9 Essential Journalist Skills and Tips to Improve Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 January 2022

If you're passionate about sharing information with the world, a career in journalism may be an excellent fit for you. Journalists are professionals who use their researching, interviewing and reporting skills to create informative news stories. If you're interested in pursuing a career in journalism, it's essential to know what skills can help you succeed in this industry. In this article, we discuss nine essential journalist skills and provide tips to help you develop and improve these skills.

9 essential journalist skills

Journalist skills are the abilities that help a journalist successfully develop a news story. Here are several skills commonly journalists use to perform their daily tasks:

1. Communication

Communication involves the ability to exchange information. The fundamental role of a journalist is to inform the public, through either verbal or written means. Your daily duties may include interviewing sources, reporting news and writing scripts or articles. Whether you're writing a newspaper article or a broadcast screen, clear and concise writing helps to reach audiences at all reading levels. You can communicate better by being empathetic, friendly and confident as you present the news or a report.

2. Persistence

As a journalist, you may often come across people who are unwilling to talk. It's essential that you remain patient and persistent by continuing to interview people to get relevant information. Gathering more information may help you confirm stories and better inform audiences.

3. Attention to detail

It's essential that journalists report news that is factual and relevant. You may come across multiple information sources, some of which may not be credible. Paying close attention to details can help you determine if any information is inaccurate. This can also apply to body language when interviewing people, as you may notice when someone is lying or withholding information.

4. Logical reasoning and objectivity

When you're reporting news, it's important that you remain objective and logically evaluate any information before presenting it to audiences. Ensure that you don't appear biased when reporting on news, as this may cause reporting irrelevant information or opinions rather than facts. Being objective in your reporting can help you deliver clear and concise information that may attract a wider audience.

5. Research skills

Research skills are fundamental for journalists. To get all the required information for an article, you may use different sources such as public records, databases and other published sources to find all the essential details. Developing research skills can help a journalist more efficiently source relevant information.

6. Digital literacy

Digital literacy is an essential skill for most careers. Journalists often use websites, applications, social media platforms, laptops and tablets to perform their duties. Depending on your workplace, your employer may task you with posting articles online or making informative videos. A large amount of research is also available through online resources. Being familiar with technology can help conduct research more efficiently and reach wider audiences through online platforms.

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7. Investigative reporting

Investigative reporting is one of the core elements of journalism. It involves finding ways to unveil matters that are intentionally or unintentionally concealed. With strong investigative reporting skills, you can help probe any wrongdoings or harmful practices in society. It ensures accountability and drives change in society. Investigative reporting is a special craft that journalists can develop over time with practice.

8. Problem-solving skills

As a journalist, you may encounter various challenges, in your workplace, during a live show or in the field. Problem-solving is an essential skill to overcome any obstacles or difficulties that may arise in your daily job. It involves being able to quickly to identify issues, the causes of a problem and find solutions.

9. Ethical journalism skills

It's essential that you maintain and observe ethics in journalism, as many people may rely on the information you publish. Be sure to report authentic and verified content. Ethical journalism involves embodying honesty, fairness and diversity. Maintaining your ethics can help increase your job satisfaction and show your dedication to promoting the truth.

Related: What Does a News Reporter Do? (With Examples and Salaries)

Tips to improve your journalism skills

As you complete your education and begin your career in the journalism field, you may look for ways to improve your journalism skills. Here are some tips to help you improve your qualifications:

Keep learning

Keeping updated with the latest digital media and tools, journalism practices and developments in your field can help improve your work productivity. Work on improving any areas of weakness, such as if you're not comfortable writing scripts or blog articles, consider asking for more writing-related tasks. Actively challenging yourself can expand your skill set and may open up career advancement opportunities.

Understand your audience

People often have diverse preferences, so it's essential to understand your audience and develop content that's interesting and appealing to different personalities. For instance, if target audience is younger, it may be helpful to focus more on entertainment news, movies and the job market. Your target audience can also affect the tone of your content. For example, older audiences often look for more serious and informative articles, whereas younger people may look for more exciting and informal news.

Structure your content

Properly structuring an article can help draw and keep viewers interested in your content. For example, you can capture audiences' attention by starting with an impressive headline and keep readers interested by spreading out exciting information throughout the article. Consider reading popular articles to find tips on how to structure your own.

Be concise and clear

An efficient journalist understands the importance of avoiding vague and unimportant elements in a story to present the most essential information to audiences. People generally skim news stories, so it's important to be clear and concise when reporting. This ensures audiences understand the information and message you're trying to convey.

Review your work

You may review your work multiple times to identify areas that are redundant and irrelevant before presenting it to the public. You could read it out loud to identify any errors and to check its fluency. Ensure your work adheres to ethics and any guidelines set by your employer. You may also consider asking your colleague or editor to review the content and gain a new perspective on what you've written. Asking others to review and share feedback can help improve your overall writing and presentation skills.

Practise your skills

Mastering any skill requires constant practice. For instance, if you lack confidence when speaking in front of a crowd, explore opportunities where you can practise public speaking or volunteer to speak when you get a chance. Consider finding a mentor who can give you advice and tips on different skills essential for this career.

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Average salary of a journalist

The average salary for a journalist is $13,268 per month. It's important to note that this amount isn't a limit on your long-term earning potential as a journalist. As you gain more experience and improve your skills, you may increase your employability and can negotiate a higher salary package. Your salary can also vary depending on your specialisation and employer.

Types of journalism jobs

Here are some common specialisations in journalism:

  • Print journalist: Print journalists write articles that are published in physical newspapers, journals and magazines.

  • Broadcast journalist: Broadcast journalists are reporters who work for a news agency and report breaking stories on television or over the radio. They often visit sites and interview victims and witnesses to gather more information about a story.

  • Photojournalist: Photojournalists use photography to document and share a visual story. They often work as freelance photographers or with photo agencies, magazines or local newspapers.

  • Political journalist: A political journalist covers all stories related to politics and government. It includes reporting political news and conducting investigative reporting to ensure that the general public has access to information about political activities.

  • News copy editors: News copy editors read and edit news scripts and newspaper content before releasing it to an audience. They edit for clarity and accuracy to ensure the correct tone and message is being conveyed.

Journalist job description example

Here's an example of a journalist job description:

FitJolly Broadcasting is looking to fill the vacant position of an experienced journalist in our newsroom. The ideal candidate has previous experience investigating, interviewing and reporting on topics in the evening news environment. A bachelor's degree in journalism and a minimum of three to five years of experience in a related role is required for this position. Candidates are required to have strong communication and interpersonal skills and may spend much of their workday interviewing for investigative pieces. Strong organisation and time management skills are also a requirement for an ideal candidate to work with tight deadlines.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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