Journalist: job description

Journalists research, write, edit, proofread and file news stories, features and articles. Their pieces are used on television and radio or within magazines, journals and newspapers, in print and online.

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Most jobs require a qualification accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

What does a journalist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Journalists write and assemble together news stories that will interest their audience. By gathering together a number of different sources and ensuring that all the arguments are represented, they keep their audience abreast of events in their world.

The job typically involves:

  • reading press releases
  • researching articles
  • establishing and maintaining contacts
  • interviewing sources
  • writing, editing and submitting copy
  • attending events
  • proofreading
  • verifying statements and facts
  • staying up to date with privacy, contempt and defamation law
  • liaising with editors, sub-editors, designers and photographers.

It is possible to transfer between television, radio, newspaper and publishing work.

Typical employers of journalists

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Newswires
  • Press agencies
  • Websites
  • Radio stations
  • Television companies
  • Periodical publishers

Many journalists work freelance. However, to do so you will need a network of industry contacts, the ability to propose strong pitches and a reputation for reliability.

Vacancies are advertised online, in Campaign , Press Gazette , Broadcast and The Bookseller . Many jobs receive little advertising, so networking, internships and speculative applications (including samples of published work) are advisable. Use The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook to find contact details and other information about a wide range of newspapers and magazines.

Some employers, including The Times , The Guardian and the BBC, operate graduate trainee schemes – early applications for such schemes are advisable.

Qualifications and training required

Although there are routes into journalism for both university graduates and school leavers, some organisations and newspapers now ask for a degree. While any subject is acceptable, English or journalism are preferred. Specialist subjects such as economics, languages or sciences can be a great advantage.

Some jobs may require a qualification accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). Some universities offer masters courses or postgraduate diplomas in journalism that are accredited by the NCTJ.

Relevant work experience is also essential and can be gained through published articles, freelance work, writing competitions or voluntary work.

A full, clean driving licence is often a requirement.

To find out how to get into a career in this area via a school leaver route, visit the media section of TARGETcareers , our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for journalists

  • Enthusiasm
  • Stamina
  • Determination
  • Confidence
  • Perseverance
  • Excellent oral or written skills
  • Interpersonal skills

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