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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!