What Is a Journalist?

A journalist is:

· someone who is curious about new things and who has a wide range of interests.

· someone who can view various sides of a situation and present the facts fairly.

· someone who understands other people, and knows what they care about.

· someone who can take complicated ideas and facts and write about them clearly.

· someone who can sift through many facts and present only the important ones.

· someone who wants to explain a new fact, a new issue, or a new idea to other people.

From : The Young Journalist’s Book: How to Write and Produce Your Own Newspaper by Nancy Bentley

How to Become a Journalist

Hollywood Sign
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What a Journalist Does

Journalism is, in most respects, the backbone of the media industry. Therefore many media jobs require some aspect of journalism. The type of writing a journalist does depends largely on the subject they cover. Another thing which affects a journalist’s job is the outlet they produce news for: TV, the Internet, a newspaper, etc.

That being said, a “traditional” journalist reports the news. What does that mean? Well it can mean various things. The standard image of a journalist, and one often portrayed in movies, is of someone working a beat for a newspaper and finding stories. Which begs the question: What is a beat?

Working a Beat

A beat is a media term for the area, or topic, a journalist covers. So a beat could be anything from local crime, to national news to Hollywood movies. Beats can be very specific, or broader, depending on the kind of publication you’re working for. A mid-size daily newspaper, for example, will have reporters covering everything from local police goings-on to local sports.

Why You Need a Beat

A journalist’s job is to report the news. To find the news, you need to understand the subject matter and the people you’re writing about. Let’s say you’re working a crime beat for a newspaper in Chicago. One morning the police report that there’s been a murder in a posh neighborhood of the city. Now, in order to write about that murder, you need to know what’s been going on in the city. Is this an isolated incident? Was there a similar crime two weeks ago? Two years ago?

People always discuss the five pillars of journalism or the Five Ws — who, what, where, when and why — and, the “why,” section can only be filled out by someone with a background and knowledge of their beat. If, for example, you were asked to write about the aforementioned murder in Chicago, and didn’t know anything about the city or the recent criminal activity there, you wouldn’t be able to cover the story in the best way. Because, let’s face it, the story is very different if it’s a random act instead of a potential sign of a crime spree or, let’s say, a serial murderer.

Developing Sources

The other big reason journalists work beats, aside from developing a deep knowledge of the subject they’re covering, is to develop sources. Sources are people you talk to report a story. Now some sources are obvious. If we continue with the example of working as a crime reporter in Chicago, you would have regular sources in the police department. Now some would be obvious — you would likely speak to a spokesperson for the department whose job it is to handle reporters (a kind of publicist) — but other contacts might be developed from relations you foster over years of covering a beat.

A journalist often refers to their sources — everyone knows the saying, ‘I can’t reveal my sources’ — because these are people they turn to get inside information, or perspective, on a story. Now that bit about “revealing” sources points to an instance when a journalist gets an important piece of information from a person who does not want their identity revealed. If, for example, you’re working on that story about the murder in Chicago and you get information from someone in the police department that the murder looks like it might be the work of a serial killer, that officer might not want his name given out. After all, he’s giving you information that might get him in trouble. So, when you write the story about the murder, you wouldn’t name your source or reveal his identity to anyone. (If you did reveal his identity, no one would ever want to give you secret information, or information that people in business refer to as stuff that’s “off the record.”)

When a journalist works a beat over time they develop a multitude of sources. This means that they know who to call when something happens and they know the people who will talk to them. A good journalist establishes solid relationships with his sources so he can turn to them to get information. Although people don’t always like talking to reporters — especially when the story is about a scandal or something negative — a good journalist will have sources who recognize that there is a positive in getting a story out, and getting it out correctly. In other words, a good journalist will develop a respectful relationship with his sources.
From About.com

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Top journalism schools

There have been various attempts to rank journalism schools, and the question of which are the “best” or “top” journalism schools is frequently raised on the internet by students. Many institutions claim to be leading schools of journalism, and there is inevitably debate about which are the most appropriate criteria with which to evaluate and judge journalism schools. Awards are obvious indicators of a quality J-school, as are the quality of school graduates.
[edit] Australia and New Zealand

In Australia, a ranking of all journalism schools in the country has been assembled based on graduating students’ assessments of the quality of their courses: [1]. Top journalism schools in Australia include University of Technology Sydney, RMIT, Charles Sturt University, Jschool, University of the Sunshine Coast, and Edith Cowan University. The New Zealand Training Organisation has published a list of that country’s journalism schools recognised by industry.[2]
[edit] Europe

The Centre de Formation des Journalistes ( CFJ[5]) was founded in 1946 by two Resistance leaders, although both Ecole Superieure de Journalisme of Paris and Lille had been founded earlier (1899 and 1924 respectively). Located on the rue du Louvre in Paris, many of the leading journalists in France today graduated from this school and come back to help train today’s students. Other main French journalisme schools are École supérieure de journalisme de Lille, created in 1924, Ecole de journalisme de Sciences Po, CELSA, École supérieure de journalisme de Paris and Institut Pratique du Journalisme, all in Paris.

Europe’s most long-established postgraduate centre of journalism education is the highly-regarded School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University which was founded in 1970 by Sir Tom Hopkinson. The course was also the UK’s top-rated course by the National Council for the Training of Journalists for the academic year 2007/8 [6]. The London School of Journalism (LSJ) is an independent and highly acclaimed institution with well-recognised Postgraduate programs in Journalism and writing.

London’s City University, Sheffield, University of Central Lancashire, Liverpool John Moores and Kingston University also have well-respected journalism departments, and is developing fully converged journalism courses without reference to separate production disciplines such as radio journalism, newspaper journalism or magazine journalism. Issues from a European perspective in evaluating journalism schools are discussed by the president of the European Journalism Training Association: [3].

In Russia, the MSU Faculty of Journalism is the leading journalism school. The majority of textbooks on journalism in Russian were written by MSU scientists.

In Minsk (Belarus) The Institute of Journalism of BSU is one of the leading scientific and educational centers in the sphere of Mass Media on the territory of the former soviet countries. It possesses a high scientific and pedagogical potential and it’s able to prepare high-qualified professionals of Mass Media ready to work in Belarus and abroad.

In Spain, the School of Communication of the University of Navarre is the most prestigious and many of the top journalists in Spain have studied in this School, founded in 1958.
[edit] Latin America

An evaluation of developments in journalism education in Latin America has been undertaken by Professor Rosental Calmon Alves[4].


In Colombia, the high court determined in 1998 that journalism was not a career. This High court said that journalism is a human right, not a profession.

Because of the ruling there are many schools of communications in Colombia where people study to work in mainly enterprises, but not in mass media

There are only two schools of journalism:

University of Antioquia, a public institution in Medellín, offers Journalism inside the Communications faculty.[7] And University of Rosario in Bogotá, a private institution offers Public Opinion Journalism[8]
[edit] North America

A listing (unranked) of Canadian journalism schools has been assembled by Canadian-Universities.net [5]. Journalism schools are listed and classified on the “J-Schools & Programs” page of The Canadian Journalism Project

In the United States the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) [6] applies nine standards in evaluating university programs: mission, governance and administration; curriculum and instruction; diversity and inclusiveness; full-time and part-time faculty; scholarship: research, creative and professional activity; student services; resources, facilities and equipment; professional and public service; and assessment of learning outcomes. The ACEJMCC has awarded accreditation to 109 university and college programs of study in journalism and mass communications, but does not attempt to rank the courses or programs. It accredits colleges, schools, Departments or “Divisions. The listing of a unit as accredited indicates that the unit has been judged by ACEJMC to meet its standards. That judgment is rendered after a self-study prepared by the faculty and administration of the unit and an independent evaluation of the unit by educators and practitioners.The listing shows the bachelor’s and professional master’s degree programs that were examined during the unit’s most recent accreditation review. Some units offer degrees in addition to those listed here. ACEJMC does not accredit programs leading to the Ph.D., which is considered a research (and not a professional) degree. The Council does not list sequences or specialties.

Editor & Publisher has presented an unranked list of leading journalism schools [7], while U.S. News & World Report produces annual lists of the top schools in advertising, print, and other categories based on responses to questionnaires sent to deans and faculty members. A list based on a variety of resources claims to identify the “ten most popular journalism schools in the United States”[8]. One critic has pointed to the anecdotal nature of much j-school ranking in the absence of effective tracking of journalism graduates’ career paths[9].
[edit] Debate about the role of journalism schools

From Wikipedia

The elements of journalism

According to The Elements of Journalism, a book by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, there are nine elements of journalism [1]. In order for a journalist to fulfill their duty of providing the people with the information they need to be free and self-governing. They must follow these guidelines:

1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
7. It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

In the April 2007 edition of the book [2], they have added one additional element, the rights and responsibilities of citizens to make it a total of ten elements of journalism.


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What is journalism?

Journalism is the timely reporting of events at the local, provincial, national and international levels. Reporting involves the gathering of information through interviewing and research, the results of which are turned into a fair and balanced story for publication or for television or radio broadcast.

Journalism is not just

* fact-finding
* media analysis
* opinion writing, or
* commentary

although all of those aspects can play a part at times.

What do beginning journalists do?

Journalists who are starting their careers normally do not do commentary or opinion pieces. Rather, they cover hard news stories such as community news, courts, crime and speeches by notable people. In broadcast, beginning journalists also may do pre-interviews and research for senior journalists.

An entry-level reporter often does “general assignment” stories rather than stories for a specific beat. General assignment stories are given out to reporters by the city desk or assignment editor.

Is journalism for you?

Asking yourself the questions below will help you determine whether journalism is a good career choice for you.

* Do you regularly read at least one newspaper or consult an online equivalent, such as GlobeandMail.com?
* Do you regularly watch or listen to television or radio newscasts?
* Is it important to you to keep up with current events?
* Are you interested in other people’s lives?
* Are you able to talk to a wide variety of people?
* Do you work well to deadlines?
* Are you persistent and willing to dig for information?
* Have you mastered basic writing skills? (see below for expectations)

If you answered NO to even one of the above questions, you may want to think again about whether journalism is a good match for your interests and abilities.

What does the Journalism Program at Western cover?

The Master of Arts in Journalism is a well-rounded, professional program that prepares graduates for entry-level positions in newsrooms. The program stresses a balance of academic and practical courses and offers a solid grounding in the basic tools and practices of print, broadcast and online journalism. The curriculum of the Master of Arts in Journalism program is not focused on producing graduates to work in public relations or communications positions.

Expectation of writing ability in the journalism program

It is expected that students entering the MA in Journalism program have mastered basic writing skills, including grammar, syntax and the ability to conceptualize and articulate ideas in writing. It is also expected that students possess the ability to write in English at a post-graduate level. The Admissions Panel assumes that the entrance essay provided by applicants is entirely their own work and is an accurate reflection of their writing ability. Journalism, by necessity, requires that its practitioners produce clean, competent copy on deadline, often without the benefit of external editing or extensive rewriting. Students who do not meet the expectations of writing may not achieve marks necessary for progression and could be required to withdraw from the program.

Source: What is journalism

What is “Journalism?”

Reuter's Got Mojo (that's mobile journalism)
Image by inju via Flickr

By Robert Niles

Journalism is a form of writing that tells people about things that really happened, but that they might not have known about already.

People who write journalism are called “journalists.” They might work at newspapers, magazines, websites or for TV or radio stations.

The most important characteristic shared by good journalists is curiosity. Good journalists love to read and want to find out as much as they can about the world around them.

Journalism comes in several different forms:

I. News
A. Breaking news: Telling about an event as it happens.
B. Feature stories: A detailed look at something interesting that’s not breaking news.
C. Enterprise or Investigative stories: Stories that uncover information that few people knew.

II. Opinion
A. Editorials: Unsigned articles that express a publication’s opinion.
B. Columns: Signed articles that express the writer’s reporting and his conclusions.
C. Reviews: Such as concert, restaurant or movie reviews.

Online, journalism can come in the forms listed above, as well as:
# Blogs: Online diaries kept by individuals or small groups.
# Discussion boards: Online question and answer pages where anyone can participate.
# Wikis: Articles that any reader can add to or change.

The best journalism is easy to read, and just sounds like a nice, smart person telling you something interesting.

How do you get the facts for your news story? By reporting!

There are three main ways to gather information for a news story or opinion piece:
# Interviews: Talking with people who know something about the story you are reporting.
# Observation: Watching and listening where news is taking place.
# Documents: Reading stories, reports, public records and other printed material.

The people or documents you use when reporting a story are called your “sources.” In your story, you always tell your readers what sources you’ve used. So you must remember to get the exact spelling of all your sources’ names. You want everything in your story to be accurate, including the names of the sources you quote.

Often, a person’s name is not enough information to identify them in a news story. Lots of people have the same name, after all. So you will also want to write down your sources’ ages, their hometowns, their jobs and any other information about them that is relevant to the story.

Whenever you are interviewing someone, observing something happening or reading about something, you will want to write down the answers to the “Five Ws” about that source:
# Who are they?
# What were they doing?
# Where were they doing it?
# When they do it?
# Why did they do it?

Many good reporters got their start by keeping a diary. Buy a notebook, and start jotting down anything interesting you hear, see or read each day. You might be surprised to discover how many good stories you encounter each week!

Here are the keys to writing good journalism:
# Get the facts. All the facts you can.
# Tell your readers where you got every bit of information you put in your story.
# Be honest about what you do not know.
# Don’t try to write fancy. Keep it clear.

Start your story with the most important thing that happened in your story. This is called your “lead.” It should summarize the whole story in one sentence.

From there, add details that explain or illustrate what’s going on. You might need to start with some background or to “set the scene” with details of your observation. Again, write the story like you were telling it to a friend. Start with what’s most important, then add background or details as needed.

When you write journalism, your paragraphs will be shorter than you are used to in classroom writing. Each time you introduce a new source, you will start a new paragraph. Each time you bring up a new point, you will start a new paragraph. Again, be sure that you tell the source for each bit of information you add to the story.

Whenever you quote someone’s exact words, you will put them within quotation marks and provide “attribution” at the end of the quote. Here’s an example:

“I think Miss Cherng’s class is really great,” ten-year-old McKinley student Hermione Granger said.

Commas go inside the closing quote mark when you are providing attribution.

Sometimes, you can “paraphrase” what a source says. That means that you do not use the source’s exact words, but reword it to make it shorter, or easier to understand. You do not use quote marks around a paraphrase, but you still need to write who said it. Here’s an example:

Even though the class was hard, students really liked it, McKinley fourth-grader Hermione Granger said.

Source: Robert Niles

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