Journalist Career Information
What a Journalist does
Journalism is all about communicating information through various media and involves the collection and dissemination of news through articles, speech or visuals. Let's go through the various categories in journalism:
Reporting: Reporting implies coverage of any kind of event to get a story. Wherever possible, reporters research the background of a subject before beginning first-hand investigation. Whatever the issue, reporters/journalists are expected to present a clear and unbiased account of the facts they have gathered and particularly in controversial cases to include points of view of those involved.
Reporters/journalists must compose stories quickly and meet tight deadlines. Accuracy, brevity and speech are the most important factors. journalists do not have fixed timings and travel frequently, often to remote areas or trouble spots to cover the action.
Correspondent/Specialist Reporting: Involves reporting either on a topic of specialisation, or from a place other than the paper's headquarters.
Special correspondents often report on general news for the most part covering their area of expertise only as the need arises. The aim of such journalist is to interpret and explain news, and comment on the events, trends and causes behind it. Specialisation can range from politics, foreign affairs, finance and law to sports, culture or health and environment.
Few correspondents concentrate only on specialist writing. Those who do, such as syndicated columnist, usually contribute to several papers at the same time. The number of specialists/correspondents/journalists working for a paper depends on its size, circulation and resources.
News/Features Editing: This is for journalists with good organising skills. Editing is primarily a desk job involving little or no reporting. News and features editors control reporting staff, allocate assignments and attend editorial conferences.
Sub-editing: Sub-editors are required to re-write stories to fit the space assigned; spruce up introductions and language, proof copy for spelling and punctuation; and sometimes give the story a 'slant' or focus of interest. They write headlines and sometimes, in consultation with the night or assistant editor, compose page layouts. Subbing is a desk job that involves teamwork and is always done under tight time constraints. Sub-editors in newspapers work in shifts and therefore are on duty at odd hours.
Feature Writing: Is more descriptive and detailed than news reporting and can cover any topic of general interest. Experienced journalists or specialists usually write them. Often, freelancers are commissioned to write features for regular or weekend papers.
Columns: Topics can be general, usually a look at something from the writer's personal viewpoint or specialised, if the columnist is an expert on a particular subject. Sometimes, writers from other papers are invited to contribute their articles on a regular basis and are called 'guest columnists' Commentators are critics who review development in special areas like politics, sports, consumer affair, music, art or literature. They are also usually called columnists.
Leaders/Editorials: Are written by the editor, a special correspondent or experienced journalists and are full-length expressions of editorial opinion on a topic of current interest.
Cartoons/Graphics: Range from cartography, graphics and illustrations that enhance a story to caricatures and cartoons that comment on public figures or events.
• Magazines and periodicals
• News agencies/bureau
• National television and radio
• Private television channels and FM channels
• Regional press bureau of international papers/agencies/networks
• Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India
• Related government agencies like Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity, Directorate of Field Publicity
• Press sections of public and private sector corporations
• Freelancer/stringer - advisable only after sufficient work experience
• Teaching at universities
The scope of journalism is wide and is increasing with greater diversification of the media. The information explosion has brought home the urgency of being able to express more diverse and complex ideas, news and viewpoints more quickly and concisely than ever before. New publications appear on the stands each year.
Vernacular papers are currently in circulation and the number is growing, creating a larger demand for writers/journalist with an ability to grasp situations and translate them into words in the shortest possible time. Due to the boom in the dot com companies, there is an increasing demand for editors and freelancers.
Almost all major newspapers and news agencies in India have a presence on the Internet, making it one of the easiest ways to get to know about the happenings in India. Hence having knowledge of computer graphics and Internet related topics would be an added advantage.
Channels like CNN, Discovery, NDTV, and newspapers like The Times of India, The Economic Times are great organizations that any journalist would like to work in. If you idolize Karan Thapar, Barkha Dutt, Pronnoy Roy or others like them and you feel the desire to communicate what you believe is important to others, this probably is the best career option for you.
Abilities & Traits Required
• A flair for writing
• Ability to express ideas lucidly and concisely
• Open mindedness
• Unbiased approach
• Curiosity wide ranging interests
• Sensibility to atmosphere; an instinct for a story's newsworthiness
• Ability to sum up people
• Ability to sift relevant facts from irrelevant information
• Willingness to work hard at irregular hours and on holidays
As for educational qualifications, it varies with the institutions. Generally a degree in any discipline is the minimum qualification for entry. Getting into leading newspapers in India will be easier if you have obtained a first class in graduation. You can also have a Bachelor degree in Journalism.
Alternatively, you can have a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism after your graduation in any discipline.
Other degree/diploma, which may also lead to you a job:
• MA in a Literature (English or any other languages)/MA in Economics/Commerce/other subject
• MA in Journalism
• MA in Mass Communication & Journalism
• Bachelor/ Master of Mass Communication & Journalism
• MA/ Post Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication
• MA/ Post Graduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism
• MA/ Post Graduate Diploma in Television Journalism
• MA/ Post Graduate Diploma in Electronic Journalism
• MBA/ Post Graduate Diploma in Management
As against print journalism television is known to pay better. As a trainee in a newspaper your pay ranges around Rs 12000 - 15000 per month, which is hiked to Rs 18000-20000 on confirmation. As a reporter/journalist in the beginning, you can expect to make Rs.22000 - 25000. Editors draw a salary of Rs. 65000 - 70000 with a couple years of experience.
In the electronic media, as a journalist you can start out with Rs 12000 as minimum pay. If you are lucky, you can even start with Rs. 25000 with an electronic media company. However, salary scales aren't fixed in this field. And you can earn quite well after 4-5 years.
Senior sub-editors, for example earn Rs 50000 - 55000 per month. Some business journalists with 5-6 years experience can rake up to Rs 57000 -60000 if working with a foreign media house/ Indian media barons. Senior Correspondents/Journalists of leading media companies earn about Rs. 65000 - 70000 per month. You earn well...eventually.
As a lecturer at a good university you could start with a salary of 18000 and work your way upto to Rs. 30000 per month.
Interview with a Journalist
Mauli Buch, Journalist
In spite of completing a two-year postgraduate degree in communications studies, Mauli could not find a job immediately in journalism. She started working for a public relations firm that gave her an insight into not only public relations, but also into journalism. Mauli then took up a job as a business correspondent for a small newspaper. Moving ahead, a year later she shifted base to Mumbai and took up feature writing, editing, and page making. It took her more than three years to land a job where she could write hardcore news reports about politics, crime, health, education, agrarian crises, and foreign ministers’ visits. In addition, she also did a lot of soft stories and features. Currently, Mauli works as a Senior State Correspondent for newswire Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) and is based in Mumbai.
What made you choose this profession? I chose this profession as I was always curious, interested in meeting new people, and loved being updated about current affairs. This career helps me fulfil my own thirst for news.
Was it tough entering the industry? Yes, it sure was tough entering the industry in spite of having a Masters degree. With most colleges having a Bachelor’s degree programme, there is no dearth of young journalists wanting to enter the field.
What are the personality requirements for the job? Personality requirements for this job include not accepting anything at face value, good observation, an urge to question everything – even if it is quite obvious, and a fair understanding of the subject you want to report about.
Any role model? No single role model. I prefer to pick up and follow qualities from many people whom I know or I have come across during the course of my professional and personal life. People who inspire me become my role models. They may or may not be from the field of journalism.
What is the most challenging part of being a journalist? Sticking to deadlines and sacrificing a lot of personal time are the most challenging parts. Other challenges include professional hazards like either being mobbed by publicity-hungry groups or being ignored by those newsmakers who prefer to keep to themselves.
Can anybody with the passion become a journalist, or is academic qualification essential for the profession? Academic qualification, though preferable, may not really be necessary to become a journalist. In this age where a professional degree is an important pre-requisite, there have been people who have made it big in the field without one.
Any tips for aspirants in this field? Passion keeps one going in this field. If you are looking to earn handsomely out of this profession, you might be torn between passion and remuneration. Choose wisely.