Qualities you need to be a journalist

There will be lots of teenagers at this moment thinking about their future careers as they prepare for the upcoming exam season.

Some will be interested in a career in journalism.

And they will be wondering if they have the personal qualities required to get a job as a newspaper reporter or a broadcast journalist.

I’ve worked in newspapers for more than 20 years and I’ve done just about every job in the industry during that time.

press conference

So to help aspiring journalists I’ve listed nine qualities you really need to have to work in the profession.

It is not necessary to have all of the following but as long as you possess a good number of them then I would advise you to seriously consider making a career in journalism.


Journalists want to find things out and they like to challenge authority. They constantly seek authentic sources for stories to back-up a tip-off or a leak.

Journalists go beyond a press release. They will ask additional questions and also go to another source to give an alternative view.

You need to be inquisitive to thrive in the world of journalism. That means having your eyes and ears open to potential news stories when you are driving to work, walking down the street or watching television.


As a news and features writer you will be covering subjects you know nothing about and which you’ve never before had an interest in.

But you will find yourself in situations where a story breaks around you or it assumes a different focus and so it is important to know about as wide a range of topics as possible.

Your mind needs to act like a sponge, soaking up information and intelligence when you are watching television, reading a newspaper or magazine or listening to the radio


It’s a fact of modern life that many of us do a lot more hours at work than we are actually paid for, whatever job we do.

Journalism is certainly not a profession for someone who is a clock-watcher.

You’ll be asked to cover evening meetings at your local council on a provincial weekly newspaper or you might have to stay in the office to reach an important source for a story who is unavailable during working hours.


Accuracy is everything. Never assume anything. Fact checking is one of the proud boasts of journalists the world over.

It is what distinguishes us from bloggers and those who break news on social media sites, often via someone who they thought was telling them the truth.

Journalists also work within the law, mainly because we can be sued for libelling someone, but also because it protects the integrity of what we do.


If you can’t take criticism then journalism is not the career for you.

You will get occasional abuse via a telephone caller who is unhappy you didn’t cover their story in the latest issue.

And there can be threats and verbals aimed at you while you are covering court cases or attending sensitive hearings such as inquests.

You may also be tasked to cover upsetting stories but your job is to report the news in a balanced and accurate way.


Nailing good stories is often about getting people to trust you, either in the way you approach them or how you deal with them over a period of time.

So you need to be good with people to be a journalist and be able to build relationships with key influencers in the community or the industry you cover.

Having good contacts is essential because they will lead to a steady flow of stories and when something big breaks they might give you that all important tip-off or access to someone who will tell you the information.


There are many occasions when journalists are required to show tact and understanding.

From early in your career, you will be asked to interview family members of people killed in tragic accidents.

Clearly, this is often a difficult task even for the most seasoned of journalists.

But if you are someone who typically treats others with respect then you will find it more comfortable.


If you eventually progress to a national newspaper you might be required to write articles with a political slant.

But when you’re starting out you can’t reveal any leaning towards a political party.

The same goes for religion. Your own personal thoughts should not intrude on the stories you file.

There will be issues you have strong views about but you can’t let these impinge on your reporting.


Lastly, and some journalists might say, most importantly, is the requirement to have a laugh in the job.

This doesn’t mean having a joke at the expense of colleagues, although this sometimes happens.

But it is more to do with enjoying the job for what it is. You will come across some characters and news items which are genuinely hilarious.

A new book titled How To Become A Journalist

This content is featured in more depth in Chapter 1 of my book How To Become A Journalist, which is available on Amazon UK as a paperback or eBook.

If you require any careers advice on the journalism profession please feel free to contact me on nrennie157@gmail.com













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