The journalism sector as a whole
Despite the tolling bell of print journalism’s decline, there’s still life in good writing. Many publications have been forced to adapt to an online marketplace, competing with bloggers and social media for their readership. A great journalism model can catapult writers into the mainstream, simply from a home-grown website that knows how to engage with people.
Dozens of casual projects – Vice News and The Lad Bible are shining examples of this – have supplanted traditional publications as go-to sources of reporting, analysis and entertainment for Britain’s youth. However, the UK’s stalwart publications are far from obsolete. Papers like The Guardian, The Times and The Daily Mail enjoy mass circulation, contributing £5.9bn of media revenue.
What does a journalist do?
Beyond fact-checking, interviews, proof-reads and contacts book, a journalist is expected to be on the edge of their culture. They’ll have in-depth conversations with an editor about what stories are current and unusual, suggesting a perspective on the world that should be brought to light. This could involve staying on top of political, financial and social developments, or researching celebrity and human interest stories.
No two days for a journalist are ever the same. Finding the best material for a story could mean attending a press conference, holding an interview over the phone, trawling through professional contacts, or hammering out paragraphs. The story comes first, and journalists do whatever it takes to make it accurate and thought-provoking.
Some typical tasks journalists may include include:
- Researching articles
- Interviewing sources
- Writing articles
- Proofreading articles
- Verifying stories
- Liaising with other creative members of their team e.g. photographers or videographers
- Attending events or news conferences
- Speaking to people outside of their organisation
- Staying up to date on current events
A typical day on the job
The average journalist might get to work fairly early, perhaps around the 8am mark. They often have a morning print edition to finalise, in which case they’ll go over every detail with a team of editors and feature writers, helping to select front page stories, correct mistakes, and generally make sure it reads well.
Then they’re off sourcing ideas for their next article, moving at a million miles an hour to do so. This could involve hunting down an address, going to an event, managing email chains… As long as you get results, there aren’t many activities you can’t justify.
If something big is happening, you’ll be swooping on it like a locust, chewing up all the reactions and details you can. Broadcast journalists, often moments away from addressing a camera, have to be especially composed to deliver the goods at any time.
In any case, office-based work usually ends around 5.30-6pm. You might have dinner or drinks with someone from your contact network, which is practically expected if you’re going to be clued up and approachable.
What skills does a journalist need?
Since the market is extremely competitive, you must be able to show these key traits to break into the industry:
- Creativity: This doesn’t just apply to solid writing. Journalists have to be able to come up with their own content, generating ideas and the means of realising them.
- Social acumen: Without great social skills, a journalist won’t get very far, which makes a passion for communication and networking advantageous.
- Adaptability: The very thought of a breaking news story should get your blood pumping. You should have no qualms about dashing off on a moment’s notice.
- Excellent writing skills: Journalists are always writing or proofreading engaging copy so you need to have a passion for and excel in writing.
Check out the leading graduate employers in Journalism and Publishing.
Did you know…?
- Anchor Mika Brzezinski tried to burn her script concerning Paris Hilton’s release from prison, live on-air. She was stopped, but ran another copy through a paper shredder, protesting the story’s precedence over the Iraq War.
- Sarah Koenig’s Serial podcast, about the true-crime case of Adnan Syed, has resulted in a retrial thanks to the public interest it whipped up.
- The term ‘yellow journalism’ was coined to denote unethical practises, originating from newspapers that lied about the 1898 Spanish-American conflict.
Yes, the journalism market is daunting. But a single taste of the journo lifestyle is enough to keep faith in its viability. For a job that rewards your intelligence, foresight and quick-thinking, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more satisfying.
Find exciting opportunities near you by checking our list of journalism opportunities.