day, whereas a magazine columnist may have to write an article once a month (Carter).

A print journalist has to have several skills, which make their writing strong and effective. Detail is extremely important when writing a story about any kind of event. The ability to clearly explain complex subjects is one of the most important skills for a print journalist. Strong writing skills such as, spelling and grammar are essential to print journalism as well (Baker). These types of needed skills are one of the reasons why journalism is a very competitive industry (Carter).

Along with having several skills, print journalists have many responsibilities, though the responsibilities vary depending on the publication company. “Print journalists are required to seek out new stories, work with tight editorial deadlines, attend and ask questions at press conferences and create and upload content for the publication’s website” (Baker). Hard news journalists have short deadlines in one day, whereas soft news journalists (individuals who publish once a month) have more time to complete one news piece.

Broadcast journalism takes a different approach. Although a broadcast journalist still has to investigate, gather and report information, the way in which they have to present news is through either television or radio station (“Broadcast Journalist”). Broadcast journalism is usually presented daily, such as the nightly news at ten o’clock pm, which is on every night.

There are certain skills, which a broadcast journalist is required to have. Depending on the position of which the journalist works, such as anchor, or an investigator behind the scenes, all of the information given has to be presented accurately, and clearly. Another requirement a broadcast journalist must have is the ability to have technical knowledge (“Broadcast Journalist”).

The duties and responsibilities of a broadcast journalist are very precise. Since a broadcast journalist can be an editor, anchor, reporter, producer, etc. the language and format is different for each position (“Broadcast Journalist”).  It is the individual’s responsibility to present the story in the correct format, and make it easy and comprehendable to the viewer. “In the visual media, the reporter must also choose

appropriate locations carefully…[to] go with the content of the story” (“Broadcast Journalist”).

Internet journalism is the newest form of journalism today. It involves gathering information on current events or international news and publishing the information via blog or website. There are certain internet publication websites for this type of journalism. An example of one of these publication websites is Yahoo News.

The most important skill to have for internet journalism is the ability to research accurate information, along with correct spelling, grammar, and editing skills. The ability to learn new information and analyze and interpret the information is important for the journalist as well. When the journalist is more enthusiastic about the topic they are writing about it helps the article become more interesting. The ability to adapt to new technology changes with the internet are essential as well, since technology is advancing so quickly.

For an online journalist, the main duty is to provide clear and concise information for the readers. This is achievable by researching accurately about the specific topic.  To achieve this, they need to research about the topic that they will write about. Online journalists are responsible for publishing the article on time, just like with print journalism and broadcast journalism.

In order to become a fulltime journalist, an undergraduate degree in journalism, communications, or English is required (“School Required”). The bachelor degree curriculum is the foundation of a career in journalism. Basic literacy courses that a journalist must have are those, which involve liberal arts, such as writing, sociology,

political science, history, etc. Specific journalism courses that focuses on mass media, reporting, editing, ethics, and broadcasting are the core training in becoming a journalist. Internships are required in order to complete a bachelor degree in journalism as well (“Journalism Career”). Internships help the individual make connections for future jobs (Education-portal.com).  Another aspect that Plumley suggests is volunteering.  She explains the start of her writing career began when volunteering for editor-and-chief, then used that experience in order to apply for paying positions at other newspaper companies.

Journalism is an exciting, yet competitive career. So, assuming that the journalist does not have assigned stories to write about, how does a journalist find stories? Robinson explains that listening to people’s conversations is a key way to begin research.  “Another thing that happens after being at this job for a while is that people e-mail or call you with ideas.  I love it when this happens because it means they trust my reporting skills and have chosen me over other writers to capture an event that is important to them” (Plumley).

Trust.  It is the absolute most important thing between a reporter and an interviewee.  Many people ask reporters why they should trust them.  How do they know that the reporter is not going to write their article and reveal confidential information?  This is the tricky part. Robinson talked about a story he wrote recently about a teenage girl, who won a national award for art.  The interviewee’s portrait had extremely personal and an intense metaphorical message, and when telling Robinson she hesitated before revealing the message to him. This is when Robinson knew that he could not write a story

about the meaning of the portrait because revealing that message could potentially affect the interviewee. Not only did Robinson use his own judgment, but he also understands the Code of Ethics.

The Code of Ethics is the most important document for a journalist, no matter if it is for print journalism, broadcast journalism, or internet journalism. “An understanding of ethics, law and propriety with regard to privacy and modes of expression, so [the individual] can make tough decisions [when] reporting” (“Career Summary”). The preamble of the Code of Ethics states,

 

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society’s principles and standards of practice (SPJ Code of Ethics).

There are key points to the Code of Ethics. The reason for the Code of Ethics is for the protection of sources and journalists. It outlines what should and should not be attained when using information from a source. It is unethical for a journalist to reward a source by payments or gifts, or anything that has to do with a bribe in order to attain

information from a source. Intimidation or threats from a journalist are not acceptable when trying to attain information from a source as well. “People should not feel as

though they must divulge information to avert bodily, social, or financial harm (“Code of Ethics”). In other words, journalists cannot pressure a source through bribes or any kind of threat to gain information.

There are many different aspects of journalism. If chosen for a career, many skills are required such as writing, presenting, and technological skills to only name a few. Journalism can be a stressful career when dealing with deadlines and when it comes to the Code of Ethics. Although there is many requirements, several responsibilites for the field and it is very competitive, journalism is exciting career where nothing is the same day to day. “I believe that if you are dedicated, persistent, determined and work really hard, there are many opportunities to do well.  You may say that it is the same with any career…but it’s a whole lot easier to accomplish these things in a job that you love” (Plumley).

-Felix

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