Beginning a career in journalism, no matter how determined and passionate you are, can seem a little daunting…okay maybe extremely daunting.
Each successful journalist has his or her own career path on how they broke into the industry… and thrived. One important aspect of your journalism education is learning from (and ideally directly talking to) some accomplished veterans in the field.
Perhaps you too will have your own stories and lessons to share with the next generation of aspiring reporters and writers, broadcasters and correspondents, news and media professionals…
“The courage in journalism is sticking up for the unpopular, not the popular.” ~ Geraldo Rivera
— Mzilikazi wa Afrika (@IamMzilikazi) September 3, 2014
Let’s look at some advice provided by some successful journalism role models:
Education & Relationship Building
Jenna Goudreau is a senior editor at Business Insider. Previously she was a Forbes magazine staff reporter for five years, Entrepreneur.com’s associate editor, has also contributed to other media publications/outlets like Businessweek and Ladies’ Home Journal, and has made appearances on CBS, MSNBC and CNBC. She has written hundreds of stories, interviewed major figures and travelled across the world for her profession.
Goudreau’s Advice for Aspiring Journalists
Here is a glimpse of some of the lessons Goudreau provided in her November 2012 Forbes article “Top 10 Tips For Young Aspiring Journalists”:
“I got undergraduate journalism and sociology degrees from New York University. I recommend pursuing a journalism degree and double majoring in something wildly different to diversify yourself. If I could do it again, I would double in computer science…” “My work has mostly been on the print side, but if I could go back, I’d take at least one broadcast-journalism class. Online writers are now asked to create their own web videos, and print writers generally are often asked to go on the air to promote their work…” “This is a relationship business…Journalism professors are often working in the field and can introduce you to the right people. Many of your classmates and internship peers will go on to work in the industry and can make great contacts. Your bosses and colleagues, whether they remain in your company or leave, can advocate for you if a position opens up. Additionally, good relationships with sources and subjects will make you better at your job. Do not underestimate or shortchange your relationships.”
More from Jenna on Twitter
Timeless Tips For New Journalists
Sadly, journalist Michael Hastings (former Rolling Stone contributor, BuzzFeed reporter, author and war correspondent) was killed in a car accident last June at the age of 33. Rolling Stone’s Tin Dickinson described him as “the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal.” Dickinson is referring to Hastings’ article “The Runaway General” for which Hastings won a George Polk Award. Just one of Hastings’ legacies is his famous “10 timeless tips” for aspiring journalists, which he had actually posted on reddit, the year before he died.
Some of Michael Hastings’ timeless tips include:
“You basically have to be willing to devote your life to journalism if you want to break in. Treat it like it’s medical school or law school.” “Be prepared to do a lot of things for free. This sucks, and it’s unfair, and it gives rich kids an edge. But it’s also the reality.” “You should have a blog and be following journalists you like on Twitter.” “Mainly you really have to love writing and reporting. Like it’s more important to you than anything else in your life—family, friends, social life, whatever…” “Learn to embrace rejection as part of the gig. Keep writing/pitching/reading.”
59% journalists use Twitter (which is up from the previous year; in 2012, 47% of journalists said they tweeted).
55% journalists said “that blogs are a good way for journalists to build their personal profiles” (34% of those journalists surveyed said they had a blog).
61% of U.S. journalists reported they have a Google Plus page.
Open-Minded & Don’t Give Up!
In freelance writer/journalist, Jack Oughton’s article “My big break in journalism” (The Guardian, April 11, 2012) he interviewed a number of established reporters on how they got their start. Of these were Dan Raywood (freelance journalist, editor at IT Security Guru and former editor at SC Magazine) and Tom Warren (who founded WinRumors, broke some famous Microsoft stories and is now senior reporter at The Verge).
Advice from Dan Raywood
In Oughton’s article, Raywood said:
“Don’t be snobbish about your first job, you need experience and it is important to remain broadminded as in the future, an employer would look less at the subject matter and more about your commitment to the task and your achievements. This is a hard industry to get into and you need to take your opportunities.”
Advice from Tom Warren
Tom Warren is quoted as saying in Oughton’s The Guardian piece:
“Never give up. It’s hard work and often random, long hours, but once you get a scoop or a big story it makes up for all the tough times.”