Qualities of a good journalist
Roving reporter Nisa looks at some of the qualities you should develop if you want to be a good journalist.
Ever considered a career in journalism? Ever opened up the newspaper or switched on the news and wished it was you who wrote about people and events which could change the world? Ever wondered what qualities you might need to be a successful journo?
Worry no more my friend, because below are ten attributes needed to be a good journalist. If you have them all, then move over Ray Martin!
1. Be inquisitive
A good journalist is one who is nosey. Where did the money for the project come from? Why is this politician supporting this policy? Why are these construction workers not wearing their head gear? A good journalist is one who is curious and burns with the desire to know what is going on in the world.
2. Be a skeptic
A good journalist is one who doesn't take things on face value. Press releases or information given to them from people pushing for a certain agenda is only a starting point for a good journalist. Good journalists question sources and are always prepared to dig around until they get facts they are satisfied with.
3. Be determined
A journalist knows the difficulty in finding information, especially when certain people won't agree to be interviewed. Nevertheless, they are determined to get over the toughest hurdle and bring a difficult story out into the open. What may start off seeming to be a simple news story can require hard work and determination.
4. Have a good grasp of general knowledge
A good journalist is one who knows something about everything. They are well-informed news junkies especially in the area of politics, current affairs and law. There are plenty of ways to improve your general knowledge, from watching TV quiz shows and doing the newspaper quizzes to online searches, playing board games or even using your local or school library to access things like atlases, dictionaries and encyclopedias.
5. Be trustworthy
Journalists interact with people from all walks of life who are often faced with an extreme crisis in their lives. It is a good journalist's duty to know what to ask and when in the most appropriate manner.
When people trust you enough to give you confidential or private information, it is your duty as a journalist to not make that information publicly available. The best journalist is one who has strong ethical and moral codes of conduct that help them determine what information to write and what to leave out.
6. Develop a passion for accuracy
A good journalist is one who double- and even triple-checks the spelling of names and gives the correct details of the events that took place. Journalists need to have an eye for detail and not be afraid to ask questions again and again to ensure accuracy.
7. Be motivated and enthusiastic
A good journalist is one who does not give up easily and one who has thick skin. There will be times when a journalist won't be able to find interesting stories to write up, or people who are willing to talk to them. Regardless, a good journalist maintains a high level of motivation whatever the situation may be.
8. Develop good writing skills
Wherever a journalist may work, whether in print, radio, TV or online, they have to write. Depending on the time constraints, a good journalist is one who writes articulately, succinctly and quickly in an interesting and relevant way that appeals to readers.
A great style guide for journalists is William Strunk's 'The Elements of Style' (an online version is available here (new window)), which explains the style requirements in the English language and concentrates on the rules of usage and principles of composition which can be used to ensure accuracy in writing.
9. Be responsible and fair
A good journalist is one who is able to take personal responsibility for what they write. They must keep in mind that there will be people who will be upset because they disagree with the angle of the story or because they wanted their story to be given more importance.
Either way, a journalist must be fair all the time and maintain a level of objectivity in what they report. The Media Alliance Code of Ethics (new window) is a great starting point for journalists, outlining some essential ethical requirements.
10. Be competitive
It is difficult to get a job in mainstream media as a journalist. The industry is highly competitive and only few get selected. Nevertheless, there are many other opportunities for journalists as long as they are determined, competitive and have the skills noted above. Just make sure you get your foot in the media door.
Some ways to start your journalism career include blogging, making regular contributions to your school or university newspapers, and volunteering at community radio stations. Keep in mind that any extra experience you get in any media field will place you one step ahead of everyone else in the industry.
A lot of hard work
If you develop these ten qualities, you will be on the way to becoming a good journalist.
It is not going to be easy. It requires a lot of hard work and effort. It is achievable, thought. Just don’t give up, and take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way.
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