Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Starting a Career in Journalism

By Donovan Baldwin

Many believe that journalism is a high paying career that doesn't require a lot of time to achieve success.

Well, that part about "high paying career" is on target, at least if you are one of those popular news anchors who define what we need to hear and know every morning or evening.

The same applies to the editors of well-known magazines and daily newspapers who help shape the opinions and needs of people.

At any level, journalists can be movers and shakers, but it's the ones at the top who move and shake the most, and take home the really big paychecks.

The brand new journalist who is just starting out cannot look forward to the same paycheck...and only some of the power.

In fact, some beginning journalists often have to moonlight just to make both ends meet.

Being a journalist is somewhat like being a movie star...especially in terms of pay. If you are any good, you should get more gigs and higher pay as you climb the career ladder. Ironically, also like other celebrities, when you are on top you might not even need as much cash simply because many things, such as trips, tickets to events, and other freebies will be given to you.

As you can imagine, however, you won't get the big bucks just for showing up with a diploma in your hands.

Real journalism is hard work and you need to accept that fact before you really decide to get into it.

Behind the (possible) glamor is a lot of "slogging through the mud" work that needs dedication and commitment. You really need to get that in your head. Otherwise, you will only make it harder for yourself because of unreal expectations which will only end up with you being disappointed in the career you have chosen for yourself.

This acceptance of the facts of life, as they apply to journalism, is actually your first step towards starting a career in journalism.

The second thing you must do is to honestly and objectively examine your talents and your skills to see if they actually will suit you for practicing the profession. A journalism career will generally require writing talent, and, quite often, a knack for interviewing.

Of course, the actual depth and balance of such skills depends on whether you are getting into the daily newspapers or magazines, or into broadcast journalism. If you really want to go further in your career, you also need to develop the aesthetics for layout and formatting of shows for broadcast.

If you think you may have the basic skills then the next stop is to gain the education and experience you will need for the job.

There are many college which offer degree programs and/or certificate level training on writing, interviewing, and related journalistic skills. Colleges and some vocational institutions may also offer courses on media-related subjects and journalism. As for getting the experience, there are media companies that offer internships and on-the-job training for young professionals and students.

Many colleges offer information about and help getting into internships, co-op education programs, and actual job placement.

Of course, you will not always be successful at getting into one on the first try...or first few tries, for that matter, but if you have the education and the skill, you can certainly get into a program or entry-level journalism position.

When you have done all you can along this route, then you can apply for a real job with higher level media companies. Newbies often have to start their career in journalism as editorial assistants, news reporters, or even as stringers.

This seems not offer much promise, but, with hard work and the ability to learn from your mistakes, they can become stepping stones to ever bigger and better positions in the news organization...or the industry in general.

Getting the right job, no matter how far down the totem pole it seems, will ensure that you build a strong foundation and constantly acquire training and experience. Even the lowest one will give you the understanding of the responsibility which goes with the job and expose you to the real world of journalism.

You will be learning first hand what goes on behind the scenes as well as what they taught you in the classroom.

What is great about a career in journalism is the fact that, with the right mindset and skill set, you can enjoy working at a job which has almost unlimited opportunities. When this happens, work will not feel like work. You will finally truly understand the old adage, "Time flies when you're having fun.", and you will find yourself eventually moving upward and achieving a high level of professionalism, reward, and just plain fun.

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