Top 10 Skills and Qualities Needed to Be a Journalist

Everything you need to succeed.

Journalist Skills and Qualities

Journalism is a thrilling career with numerous paths to follow, including television, press and digital media. So, if you’re passionate about sharing information with the world, then this is an exciting field with plentiful opportunities.

However, with this being a cutthroat industry, for you to succeed, you must possess a certain versatility and adroitness that will set you apart from the competition. Below, we consider some of the most important skills and traits you should master as an aspiring journalist.

1. Attention to detail

What separates a good journalist from a great one is their ability to notice the details that others may overlook.

When covering a topic, you must be meticulous and thorough, ensuring that your work encompasses the most important information accurately and honestly. Furthermore, when reviewing your work, you must ensure there aren’t any inaccuracies or mistakes; a wrong date, name or term could completely skew your work, causing a backlash for your publication and yourself.

This is especially true for investigative and news journalists but is necessary for any type of journalism you may be interested in. Consequently, having a keen eye for detail is a must in this line of work.

2. Research skills

As a journalist, you will be required to conduct thorough research on a diverse number of subjects. Having excellent research skills entails being able to find and select reliable resources, evaluate the data you have gathered, and render all of this information in a comprehensive and attractive way for your audience.

What is more, this process needs to be undertaken within a tight timeframe to ensure that your story remains relevant by the time of publication. Therefore, honing your research skills should be a priority for you as a budding journalist.

3. Ethical awareness

Journalism is a competitive profession, with publications and news channels grappling to be the leading news source for their audience. Despite the pressure to deliver the most provocative and interesting stories to light, adhering to journalistic ethics and standards rather than prioritizing commercial or political considerations is crucial.

This means that your work should always be fair, accurate, objective and honest, as well as clear of any personal biases that may influence your reporting. Being committed to maintaining your journalistic integrity will make you better at what you do, as you will be able to convey information truthfully and transparently.

4. Written skills

If you want to distinguish yourself from your peers, your writing skills will play an important part. Depending on the type of journalism you are interested in, your writing style and tone will vary. For example, news journalists’ stories must be factual, concise and well-structured, while column journalists can incorporate their voice and opinions into their writing, allowing them to showcase their personality and a unique angle within their pieces.

That said, knowledge of grammar and punctuation, accuracy, and the ability to simplify information in a digestible manner within your writing is a necessity for all journalists. Consequently, being a skilled writer could help set you apart and allow you to establish yourself within the field.

5. Creativity

Being a creative journalist means being able to come up with interesting and compelling stories, find unique angles to existing topics, present information in an engaging manner, and capture your audience through your approach to a subject.

While creativity often comes naturally to some, it is also a skill that can be sharpened through experience and active effort. A good way to be more creative in your journalistic endeavors is to take a page out of other journalists’ pieces and reports that you admire, studying the ways they have broached news in the past and gaining insight into their professional processes.

6. Digital literacy

In this day and age, digital literacy has become a requisite for any career path. Being digitally literate means that you can utilize digital technologies, including social media and online platforms, safely and responsibly. What is more, it allows for active participation in and communication through such platforms in creative and meaningful ways.

For journalists, digital literacy allows them to find, analyze and evaluate sources and information they come across online. This entails being able to spot fake news and false data, ensuring that your work is both credible and accurate when reporting on developing stories.

7. Interpersonal skills

Having good interpersonal skills as a journalist will allow you to build strong relationships and form solid connections with everyone you work with. Indeed, interpersonal skills indicate that you are a good communicator who can effectively interact with others.

For example, when interviewing a source, you will be able to connect with them, helping them feel comfortable and safe, which in turn could produce more insightful and informative stories. Having honed interpersonal skills also means being a good listener and hence being able to pick up on minor details that could make all the difference in a news report or story.

8. Persistence

Journalism can be a challenging career. For you to succeed, you will need persistence and determination. When investigating a story, you may come across several obstacles, from unwilling sources to peer competition to unpredictable hours, all of which will require you to press on to complete your assignment.

If you are determined to make a name for yourself as a journalist, you must be prepared to face the challenges that you may meet along the way, and find the determination to keep moving forward.

9. Confidence

Confidence is key for this career path. For example, when conducting interviews, you need to be confident in yourself to ask important questions and propel the conversation forward; it is up to you to get a source talking and sharing information that will be valuable to your story.

As this career requires a lot of independent work and research, your confidence in your skills and knowledge will be a driving force that will accelerate your professional trajectory. That said, confidence is also something that you will gradually build as you gain more experience in the field, but boldness and self-assurance will be essential as you take your first steps, too.

10. Curiosity

An important trait of every journalist is their natural curiosity for diverse topics. Throughout your professional journey, you will be required to report on numerous stories about a myriad of subjects, and you will need to find the best way to make them compelling to your audience.

Your curiosity is what will drive you forward, helping you dig out the most important information. What is more, being a curious person will encourage you to ask the right questions and seek answers, resulting in more creative and engaging work from you.

Final thoughts

Journalism is an ever-evolving field that is ripe with professional opportunities. Nevertheless, to set yourself apart and succeed, you must hone your craft and develop expertise.

Having a diverse range of technical, soft and hard skills will give you a head-start and set you on the right path. This is not just the case for budding journalists but for seasoned professionals alike, as to stay relevant and keep up with this fast-paced industry, you will need to embrace agile learning and keep ahead of the curve.

Can you think of any skills and qualities essential for budding journalists? Let us know in the comments section below.

Originally published on October 13, 2015.