How to become a journalist
Do you love to get the inside scoop? If you have a flair for writing, strong research skills and impeccable grammar, a career as a journalist may be a good choice for you. Perfect for those with an inquisitive mind, journalism is all about bringing stories to life through print and digital media.
The number of people employed as journalists and newspaper and periodical editors in the UK was reportedly one hundred and ten thousand in the year 2021 (Statista). This equates to less than 0.5% of the UK workforce, making jobs in the industry tough to come by. Competition is fierce and aspiring journalists need to work hard to stand out from the crowd.
In this guide, we’ll explore what makes journalism such an exciting and challenging career and share our top tips on how to break into this competitive industry.
What do journalists do?
Journalists research and produce news stories and commentary for a variety of media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites, and social media. They may work in newsrooms or take on independent work as freelancers for magazines, newspapers and television or radio stations.
There are all kinds of specialisms within the field of journalism, from investigative and broadcast journalism to sports, travel and finance. There are often several career pathways within each sector, with roles ranging from reporters and columnists to editors and photojournalists.
How has journalism evolved?
In recent years, technological advancements have reshaped the media landscape. Consumers now have access to an abundance of online content, from blogs, forums and social media to other forms of user-generated content. This means that journalists now operate in an increasingly competitive market.
The demand for digitally proficient journalists has increased, with many employers now looking for tech-savvy journalists with digital know-how and strong SEO skills. Journalists are often expected to have an understanding of how to optimise content for a digital-first audience, for example.
In an era of fake news, journalists are also under pressure to produce content that is seen to be accurate or verifiable in order to retain audience interest. Interestingly, according to this survey from PR firm Edelman, 67% of people believe that journalists and reporters purposely try to mislead people, suggesting that trust in the media has fallen significantly.
Breaking into the industry
There are many routes into journalism depending on the area you’re interested in. To succeed in the industry, aspiring journalists should be passionate, resourceful and determined. Read on for our top tips on how to get started:
1# Search for work experience
While formal qualifications are beneficial, practical experience is often what gives journalists the edge when it comes to applying for jobs. There are many ways to get that experience, from volunteering at a local newsroom to applying for apprenticeships and pitching your ideas to media contacts. Consider all options and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Remember, everyone has to start somewhere!
2# Find your voice
First rule of good journalistic writing – be yourself! It can be tempting to try to include lots of superfluous language in your work, but often the best stories are simple, honest and authentic. Practice writing techniques to hone your skills and try to get into the habit of writing as often as you can. Keeping a journal can be a great way to build your confidence and keep track of thoughts and ideas.
3# Brush up on your skills
Writing is a skill like any other, and as such, it takes time and practice to improve. If you’re hoping to build a career in the journalism industry, effective writing skills are essential. Taking a short course can be a good way to learn about the industry and find out what makes a story engaging or successful. Remember, every aspect of a story – from the headline to the use of grammar – informs how well it translates to audiences. Take a look at our short courses in journalism for more information.
4# Start a blog
Around 77% of internet users are thought to read blogs. Blogging offers a unique opportunity for anyone interested in journalism, providing a creative platform to share ideas, start conversations and form communities. Starting a blog can be a great way to get noticed, build connections and even land your dream job. Blogs can also be a valuable addition to CVs, job applications and portfolios.
This one might sound obvious but it’s very important to read widely if you’re hoping to pursue a career in journalism. Make sure you’re aware of the current social and political conversation, follow news bulletins and keep an eye on trending topics. Follow journalists you like and consider what makes their stories compelling – what do they do well? How do they capture your interest? Think about the writing devices they employ to draw readers in.
Want to find out more?
Whether you’re looking to develop your writing skills, boost your confidence or learn some key interviewing techniques, our short courses in journalism can help you achieve your goals.
Read more about how short courses can support professional career development.
You may also want to explore our full range of short courses starting soon.