So You Want to Be a Journalist?

I became a student journalist fall of my sophomore year when I joined The Crimson, the student newspaper here on campus. Here are some tips that will help launch your journalism career:

Be Objective
Unless you are writing an opinion piece, your writing should be objective. This means that you are not influenced by personal feelings, outside factors or leaning towards a specific side. You are the unbiased author who seeks to tell the truth in the facts. The opinions will come from your sources.

Student reporter. Photo Credit:

Take Photos/Video
Smartphones influence the way that journalists report. Smartphones are capable of recording sound and taking pictures and video. Journalists are being increasingly required to provide their own photos and videos for their stories. Your photos should be of REAL people doing REAL things. Don’t stage photos, people can tell when they are fake. You can Google ways to make your images stand out.

Live By AP Style
AP Style is the writing style guide that journalists follow. Each company will have their own style guide to follow. Everything that you could possibly think of has a rule to it in the guide. Commas are different, street addresses, the spelling of certain words, you name it! I use AP Style in my Journalism class and it is my Bible. My teacher takes off two points for AP Style mistakes, and if you are not familiar with it, then those points add up!

reporterCheck Your Facts
It would be awful to write a mind-blowing story and find out you misspelled a source’s name or wrote about the wrong town. It is always important to fact check your information before, during and after writing your story. On one of my story’s I wrote “Eric” instead of “Erica” and lost 15 points. That’s how serious it is.

Before interviewing a source, write down their contact information. This helps with two reasons. One, you cannot use them as a source if they do not give you their name. Two, if you are unsure of a quote or forgot to ask them a question, you can call or email them later. Check out Youth Radio fact checking toolkit.

Don’t Be Afraid.
Get out there and talk to people. People are more than happy to talk to you if you ask nicely and explain why you want to talk to them. Going to events, sending emails and introducing yourself are some of ways that you can get information. And don’t be afraid to be persistent. Just because one person does not want to talk to you does not mean that no one else does. The more you dig and get into a story, the more fun you will have!

Be Familiar with the First Amendment
The 1st Amendment protects our freedom of religion, speech, the press, the right to assemble and petition. It is really important to be aware of what these freedoms mean to you and how they affect you as a journalist. Below is a video of the University of Missouri protests. The student journalists are trying to capture the event. however, the protesters are preventing them from doing their job. They tell the journalists that they have no right to be there and barricade away from the protest. Who doesn’t like free press?

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