What are the Qualities Required to Become a Good Journalist

Like any other profession, journalism too requires certain types of people, not everyone can become a good journalist. There are certain qualities that a person must possess in order to become a good journalist. Some qualities can be worked on, but mostly a certain personality would be more suitable for the high pressure job of a journalist. I have seen a lot of different people in this field, some live up to the image of the conventional journalist that we have in mind, while others are a stark contrast, nevertheless, they are pretty good at their job. So, what qualities does one need to survive in the competitive world of journalism, here is a list:

There is no room for errors in news, a journalist must make sure he gets accurate information. No guesses should be made, all the information should be double checked. As the popular slogan goes, ‘Get it first, but first get it right.’ A journalist needs to have an eye for detail and accuracy.

In journalism, speed is as important as accuracy. Someone may be a very good writer and may able to write an excellent story in a day. However, a journalist is required to write within the deadline, which may sometimes be not more than 15 minutes. There is always a deadline, if one cannot write in this pressure, then he is definitely not suitable for the job.

It is extremely important for a journalist to be curious, or else he will fail to spot a potential story. He must always be curious to find out as much as he can. He should have a wide range of interests and must be eager to learn about people, places and events. In addition, a keen interest in current affairs is a must.

Wide Range of Knowledge
A journalist must be a well read person, he does not have to be an expert, but he must possess a wide range of knowledge. This is important, because he will be informing people and this is not possible if he is not well informed.

Researching Skills
It is not possible for a journalist to know everything, however it is important that he must be able to research well within the given time. Each story requires a certain amount of research, a journalist must be able to make the most of the available resources to add depth to his story.

Writing Skills
A journalist must be a good writer, he must be able to express himself clearly. He must have good knowledge of grammar and must be able to write in a way that is easily understood by people. In addition, he must have good spellings and punctuation.

Interviewing Skills
A journalist primarily gets his information from people. He meets a lot of different types of people while covering a story. He should be able to ask relevant questions at the right time and should not be intimidated by a big personality. He should have a pleasing personality, or else people will be apprehensive to talk to him. In addition, he should be a good listener and must listen patiently to people irrespective of their age and background.

Objective Thinking
A journalist must be objective, no matter what the situation is. His story must be free of any prejudice and be reported as it is. He may have his own choices with regards to political parties and leaders, etc. However, he should keep them aside when covering a story. Moreover, he should be open to new ideas and views, he should not cover stories with any preconceived notions.

Networking Skills
A journalist must have the ability to build contacts. He must have a long list of acquaintances and friends from different walks of life. It is these contacts that can serve as a source, when a story breaks. Moreover, he should be able to gain the trust of people, so that they call him/her when they have some news.

Detached Attachment
A journalist must report a story in such a way that he is detached and attached to it at the same time. A certain amount of involvement is required to get a good story, but at the same time he should not get so attached that the final story is colored with his beliefs.

A journalist must be very committed to his job, or else the deadlines and long working hours will get to him. Very often a journalist is required to sacrifice his holiday, to cover a breaking story. He must realize that he might have to sacrifice some of his personal life for the job. Hence, a journalist in general, must be committed to the basic human and democratic values.

A journalist must be an extremely disciplined person, to be able to work constantly under strict deadlines. He must be punctual or else people will not be able to trust him with information. A disciplined person would give people confidence, to trust him with news.

A journalist must be a very passionate person, who is enthusiastic to get information, uncover scandals and inform people. Someone who is laid back and has a casual approach, will get bored of his job very quickly. Only a passionate person will be able to do the job every single day with enthusiasm.

Sense of Humor
Journalism can be a very ruthless field; covering tragedies and scandals so often may be depressing for many. A sense of humor would come handy during stressful times and keep a journalist going.

In addition to the above mentioned qualities, it is always better if a journalist has expert knowledge of the beat he intends to cover. He should also, always be in the good books of the police. Journalists are not made in classrooms, they are self motivated people with a fire in their belly. People who aspire to make it big in the world of journalism can certainly try imbibing these qualities. So, if you have most of these above mentioned qualities, then give the media a try, it might be your calling!

Journalism Ethics and Standards

Journalism ethics and standards are a set of principles that act as a guideline for professional journalists. These are often referred to as “code of ethics” or the “canons of journalism”, and are aimed at ensuring that journalists maintain honesty and integrity in their profession. Journalists are challenged regularly in their professional lives as the lines between working ethically and being labeled unethical, sometimes appear blurry. Let us take a look at an example to understand the ethical dilemma journalists may get into in their professional lives.

To uncover massive corruption in India’s Ministry of Defense, an Indian newspaper launched a major sting operation called Operation West End. Two journalists posing as arms dealers from London got into negotiations with the higher-ups in the establishment and filmed the whole conversation. The undercover video showed the secretary of the ruling party and several other higher-ups accepting bribes while promising the journalists to help them in securing government contracts in India. The video was played to the whole nation causing a flutter in the political circles. The casualties were the Minister of Defense, secretary of the ruling party and several other high-profile bureaucrats.

In this scenario, the journalists used covert methods to seek truth and expose the culprits, but it also triggered a debate on whether this can qualify as unethical journalism. It is very important to take a balanced view at the subject. The motive behind this act was to uncover those who were causing losses worth millions of dollars for their own personal gains apart from compromising on the security of the nation. If the journalists had not embarked on this mission, there was every possibility that those corrupt ministers would have never been brought to justice. The other side of the coin is that by using hoax names, posing as someone else, or taping someone without his/her permission is an act of infringement of an individual’s privacy, and hence unacceptable. The debate on this issue can go on, but the real issue at hand is that journalists come across these situations frequently, and without the presence of clear-cut guidelines, it more or less becomes an individualistic choice.

Journalism Ethics

As far as the ethics are concerned, there isn’t any standard reference book which journalists can refer to. There are different types of journalism and it is an evolving field and there is scope to incorporate new principles. Various associations come up with basic codes and canons frequently and most of them lay emphasis on the virtues of conducting yourself honestly, fairly and without any slant. Some of the universal journalism ethics and standards are:
☛ Journalists should conduct themselves sincerely and honestly, and they should strive to present information in a lucid manner to public. Journalists have to ensure that they verify all relevant facts before airing/publishing the story.
☛ They should be free from all prejudices concerning race, religion, sex and ethnicity, and every attempt should be made to ensure that no section of society is hurt by their reporting.
☛ They should not use any covert means to obtain information and should make every attempt to ensure that they are not intruding into an individual’s privacy.
☛ Special care should be taken while interviewing children, mentally challenged individuals and people who are going through a turmoil. If the person in question does not want to give an interview, journalists should respect his wish and not indulge in any kind of pestering and nagging.
☛ Journalists should not be influenced by any personal gains, consideration, advantage offered and should ensure that they do not publish/broadcast something for these gains.

Journalists around the world have been often accused of giving more importance to matters pertaining to glamor and leisure rather than focusing on issues that are of grave importance. An example of this can be the hysterical media coverage on the wedding of Prince William. The marriage was beamed live across the world, putting more concerning issues on the back-burner. Journalists on the other hand, have always maintained that catering to what people want to watch is important and can’t be overlooked.

As mentioned earlier, ethics and journalism is an ongoing theory and it is characterized by constant additions and omissions. The onus lies on journalists to ensure that they keep-up the good work and refrain from getting into something that can make people to lose faith in this institution and raise questions on the very foundation on which it was laid.