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How to Choose the Right Journalism Career

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Back in 2007, when I decided to pursue a degree in mass communication, the driving force, sadly, was a lack of other options. Unable to secure a seat in a medical school, crushing the hopes of my family members, I resigned myself to fate. And that let me see the world in an entirely new manner. A beautiful one.

At present, I am still studying communication, but this time it is a matter of choice. The idea of pursuing a Masters in Journalism in Australia was well thought upon. After completing my bachelor’s degree and spending some time working in the media industry, it made sense to have an additional feather in my cap in the form of an international qualification.

While I can’t claim to be a media industry veteran able to provide expert advice to budding journalists when it comes to making large career strides, I can lay out a few basics for the starters interested in entering a journalism career. Here are a few things you should know about the profession, to help you choose the right journalism career path for you, and start developing all the skills you’ll need to succeed.

All that glitters is not gold

First, a word of caution. If you want to be pursue a journalism career because you think it is a glamourous job, you might want to stop right there. The news anchors you admire, the bylines that amaze you and the reporters who you believe get to meet a lot of superstars and celebrities do plenty of much less dazzling work behind the scenes.

They could be chasing a story for weeks, struggling to get a source to talk to them, and spend most of their time covering routine happenings. They’ll be under pressure to meet multiple deadlines, and to stay on their toes all the time. They might have to start work very early in the mornings, stay late at nights, and work through weekends and holidays.

All in all, it is not a walk in the park. That said, if you are really passionate about your chosen journalism career, you are going to enjoy every bit of it.

Journalism careers in print media

While you must develop a basic journalistic skillset before choosing an area of specialization, it will not hurt to know your options before you begin your degree. One of the career paths for you could lie in the print stream. They say print media is dying. Well, they have been saying that and they will keep on saying that. Print media is here to stay. That reader priorities and market response have changed is a separate debate.

To pursue a journalism career in print media, you must develop your writing skills right from day one. Be a wordsmith, the one that everyone would love to have in their newsroom. You will not be broadcasting live, but if you don’t meet the print deadline then even the best story will end up languishing in the rubbish bin. At the same time, the responsibilities of print media journalists are fast-evolving; they are now required to have some additional skillsets, including an understanding of online media.

Journalism careers in TV and radio

Electronic media has plenty of opportunities to offer. You can choose to specialize in radio journalism, learning the art of retaining your listeners’ interest through your voice, or add a face to your story and as a television broadcaster. It is always handy, especially in the present day, to have an understanding of how things work in this industry – including the technological side. You can make do with writing a concise summary and broadcasting it for your viewers, but you will have incredibly higher chances of success if you also have some technical expertise, including knowledge of how to handle a camera and edit audio and video recordings.

Journalism careers in online media

If you choose a journalism career in the world of online media, don’t expect things to be entirely different. When you work with online media, you must focus more on the art of storytelling and audience engagement. You must know how to present a story in a way that that could drive more traffic to your website. As a rule of thumb, you will be required to be good with words, just like every other journalist. You are also encouraged to have some video and photography skills, because the more assets you have, the better your story’s presentation will be.

There are a few important things to note here. Many students aspiring to become journalists are not naturally very good with words. And since all of what I have said focuses heavily on words, you might start getting second thoughts. Don’t! No one is perfect. If you are willing to learn, willing to go the extra mile to achieve your goal, then you will succeed.

Last but not least, these are just basic guidelines about what you can do with a journalism degree. There is much more to it. For instance, we haven’t even touched on photojournalism. There is a lot more to this profession, but hopefully this will serve as a helpful reference point for early-stage planning.

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Written by Zain Nabi
Hailing from Pakistan, Zain finished a Masters of Journalism and International Relations at Monash University in Australia. He is working as a journalist and media trainer in Melbourne along with secretly harboring an ambition to become a filmmaker.

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