A Career In Journalism In Our Modern Era

Being a journalist is an important career. It holds politicians to account; it can dig up and reveal facts unknown to the wider public. It informs, teaches and clarifies and at times it can entertain and relax us too.

Journalism is one of those industries which has always been right at the centre of everything. Like politics (but the antithesis of it in many ways), journalism revolves around what is happening in the world at the present moment. Because of this, it’s an incredibly exciting and dynamic career.

Journalism is also, however, undergoing change. You might hear swathes of older seasoned journalists complaining that print journalism is ‘dying’ and that journalism is a toxic, competitive place to work. Though it is true that the industry is not easy to penetrate, and takes a lot of work, it is also a deeply satisfying career.

And it’s more important now than ever: as our world changes by the minute and is facing some huge issues (climate change, fake news, pandemics), the people we lean on to inform us fairly and honestly are journalists.

Not all journalism is good: our world is also increasingly filled with fake news, and so the role of the journalist is a significant and delicate one. And it is, like everything, going digital. So, it’s essential for journalists to have a grip on things like social media, SEO (search engine optimizations) and using digital formats (things you learn on Journalism courses and in Master’s degrees).

And since the pandemic, data journalism (fact-based reporting which uses numbers and statistics to tell a story) are becoming more popular, more necessary and therefore more employable.

Here are a few hot tips from a journalist who has very recently begun a career in this fun, and sometimes challenging, world:

Know the different kinds of journalism you can go into

Nowadays, when we think of ‘journalism’ we aren’t limiting ourselves to pad-in-hand reporters at a car accident. Journalism comes in different forms: there’s straight up reporting (i.e telling people about an accident or Boris Johnson’s latest government announcement); then there’s features-which can focus on a range of subjects and can be written in a range of styles. Then, of course, there are different mediums: there’s filmed news (such as ITV, Sky News and the BBC), as well as more documentary-style journalism (such as Louis Theroux).

Though features are less ‘immediate’, lots of features journalists begin their career journey as reporters, since many of the same skills apply such as researching and interviewing, for instance.

There’s also a difference between ‘comment’ articles, and straight reporting. Lots of journalism these days is opinion-based (polarising information between left-and right leaning politics). These can be on a range of current subjects, such as this left-wing Guardian piece criticizing ‘priviledged’ Tory politicians, or another right-leaning one from the Telegraph criticizing the ‘woke’ politics and political correctness of liberals. The writing style of either is very opinionated.

How to gain experience: get involved in a student paper

A great way to get started on the winding road to becoming a journalist is by signing up and volunteering for your local school- or university paper. Every school or university in the UK (and abroad, for that matter) has a paper or (a) magazine.

Just start writing….

As the bulk of journalism is still filtered through the medium of words, then you can do nothing better than to just start writing. Pick a topic that interests you to begin with. Some of the best writing flows from your genuine passions, whether that be travel, sport, the arts, theatre or politics, and writing or blogging about it should therefore come naturally to you.

And storytelling….

If you are interested in telling stories through visual or audio, then give this a go as well. Shooting and recording on an iPhone actually can be at professional standards and you can start experimenting with content creation. There are a few good courses on this type of digital storytelling. (Check out https://students.digitalmediaacademy.org).

Read the news

Since journalism is for and about the world that surrounds us, perhaps the most important bit of advice for anyone wanting to enter the industry is learning about that world. And try and read a range of news- on the left, on the right, and everything in between.

A degree in Journalism

After school or after university there are some really great journalism undergraduate courses or Master’s degrees you can do to jet-start your career. They aren’t strictly necessary to a career, but they do teach really valuable skills that you’ll use later on- such as reporting, interviewing, writing, filming, podcasting, ethics and media law, social media and digital skills. A few great places to look at for undergraduate and post graduate courses in journalism in the UK are: City, University of London, which offers everything from newspaper to magazine journalism, broadcasting and investigative journalism; Goldsmiths in London, as well as the London School of Economics and Cardiff University.

Lastly, The New York Times, arguably the world’s best-known newspaper, runs both summer courses and gap year courses (all online now) both in New York and Washington DC with lots of hands on, writing experience.

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