Journalist Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Journalism can be an exciting career if you're passionate about sharing information with the world. There are numerous digital platforms and television news channels, giving countless opportunities for journalists to grow their careers. However, to be an excellent journalist, it's essential that you have outstanding journalist skills. In this article, we look at the role of a journalist, the skills needed to be a journalist and ways to improve them.

What is the role of a journalist?

Journalists work to publish and air news on issues and events affecting the world. They conduct interviews with expert sources, visit locations of events and search public records to get accurate and entertaining news. Some journalists are hired to work full-time and others are freelance, taking jobs when they want to.

Skills needed to be a journalist

Here are some of the skills that journalists need to succeed at their job:

Communication

The primary role of a journalist is to communicate news, either written or verbally. No matter how proficient you're in other skills, you cannot be a journalist without good communication skills. You're required to interview sources, report news and write articles or scripts. Be sure to work on your communication skills by being friendly, empathetic and confident as you present the news or information.

Related: What Are Communication Skills?

Attention to detail

Journalists are required to report news that's genuine and true. There are many sources of information, of which some are not credible. As a journalist, you need to pay attention to detail to know if the news you're about to present to the public is accurate. Be sure to do extensive research on a topic to give all facts available.

Related: How to Improve Your Attention to Detail

Persistence

As a journalist, it's not always that your sources will be willing to talk or give you the information you need. It's crucial that you remain determined and keep persisting in the story. Successful journalists are those who report unique and exclusive news. You cannot get that kind of news by giving up when things get difficult.

Research skills

Research skills are very important in the career of a journalist. You need to capture all details and use different sources to get information. In addition, you must have the ability to know how to evaluate all your data and research before presenting it to the public. So, be sure to work on your research skills and find ways to analyse and represent data.

Related: Research Skills: Definition and Examples

Digital literacy

Currently, digital literacy is a must-have skill for most careers. As a journalist, you must know how to use things like websites, apps, social media, laptops and tablets, since they are the new broadcast mediums. To have a rewarding career, you must be willing to adapt and accept change, such as the use of digital platforms. This is because using digital media to broadcast news is one of the best ways to reach a large group of people.

Related: Computer Skills: Definitions and Examples

Logical reasoning and objectivity

When reporting news, you cannot afford to be biased. Otherwise, you'll only report information that's appealing to you or a particular group of people. You have to be objective and reason logically before presenting any news. Keep in mind that different kinds of people have access to this news. Be sure to present and write content that's respectful and unbiased.

Investigative reporting

It's essential that you have investigative reporting skills to help you probe any harmful practices in society. That way, you can help people from marginalised communities or even a group of people who suffer silently. To do this, you need to be very discreet to be safe and protect your sources.

Problem-solving skills

As a journalist, you'll encounter many challenges, be it in your work, during a live show recording or in the field. It's important that you have problem-solving skills to overcome any difficulties or challenges on your way. You should be quick to identify problems and find solutions.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

Ethical journalism skills

Even with the stiff competition due to many broadcasting platforms, you must maintain and observe ethics in journalism. You may get good ratings for a report you give using unethical means, but it may ruin your career with time. Be sure to report what's genuine to avoid any career problems.

Related: How To Uphold Business Ethics in the Workplace

Journalism knowledge

Having a good background in journalism education can be of great help to your career. You must have both the practical and theoretical knowledge of doing your job. That way, your knowledge, skills and experience can help you grow and achieve in your career.

How to improve your journalism skills

Here's how you can improve your journalist skills:

1. Learn continuously

To be a great journalist, you should work on your weaknesses. If you have difficulty writing short stories or blogs of specific criteria, take time and learn it. With time, you'll be good all-round, making you very valuable to your employer.

2. Know your audience

Different audiences have different preferences. Learn about your audience and prepare content that's appealing and interesting to them. For example, if most of your audience is the youth, it will be good to focus on entertainment news and jobs available rather than focusing on history and old stories. Also, knowing your audience helps you understand how to present the report in terms of formality.

3. Structure your writing and reporting

Most people have very short attention spans. Be sure to capture their attention by starting with an exciting story or headline to keep them motivated to continue reading or watching you. Start with the most important things as you go building your story.

4. Be concise and clear

To be an influential journalist, learn to trim your information to present only the most important news. Be as straightforward as possible to ensure your readers understand your message fully without getting distracted by irrelevant details. Reading your work out loud can help you notice areas that are irrelevant and redundant.

5. Be respectful

To be a journalist, you don't need to have the same background or beliefs as the people you're covering or writing a story about. The important thing is to be respectful and shows that you care enough to listen. Avoid being biased and treat each person with the respect and care they deserve.

6. Review your work

It's important that you review your work before presenting it to the public. You can read it out loud to catch any errors and to check its fluency. Also, check to see that it adheres to your work ethics and guidelines. You can ask your colleague or editor to go through it to ensure it's perfect.

7. Practice

Every skill requires practice. For example, if you lack confidence when in front of a crowd, seek opportunities that require you to speak in public and volunteer to speak. Though it might be challenging, facing your fears is one of the best ways to achieve your goals. Practice as often as you can, and find a mentor to guide you in your weak areas.

Ways to highlight your journalism skills

As you develop your career, you'll be required to demonstrate your journalism skills during an interview, in a cover letter and a CV. Here's a guide on how to effectively demonstrate these skills:

In your CV

Your CV gives insight into what kind of employee you are in terms of your abilities, experiences and skills. Use a distinct section to highlight your skills and accomplishments to capture your potential employer's attention. Be sure to include skills that are directly related to what the employer specified in their job listing.

In a cover letter

In your cover letter, you have a chance to give detailed explanations for your experiences, skills and knowledge. Take this chance to highlight your journalism skills and explain how they helped you achieve your accomplishments. That way, your potential employer can be confident that you have the skills to take up the role.

During an interview

During an interview, be composed and confident. For each question asked, structure your answers to incorporate skills relevant to that position. Give experiences in your past job that required you to use journalism skills and approaches used to succeed. Also, do some research on the role and the company to know what's required of you. If the company is known for giving unique and credible information, show them that you're capable of doing that as well.

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