In this day and age, there’s something new brewing in every corner of the planet. Additionally, in our fast-paced, highly connected, and increasingly global political scenario, the journalists’ role is highly significant. Journalism, as a career, is fast-paced, dynamic, ever-changing, and exciting. This makes it perfect as a professional path for those who enjoy storytelling and are interested in world events and current issues.
Before we dive in to answer your question of how to launch your journalism career, let’s first understand if it is a suitable career option for you.
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Is Journalism the Right Career Option for You?
To answer this question, you’ll first need to understand that journalism is all about reporting the truth about topics of public interest. In today’s digitalized world, journalism has evolved from newspapers and periodicals to innumerable dynamic formats. This has caused the responsibilities and skills needed by journalists to change. However, the fundamental qualities required to succeed in the field remain the same.
As a journalist, you have an unspoken duty towards serving the public. This means that ethics and morals rank high when you are entrusted with the responsibility of impartially and accurately reporting facts, figures, and updates about issues and events. Apart from this, individuals who have analytical abilities and an astute awareness about their surroundings make better journalists.
If you are someone who struggles with staying observant, assertive, level-headed, or if you don’t enjoy undertaking extensive research or fact-checking projects, journalism may not be the right fit for you. Instead, you can explore a career in copywriting, editing, or even many social media marketing verticals.
You may have wondered, ‘How much do journalists make in India?’. Well, the average annual salary for a Journalist is ₹370,608. However, many journalists freelance in their spare time to supplement their income and branch out and try other forms of writing. In that way, the sky is the limit.
How to Launch Your Journalism Career
As a journalist or a reporter, you will spend a lot of time rifling through public records, open information sources, crime scenes, courts, or other newsworthy avenues. You will do all of these and more, to write articles, produce news segments, or even create a blog. At times you will interview experts, celebrities, government officials, or other sources. However, you need to be trained and gain experience before you can set out on your path as a journalist.
You can follow these steps to launch your journalism career in India.
Here are the steps to take if you want to become a journalist.
Start With The Right Education
After you finish with your 12th-grade examinations, you can kickstart your career with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media, Mass Communications, Journalism, or even English Literature. These undergraduate education streams will help you develop your skills and knowledge related to writing, fact-checking, politics, human rights, sociology, etc. Additionally, you can choose to specialize in a particular branch of journalism by picking a course that can equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills.
Irrespective of which Bachelor’s stream you pursue, you can always become an expert with a specially-designed Master’s course in Journalism. The University of Mumbai and upGrad’s M.A. in Communication and Journalism is an excellent choice for those candidates who want to learn about media laws, ethics, theories, television studies, filmmaking, sports journalism, advocacy, reporting, and many other key subjects related to journalism. Apart from equipping you with the skills needed to make it as a journalist in today’s increasingly competitive world, this course will also help you familiarize yourself with lesser-known streams within India’s journalistic landscape.
Get The Right Experience
It’s no secret that establishing yourself in India’s media industry as a journalist is not the easiest of endeavours. However, by gaining on-ground experience and experimenting with available resources, you can develop your skills and be more employable. After all, employers will always prefer candidates with substantial work experience, even if they are with smaller organizations or even start-ups.
To make it easier on yourself, take up internships when you are still studying. No doubt, it will give you a chance to see theories put into practice at the workplace. It will also help you build a professional network and understand how the industry works on a day-to-day basis. Such an experience will help you identify your strengths and even give you a chance to work on your weaker areas.
Since journalism largely depends on effective communication and writing, it makes sense to start building a portfolio that can showcase these skills to potential employers. If you haven’t already done so, write a few blogs on topics that interest you to strengthen your writing, researching, and editing skills—scout for websites that accept reader submissions or look for blogs that accept guest articles. If your college or university has a popular magazine or newsletter, see if you can pitch your ideas and get published.
Build Your Professional Network
When it comes to Journalism, it makes sense to have the right connections within your industry. You can’t be everywhere at all times, which is why networking can make or break your career’s success. When you start your career, reach out to writers, editors, journalists, or bloggers who you admire and ask them if they’d be available to mentor or guide you.
Talk about your experience, aspirations, and professional goals and get their advice. You never know when an internship or job opening may open up at their end, and if you have proven yourself as a responsible and enthusiastic candidate, you may land your dream gig! source
On the digital front, you should keep an eye out for posts or groups that include people from your industry and are related to professional networking. Undoubtedly, LinkedIn is a powerful platform to connect with and discover thought leaders, colleagues, and potential employers. Lastly, LinkedIn recommendations from former bosses, senior colleagues, or even professors and classmates can help potential recruiters assess your abilities.
Pick Your Specialization, But Be Flexible
We all have a field of interest that we prefer over others. Be it print media, digital mediums, or even radio – it pays to be open-minded and explore without preconceived notions about how things work. Today, journalism is becoming increasingly digital, with most processes going online. So, it pays to be updated on how things work online and polishing your skills accordingly.
The areas of specialization like political journalism, sports journalism, magazine writing, financial or business reporting, photojournalism, etc., are among the most popular. However, there are several niches you can explore related to luxury, travel, food, fashion, entertainment, and others.
Work on Your Language, Grammar, and Writing Skills
The best journalists know how to write well, and they can proficiently manage to communicate without beating around the bush. While this may seem intimidating if you have limited experience, remember that practice always helps. Hone your grammar and proof-reading skills, and if required, opt for a specialized course or webinar.
If you speak more than one language, use it to your advantage by writing and publishing in as many languages as you’re comfortable with. India’s regional-language media consumption is significant and only set to grow with time. So, it is a wise move to equip yourself accordingly. source
Develop Interpersonal Skills
Journalists usually function in high-pressure, fast-paced, and rapidly shifting environments. To stay productive, objective, and energetic in such situations, you will have to develop a rational thought process and lots of resilience. You may often have to source information from people who aren’t entirely willing to share it with you. Persuasion skills and interview expertise will help you if you’re ever caught in such a scenario. Additionally, you’ll also have to become tenacious to track down sources, stories, follow up with leads, and cross-check facts.
Apart from these skills, you should also invest time and effort in building a more empathetic, unbiased, and respectful demeanour. You may often report on sensitive subjects, challenging situations, tragedies, or other issues that impact people, so make sure you can stay calm and composed in such cases.
Another critical point to remember is that of criticism. As a journalist, you may often cover scandals, controversies, or other events that elicit strong reactions from the public, which may materialize into criticism, disagreement, and in extreme cases, even violence. Make sure you’re prepared to handle these situations while being objective and impartial.
Understand Your Legal and Ethical Responsibilities
While you may be relentlessly following a lead or chasing a story, you must remain within the boundaries of the law. Learn about the rule and regulations related to privacy, confidentiality, and ethical journalism so that you don’t do anything unethical or illegal. Always strive to be accurate, balanced, and ethical while reporting. Wherever needed, take the required permission from authorities with jurisdiction to not expose yourself to a lawsuit or fines. Lastly, be honest and truthful as you go about your day-to-day role.
While this article can advise you on how to launch your journalism career, it is only a though-starter. To make it as a journalist, you must develop your skills and explore your professional options.
If you wish to explore and become a journalist, check out the University of Mumbai and upGrad’s M.A in Communication and Journalism to take your writing, reporting, strategizing, editing, and communications skills to the next level. With this program, you can become an expert in media, communications, and journalism.