(Not So) Basic Journalism Skills: 4 Things to Master Before Your First Job

by - September 27, 2016

Congratulations. You've landed your first job in journalism, but are you prepared?

In the past seven years, I've watched a few dozen fresh-out-of-college reporters and producers navigate their first jobs in broadcast. As someone who has a hand in the training of every new employee in my newsroom, I know how important it is to have a good foundation before you walk in that first day. So what skills should you have already mastered before you're hired? In this post, I'm breaking down what I would consider the most important tools you can already possess when you enter your training period.

1. Vocabulary
I'm not talking about what you learned in grade school. No. I'm talking about the vocabulary of your trade. You need to know the terms that will be regularly tossed about your newsroom. You need to know the difference between a vo/sot and a PKG; what the ratings/sweeps period is; and the basic terminology for any equipment/software you'll be working with.

2. Grammar
This is what you learned in grade school, and sadly it's not uncommon for just-out-of-school journalists to be sorely lacking in this department. So bone up on your subject-verb agreement. If grammar isn't your strong suit, I recommend bookmarking Grammar Book.

3. Research
I can't tell you how frustrating it is to continuously have to guide someone through the steps for gathering information about a story you're not writing. Knowing how to research is an integral part of being a journalist. It's something I do every single day, multiple times a day. Tools like Google make it so simple, but you also have to know how to find credible information.

4. Geography
Chances are your first job is not in your hometown or even your home state, and while no one will expect you to be proficient at finding your way around your new home, I would recommend that you get out and explore on your own before your first day. At the very least, look at a map of your station's coverage area and familiarize yourself with the cities and towns you may be visiting.

I also recommend reading this article from Fox Business about the skills many employers are finding lacking in millennials. If nothing else, it should at least give you some perspective on how veterans in this business feel when trying to work with and/or help newbies.

You May Also Like