Journalist

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Howard, Freelance Journalist

How did you become a journalist?

Howard, currently a freelance journalist, didn't come out of school with any great aspirations of going into journalism. "I started off doing an Arts degree, I wanted to become a teacher, but I wasn't sure. When I saw an ad for a copy boy (equivalent to an editorial assistant) with the Australian Jewish News, I decided to apply, and I got the job!"

With time, Howard became better and better at his job, and also grew to enjoy it more. The paper then offered him a cadetship, which he accepted, and later did some work for a few local suburban newspapers.

After this, he was offered a job in Shepparton, where he spent two and a half years working with the Shepparton News (the local daily paper), the Seymour Telegraph and the Rochester Irrigator. "From there, I became involved in sports reporting, and got into sub-editing. I've always been passionate about sport, and it's great writing about things you're interested in," says Howard.

Since then, Howard has worked for a number of major publications, including the Melbourne Sun News Pictorial, The West Australian, and Sports Weekly, later branching into radio and television.

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

"Overall, I derive enormous pleasure from my job. It's always a bit of a thrill to see your work published in so many forms, and so widely, and you get the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people. On a day to day basis, there's never a dull moment - you're always doing something different, especially if you're freelancing, and often you get the chance to attend major events, like the Olympics!"

On the other hand, Howard warns that the hours can be pretty irregular - it's not often that he works from 9 to 5. "I've always worked weekends, and there are social sacrifices that go with that. And while freelancing can be a bit better in this respect, it doesn't offer you much security, plus it's tough to get into without the right contacts and knowledge."

What sort of skills and qualities do you need?

You will have to deal with annoyed or unfriendly people at times. Howard says, "There will always be someone who is not happy with the questions you've asked or with the story you've written. You'll need a thick hide and strong stomach on occasions, because if you're too sensitive to it all, that side of the work will weigh you down and make you gun-shy."

So apart from thick skin, what else does it take to make a good journalist?

"It's important to be able to express yourself clearly and concisely both orally and in writing. You'll require a nose for what people want to read, and this doesn't come easily. You can acquire this ability, but some people just seem to have it while others have to work at it continually. And you need to be a fair, tolerant and open-minded person. While it's impossible to be totally objective about everything, it's important to give as balanced a viewpoint as possible."

Are there any tips for getting a job as a journalist?

Finally, to those interested in pursuing a career in journalism, Howard advises, "To get your foot in the door, you need to be persistent and patient. Don't worry about the knock-backs - just keep trying. And once you're given a chance, work really hard at making a success of it!"

Find out more about a career in journalism

Visit the MyFuture website to find more about duties and tasks, work conditions, earnings and required qualifications for a career in journalism.

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).