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Tips to be a journalist

What do you want to do when you leave school? Become a doctor, engineer, teacher, astronaut? Well, perhaps we can’t become astronauts as yet in Sri Lanka, but we sure have avenues for most of the other, conventional jobs. Maybe some of us ought to consider getting off the beaten track though - there are plenty of options or other, less well-travelled routes.

Ever considered becoming a journalist?

Well, here’s some advice and career tips from someone who’s always wanted to be one and finally achieved her dream in the print field.

The Work

It’s loads of fun! As a journalist, you get to go out, interact with and interview people from all walks of life as well as see a lot of out-of-the-way things.

Whoever you are interviewing or whatever you are seeing is going to be put in the papers right? Person, place or event, it has to be something extraordinary! It can be a very enriching and educative experience to work as a journalist.

The newspapers are often divided into the news and features sections.


Whatever of any importance happening at the moment is news. In journalistic circles, we use certain criteria such as proximity (elections in say, Bolivia would be of little interest to us), prominence, human interest, unusualness, timeliness (as in currentness), impact, and more to define news.

News is usually written in a crisp and clear manner in short, sharp sentences. The objective is to pass on information without the writer’s personality or bias coming to the fore. It is also written in the ‘inverted pyramid’ style, i.e. where the facts are written in descending order of importance.

News should contain the five Ws and one H (Why, When, Where, What and Who as well as How) so that there might be no unanswered questions left in the readers’ mind.

Ideally, all these should come in the lead sentence itself although this is not always possible. Then, it should come at least within the first paragraph. Readers should be able to get the gist of the news from reading the first few lines. They can then either go on reading if it is of interest to them or let their eyes light elsewhere on the page in search of other news.


Features are often longer and more creatively written. Here it does not matter if the writer’s personality impinges a little and his/her opinions are explicitly or implicitly stated.

Unlike in news writing, the introduction of a feature, instead of giving the whole story away, will instead grip the reader into reading more.

Creative writing comes a lot into play here unlike in news writing, in order to entice the readers to read the whole piece.

What it takes to be a Journalist

* A nose for news: It certainly helps if you are one of these ‘nosy’ people who can sniff out a potential story.

* Curiosity and a lively interest: Don’t pay any attention to people who tell you ‘curiosity killed the cat’ and that it is a bad habit. If you have an insatiable curiosity, this is the field for you.

* General Knowledge: Journalists should ideally be well-read and knowledgeable in most subjects. You can’t possibly know everything in the world but try anyway. Otherwise, if you have a passion for any one field, you can cover that as a beat, e.g. Politics, Sports, Business, Health, etc.

* A friendly, outgoing personality: Not that introverts can’t be journalists but it doesn’t hurt if you are easily able to make friends and maintain contacts as well as put the subjects of your stories at ease and in a talkative mood.

* Last but not least, good writing skills: You might be one of the best reporters in the world in ferreting out stories and getting all the necessary information but most of it will go to waste if you are unable to communicate your ideas and story to the reader in an appropriate manner. So pay more attention to your language teachers during those essay writing classes.

Courtesy: SundayObserver

Posted on Sunday, June 13, 2010 @ 23:17:51 LKT by

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