Chapter 3
Becoming a Journalist

Chapter 3 - Becoming a Journalist

Anyone can be a journalist. The First Amendment guarantees that. Anyone can declare himself or herself a journalist -- and in this day of web logs, many people have done so.

But getting to be a professional journalist -- a person who is paid to do journalistic work -- is no easy task. This chapter explains some of the steps a person should take to become a professional journalist.

A journalist should have certain personal characteristics -- curiosity, persistence and the willingness to work hard. He or she should have a wide ranging knowledge of history and politics because journalists deal with so many different topics of public importance. The person who would be a journalist should take advantage of every educational opportunity.

An aspiring journalist must go beyond classroom studies. The profession expects those who enter it to have as much practical experience as possible. If any such opportunities to practice journalism arise -- from the high school newspaper to professional internships during college -- people who want to enter the profession should take full advantage of them.

Study questions
  • Why is working professisonally so important to entering the field of journalism?

  • What is an internship? How do you go about getting one?

  • What are some of the best ways to learn about the field?

  • The book says a journalist should have a wide range of knowledge. What does that mean? Why is it important?

Chapter notes

Why go into journalism. The American Society of Newspaper Editors has put together a booklet about why students should consider a career in journalism. The booklet is titled Why Choose Journalism?: A Guide to Determining if a Career in Newspapers is Right for You. It is available on the ASNE web site, along with a couple of other pamphlets that will help students start their journalism careers.

Keeping up. Whether in high school or college, the student who wants to enter the field of journalism should start keeping up with the field. One of the best ways to do that is to subscribe to the Society for Professional Journalist's daily email newsletter, PressNotes. ( Another source of information is Jim Romonesko's web log, which can be found at the web site for the Poynter Institute (

Resumes. A well-designed, accurate and up-to-date resume is vital for getting a job. As part of the work with this chapter, all students should develop or update their resumes and turn them in for inspection and critiquing. A sample resume is found on page 49 of the book; it can also be accessed on this site by clicking here or on the image to the right. If you are wondering how to get started writing a resume, take a look at the Resume Tutor (, a web site set up by the University of Minnesota. There are also many other sites on the web that can give you information about writing a resume.

Journalistic organizations. The chapter lists a number of journalism organizations, and students should not be shy about joining them or at least finding out about them. The web sites for these organizations often list jobs and internships.

State press associations. Another place to look for jobs and internships is at the state press association web site. Go to any good search engine and type in the name of your state and the words "press association," and chances are that you will come up with the site. Take a close look at the job listings.

Key concepts and terms

• Becoming a professional journalist takes preparation and planning.

• Journalism requires from its practitioners a wide range of knowledge and interests.

• Potential journalists can begin their preparation by paying a lot of attention to news events and to the way they are reported in various media.

• Becoming a journalist requires knowing a good bit about history.

• Writing is the most important skill a potential journalist can develop.

• Reading widely is the mark of a good journalist.

Internship – short-term jobs that college student get working for media organizations; traditionally, internships last for one semester, often in the summer.

Related web
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Chapter 3

Journalism Rocks

Section I | 1: News and Society  |  2: Culture of Journalism  |  3: Becoming a Journalist
Section II  |  4: Newspapers  |  5: Magazines  |  6: Television and Radio  |  7: News Web Sites
Section III  |  8: Reporters  |  9: Reporting  |  10: Writing news and features  |  11: Style  | 
12: Editors13: Editing and headline writing  |  14: Visual Journalists  |
  15: Graphics Journalism  |  16: Photojournalism  |  17: Publication Design  |
  18: Broadcasters  |  19: Writing for Broadcast
Section IV  |  20: Beginnings of Journalism  |  21: Journalism Comes of Age  | 
22: New Realities, New Journalism  |   23: 20th Century and Beyond
Section V  |  24: Law and the Journalist  |  25: Ethical Practices  |   26: Present and Future
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