Our professors, mentors and bosses consider us today’s up and coming journalists. They claim to have taught us all the tools we require to go out into the job force and land a job over a journalist who was trained in the 60s or 70s. They give us all this knowledge, all this hope- and then nothing.
We see our favorite journalists on television- Barbara Walters, Anderson Cooper and so many others that we have idolized and tried to mimic throughout our journalism careers, and at times our lives. They make an interview with the president look like casual conversation at your grandmother’s house. The finesse with which they carry out their reporting makes us love to hate them and we can’t help but wonder if we’ll ever be half that good.
There’s so much more to being a journalist than just knowing how to extract information and put it into a story. You have to be social so that you can retrieve exactly what you want from the people you are talking to. That lack of good communication skills kills your chances of creating bonds with the people you are associating with. It also blocks off possibilities for finding sources along the way. Being a “people person” is a huge part of being a successful journalist and one thing to always remember is that the more people like you, the more they’ll share with you.
There’s a second part to those age-old words of wisdom. One must also remember that the more people trust you, the more they share with you as well. Being a sketchy character is out of the question when you want to rise above the rest as a journalist. Imagine what the world would be like without journalistic integrity- people being misquoted; false statements or opinions being printed. The media would lose their credibility and news reporting would simply fall into the same categories as Star magazine and other sensationalist magazines. No one would know what to believe and opinion would be the dominating factor of a story.
Common sense is probably the most important tool for being a journalist. The other day I had a friend tell me that “a monkey can be trained to do any job.” He went on to elaborate on his theory about how almost every job has a rulebook that they consider their bible. Every job, he says, can be trained for, and upon completion of this training it is implied that you are prepared to do this job as well as everyone else. I disagree. I think some technical jobs may work this way but journalism is a whole other ball game. I think common sense is a key factor to good reporting. You have to be able to think ahead of time and plot how to go about reporting. I think you need all the other factors mentioned above to get a good story as well. Journalists are classified as so many things- muckrakers, gossip queens and instigators, but what people don’t understand is that we are simply passing along information that has already been put out there by others.
Aside from this, there a few more obvious tools that must be obtained in order to become successful in the field of journalism- knowledge of the world around you, computer literacy, good grammar and language skills. The rest can be and will be taught. One can only hope that having a tight grasp of these skills will help further our careers and maybe one day little boys and girls will want to be just like us too.