What it means to be a journalist
Diane Sawyer, an American television journalist once said: “If you’re curious, you’ll probably be a good journalist because we follow our curiosity like cats.” A good journalist does not only need to be a good writer but is curious and good at expressing one’s opinion.
There are several misconceptions that people have about this job, but let us put this aside, unlearn what we know about journalists and journalism and look at it from a different perspective. Many times, I have come across the phrase “Journalists write what they want. They don’t present what is true, rather they twist the real facts” or “You just need to know how to write to be a journalist.” These are just some very few of many misconceptions that people have about journalists and journalism.
Of course, in order to succeed in this field, you need to be a good write but writing well is not the only skill a journalist require. A good journalist is one who is curious, who reads (very important), has enough knowledge on a story to write another one, is able to think outside the box and come up with different angles of a story, knows what is newsworthy and what is not and is willing to cross boundaries in order to get the story. These are just a few of the many qualities that a good journalist acquires.
To some it may seem like an easy job; you just sit behind a typewriter or a computer and write. But what most do not know is that journalism includes investigating, analysing and reporting local as well as world events, trends, current affairs, sports and so on. Our job is not only to present the fact but also educate the people of what is happening, why, how and what can or will happen next.
If you decide to go for print journalism, do not limit your options to just newspapers. If you love sports, then go for sports journalism. It is not an easy section. You need to have a passion for sports (regardless of whether you play or not) and be up-to-date with the current events and players. In order to be a good sports journalist, you should regularly read sports sections, watch some news, listen to the commentary, write the same story in your own way and think outside the box to find a new angle to the story you want to cover. This mantra does not only apply to sports but also current affairs, finance, politics, international affairs and celebrity news. The same applies to magazine, online, radio and television journalism.
However, you do not have to limit yourselves to writing, editing or presenting news. It is a challenging industry and truly believes in survival of the fittest. If you want to be successful in this field you must be up-to-date with technology- know how to edit a video on FCP (Final Cut Pro), how to edit sound (for example on adobe audition), be familiar with photoshop as well as InDesign (used for magazine layouts) – and have an ability to produce your own show, if you are interested in working behind the camera, know how to operate one. Have an idea of the legal and ethical issues in media. It is essential to have these skills in order to survive.
Do not come into this field expecting big money, fixed hours of work and limelight. You will achieve that (minus fixed working hours) if you work hard enough. This job comes with a lot of difficulties. One has to perform at the highest level and be able to work under difficult situations. You must learn to fail in order to succeed. A career in journalism can be a fulfilling and lucrative option with hard work and passion.