Up until roughly the 1960s, almost anyone could become a news journalist. Special training was not mandatory to obtain a job at most newspapers, and anyone with curiosity, a flair for words, and basic abilities in spelling, grammar, and punctuation could become a reporter. This is no longer the case, and if you wish to be a news journalist, it is imperative that you obtain a degree from a reputable school of journalism. Though you will learn all aspects of the profession, you should tailor your course load so you are equally knowledgeable in the areas of print, broadcast, and new media.
Perhaps the most important characteristics you need to become a news journalist fall under the category of social skills. Sometimes you will have to ask subtle questions in order to gain the subject’s trust. Other times you will have to be blunt and forceful, able to ask painful or embarrassing questions. You should have little fear of rejection, for uncovering news that others would prefer remain hidden entails near constant brush-offs and cold shoulders. Most important of all are perseverance, tenacity, and the ability to not let your own opinions cloud what is supposed to be a neutral, unbiased, recitation of facts.
During your education, you should take advantage of every opportunity to intern with newspapers, magazines, and TV or radio stations. Though it is often an unpaid field, news reported via the Internet is quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception. To become a news journalist, you should learn how to appear on camera, speak before a microphone, write with a concise and accurate clarity, and blog with reckless abandon. To become a news journalist at one time meant merely asking the right questions and typing out an article before deadline. Now it is important that you have a multitude of skills, that you can research musty old files at City Hall as easily as you can track down facts via the Internet.
The best jobs in journalism will go to those who have the most skills, for the profession has become one of multi-tasking rather than specificity. A well-rounded education is the first hurdle if you seek to become a news journalist, but it is only the beginning. Keep up with technology, demonstrate your questioning nature, and do not appear reticent when offered an assignment. The news will always be the news, only the delivery system has changed. You should always remember that your primary job, first and foremost, is to reveal the news to a waiting public.