How to Become a Professional Journalist

Journalism is an integral part of how communities stay informed about what is happening in the world. Within journalism are many different specialties and career options worth pursuing beyond the on-camera reporter and anchors. Overall, it is the perfect field for those that want to make a difference.

However, breaking into journalism can be intimidating. This is especially true for those who recently decided to become serious about developing into journalists. Read below to learn how to get started.

Obtain a Degree

The first step in becoming a journalist is to obtain the appropriate degree. At a minimum, prospective journalists should get a bachelor’s degree. Ideally, that degree should be in journalism, creative writing, communications, English, or a field related to their specialty, such as public relations.

Developing Your Writing

Next comes developing your writing skills. Naturally, this process should have begun while obtaining your degree. However, one never stops learning — and that certainly applies to writing. Journalism writing has evolved from print to radio to television and now digital and social media. Be able to adapt your writing to the medium. News organizations often ask journalists to write different versions of their stories for different audiences.

One of the best ways to develop your writing is by blogging or becoming a freelance writer. In school, work on the newspaper or yearbook. Ask to prepare the morning announcements or introduce speakers at assemblies. Even creating a social media account geared towards a specific hobby or interest could help develop your writing with informed captions. The little things add up. All of this experience can be added to a resume when the time comes.

Keep Learning

Journalists and prospective journalists need to stay up to date in their chosen field of concentration… politics, weather, foreign affairs, business, travel, music, pop culture, sports, etc. This means a lot of reading, note-taking, bookmarking and the like. You’re often consuming information without a specific topic or story in mind. Natural curiosity is a key personality trait shared by journalists.

Likewise, an undervalued journalism skill to develop is self-editing. Journalists should practice editing their own works, which requires a certain level of honesty with oneself. The tighter you write, the more you can include when an editorial boss is holding you to strict constraints on deadline.

Find Mentors

One of the best ways to break into journalism is to find a mentor. Mentors have already been through the process and can offer advice on everything from getting started to finding the perfect job.

Experience

Another intelligent way to pave a path towards journalism is by seeking out experience. This can be done in various ways, including finding an internship, doubling down on that blog or freelance gig, whatever feels right and is available. Alternatively, those in school should consider signing up for their school newspaper. Again, all of this will go towards your resume.

Article originally published on BlakeMcCoy.co

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