Journalists are newshounds and storytellers, ready and willing to follow a breaking news story or provide perspective on a range of social, political, and cultural issues. To write the news, they must complete comprehensive background research and interview sources to produce an informative and engaging story. Journalists can communicate with readers and viewers through a variety of platforms, including magazines, newspapers, radio, television, and the Internet.
Reporters, magazine editors, and news anchors are all counted among the ranks of journalists; their roles and responsibilities are numerous and varied, and may include tracking down elusive sources, painstakingly copy-editing a long-form feature, or creating an infographic for a news site.
Journalism Course Work Basics
Journalism is offered as a degree at all levels. Undergraduates who study journalism will take classes rooted in the liberal arts, since journalism requires a working knowledge and awareness of other fields. Their journalism classes will teach them how to find and interview sources, record and edit audio, and write scripts for radio and television. Most importantly, they will sharpen their writing and editing skills. Journalism courses will also cover law and ethics as these pertain to journalism. Classes on reporting, news writing, feature writing, and editing will teach students the basic tenets of journalism.
A master’s degree in journalism affords individuals the opportunity to develop, strengthen, and update their reporting, writing, and editing skills. Students who did not major in journalism as undergraduates may pursue the degree at the graduate level, although a master’s degree in journalism is not necessary to succeed in the field. Master’s degree candidates may have the option of focusing on subject areas such as business and economics; government, policy, and politics; and health and science to deepen their expertise in these areas. Or they can explore media techniques such as videography and broadcast; magazine writing; editing and publishing; and interactive storytelling. Popular journalism classes at both levels include:
- Audio Storytelling: This course teaches students how to edit sound and write for broadcast.
- Critical Issues in Journalism: Students will consider the largest issues in journalism today, including ethical dilemmas and changing business models. They will study the real-life problems confronted by newspapers, television stations, and websites to refine their analytical, presentation, management and leadership skills.
- Magazine Editing: This course will cover the fundamentals of editing specialized and general interest publications. Individual and team functions are stressed. Students will practice writing headlines and titles and learn the importance of layout and design.
- Media Layout and Design: This course incorporates photo editing, graphics, and page design. Students will learn about design theory and computer publishing and become familiar with design-related software.
- Newswriting: Students will develop newswriting skills for print media. They will be introduced to core skills such as identifying story ideas, conducting research, and interviewing.
Class assignments will consist of writing and producing stories, which will require students to pitch story ideas, conduct research, and interview sources. Students may even work collaboratively to edit each other’s work. Students should take advantage of journalism internships and fellowship opportunities, as gaining field experience is imperative in this competitive industry. They may also work for school newspapers and magazines. Some graduate journalism programs require students to complete capstone projects toward the end of their graduate career.
Careers for the Journalism Graduate
Journalism graduates are required to be equipped not only with credentials and experience, but also gumption and strong networking skills. Master’s degrees in journalism may lead to greater opportunities, but by no means is a master’s degree required to find success in the field. Journalism majors may become local beat newspaper reporters, magazine feature writers, social media managers, and foreign correspondents; duties and responsibilities can vary widely among platforms. They may work for outlets ranging from community newspapers to international outlets. With a graduate degree in journalism, individuals may also opt to become professors, researchers, and even analysts.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment rates for news analysts, reporters, and correspondents will decline moderately — by 6% — through 2020. Broadcast news analysts reported mean yearly wages of $76,370, while reporters and correspondents reported mean yearly wages of $43,640. Note that salaries can vary widely based on the individual’s qualifications, employer, location, and other factors.