(Not So) Basic Journalism Skills: The Essentials

by - October 09, 2017

We're currently in the process of hiring several new reporters at my station so I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about five things you simply can't do this job without.

1. Research Skills
You've got to be able to independently gather information. The internet in a lot of ways has made this task easier, but there's more to research than typing key words into the Google search bar. You've got to be proficient at identifying the right people to talk to and making phone calls. And let's not forget about filtering the information you gather.

2. Interviewing Skills
Whether it's over-the-phone, face-to-face, or even via email, interviewing is an essential part of being a journalist. For me it all starts with research so I know as much as possible going into the interview. Don't forget the basics: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Take notes and listen. Here are some other tried-and-true interview tips.

3. Video/Photography Skills
Long story short, know how to frame a shot. This is a pretty good explanation on the "rule of thirds." Some other quick tips -- always set up your tripod based on the person you're interviewing's height; have your interview talk to you, not the camera; avoid ceiling shots and boring wall backgrounds.

4. Writing Skills
If you can't write, you simply can't do this job. Journalists are storytellers specializing in the truth. You've got to be able to write coherently, using appropriate grammar and punctuation. Here are some tips for grammar and writing for deadlines.

5. Social Media Know-How
When I was in J-School, social media wasn't something we talked about, but now social media is the first thing we think about in the field. People want their news when they want it, so NOW. Unfortunately, even though most of the younger journalists in the field grew up with social media, they're not exactly savvy on using it for news. But if you want to stay relevant in today's news cycle, social media is a must. Check out my social media do's and don't's and three steps to master social media.

For other advice, check out my posts on four things to master before your first job and tips for new producers.

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