It is a popular misconception that to become a journalist, one must be able to gather the data and present said information to the public in the form of print or broadcast material across various channels. This is certainly one of the basic functions of reporting the news, but journalism is more than just the presentation of facts. The career track for journalists can start at any age, and it can follow different pathways especially in today’s information-driven society. Access to the internet has also redefined the traditional role of journalists and presented more opportunities to people from different backgrounds to become journalists.
Traditional Role of Journalists
A journalist is someone who collects information that may be of interest to the public, creates content and publishes the content on various media. Some journalists may specialize in print only, working for newspapers and magazines while others may focus on a career in broadcast journalism, which may be on television or radio. Still others, may successfully crossover from one medium to the other, which may be attributed to the collaborative nature of information-sharing these days. For this reason, many journalists have some kind of exposure on the internet as the content they create may be re-broadcasted on the digital edition of traditional newspapers and TV shows.
Journalism vs. Reporting
According to the American Press Institute, journalism is the pursuit of the journalistic truth, which is information that is useful to the public in informing their day-to-day decisions. Journalists should always be concerned about preserving the integrity of the information they present by practicing professionalism when it comes to investigating and researching information, relying on a balanced presentation of said information so that the public can draw their own conclusions. Journalists should expect that any information presented to the public will be re-investigated, and even debunked in some cases as new information becomes available. Journalists create the content based on their research while reporters are tasked with the presentation part only.
Career Pathways to Become a Journalist
The traditional career track for journalists would be to earn a bachelor’s degree in communications, journalism or other humanities majors. Following this career track, one should plan on securing an internship or an entry-level job at local publications or broadcast channels. Many of today’s well-known journalists started as cub reporters and worked their way up to desk jobs as pat of investigative reporting teams.
An alternative pathway would be to develop expertise in a certain field and to become the go-to consultant when other journalists need verification to validate or discredit some information. There are many journalists today who have benefited from this route as the public demand for integrity and truth in reporting increased with better access to information. Scientists, healthcare professionals and lawyers have found their own niche in the field of modern journalism.
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics expect a decline in the number of jobs available to journalists. BLS numbers indicate a drop of 10 percent or negative job growth for this sector. This may be attributed to the changing nature of the industry as collaboration and team effort is emphasized, and media companies consolidate for more efficient operations. This profession will not become irrelevant, but those who hope to become journalists should view their career prospects in terms of developing subject matter expertise along with building the necessary research and presentation skills.