Let's be honest here: journalism's hard. It's so difficult to come up with an interesting pitch, do the necessary research for an article, and find people willing to be interviewed. And that's all before even writing the article!
That being said, it's such a rewarding field. Talking to people and hearing their stories and experiences is definitely one of the best parts of journalism. While the field is rewarding, it's good to have some form of preparation going into it due to the intensity of this job.
So, how can you expand your options and gain the skills required for this career? May I present to you five tips and tricks that helped me become a better journalist, and have given me an inside look into this field.
1. Write, Write, WRITE!
It sounds like an obvious tip, but it's very crucial. Continuously writing can help you accomplish two different things: formalizing and improving your writing style.
Keeping your writing style consistent and coherent makes all the difference in your article. No one wants to read something poorly written, no matter how great of a work you may be publishing. Proper grammar and punctuation go a long way!
Having a writer's voice really matters in articles, especially when determining what kind of article you're going to write. An article about Netflix movies, for example, won't use the same writing style and tone as an article discussing current events; you can be much more informal when addressing your audience.
As you get better, you can even employ more stylistic choices. My personal trademark is long, lengthy sentences usually broken up with a semicolon. It's these little things that give your articles character, and make your works instantly recognizable and thus attributed to you.
2. Practice Your Interviewing Skills:
Though interviewing may seem like a simple part of the job, it can oftentimes be the most challenging. Finding people willing to be interviewed for an article is a hassle all on its own, and it's a whole other challenge to ensure they've answered your questions properly.
Nevertheless, interviews definitely make or break an article. Having the right quotes and first-hand insight can really help hammer your point home. All of that, however, requires a successful interview.
Now, how do you ensure that?
Sharpening up your interview skills--by acquiring the necessary background information before an interview, and creating and revising open-ended questions--is crucial to making any interview successful. It's much better to walk in prepared and confident instead of stumbling over your words and struggling to get your interviewee to elaborate.
You can practice these skills with anyone: talk to your parents, your friends, your pets. Pretend to interview them and run your questions by them. Have someone look over your questions and get helpful feedback. Doing this will guarantee you a rewarding interview, one full of good quotes to use in your articles.
3. Learn Different Mediums of Media:
A common misconception people have is that journalism only consists of writing. I should know: I've had thousands of people ask me, "Oh, you're in your high school's journalism program... do you just write articles?"
This is far from the case! Writing may be the main backbone of journalism, but as technology and media have evolved, so have our ways of storytelling. Journalism has moved onto a digital platform, and with that comes different ways to get the news out besides a traditional written article.
Methods such as video, audio, and photojournalism are all examples of more ways to tell stories. Film a video. Start a podcast. Take some pictures of the world around you. Learn these mediums, so that way you can reach an audience you never thought possible before.
If you don't have access to expensive, high-costing tools like Adobe Premier Pro, start small. Edit your videos on iMovie or CapCut. Take pictures on your phone instead of a Canon camera.
Everyone starts somewhere, and you're bound to succeed as long as you're dedicated to telling your story.
4. Look For Writing/Editing Internships Or Pre-College Programs:
This one may be trickier for some, depending on where in the world you live. I live in New York, so I have access to many opportunities (journalist or otherwise) many don't. That being said, there are always ways to find journalism programs, no matter where you live!
Most colleges offer summer pre-college programs, so it wouldn't hurt to Google your local college and ask about any journalism opportunities. If you write for a paper, the head staff or main editors may know about an opportunity; they're the ones in the loop, after all.
The same thing goes for internships. Do you know a journalist or someone working in the industry who'd be willing to get you an opportunity? If not, there are plenty of ways to do your own research.
I recommend starting on Indeed, since that's where I found the most listings. Many of the internships on the site are targeted towards college students, but if you meet the given requirements, don't hesitate to apply! Some will see your strong desire to learn and passion for writing, and will definitely keep that in mind when considering applicants.
The great thing about these internships is that (due to the ongoing pandemic) many of them have gone remote. This means you may be interning for a company in California when you're across the nation in Vermont! It's unclear if this will change once more mask mandates are lifted and companies decide it's safe to operate in person again, so take advantage of this opportunity while it's still available.
5. Always Stay Informed:
Information is constantly changing, so it can be difficult to keep up with the latest updates. Yet that's one of, if not the most, important jobs of a journalist, since they report on what's currently happening.
Only professional journalists get the "inside scoop" as soon as something happens, but there are other ways for aspiring journalists to get information.
Keep the news app open, and don't hesitate to subscribe to The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. These will be your number one ways of getting national information.
It's even good to stay aware of things happening in your community, or how your city is being impacted by current events. Ask around, maybe your neighbors or fellow community members will know something you don't.
Becoming a journalist isn't easy, but it's definitely worth the amount of effort required. I hope these tips help anyone out there looking to become a journalist! It can seem challenging at times--audio can be lost, a pitch can be rejected, an interviewee might cancel at the last minute--but the eventual satisfaction you get once a piece is published makes it all worthwhile.