Before you start getting starry-eyed about the fame you're sure to get or the celebrities with whom you'll be rubbing elbows, let's get real about the profession of journalism. It's true that you might have a chance to meet a celebrity or powerful politician and even be on TV, but journalism involves a lot more thankless hard work than just showing up and getting your makeup done. To survive and thrive in the industry, be ready for long hours, low pay and plenty of stress about deadlines.
Unless you make it to the highest echelons of the industry, don't expect to make a mint being a journalist. Sure, journo-celebs like Anderson Cooper or Tom Brokaw do make lofty salaries, but that's far from the norm. The average reporter, correspondent or broadcast news analyst made $36,000 a year as of 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That breaks down to about $17 per hour -- not exactly the funds you'll need to buy that vacation home.
If journalists were actually paid by the hour, they'd probably be doing better than that $36,000 a year -- but the reality is, news outlets typically pay journalists a salary, rather than straight hourly. Journalists put in extraordinarily long hours researching stories and tracking down and interviewing sources, and that's not to mention the time it takes to actually produce the story. Even the regular TV and newspaper jobs can include 10 or more hours a day on the job, and usually at odd hours. Journalists who work on morning TV shows may arrive at work at 1 a.m. to prepare for a 5 a.m. broadcast, and when big stories break, staffers may be called in to cover news on their days off.
Journalists are constantly "under deadline." When stories happen, news outlets are motivated to be the first ones on the scene, the first ones to report the story, the first ones to get that key interview -- and that puts tremendous pressure on the entire news team to deliver effective, non-biased, truthful reports quickly. Reporters must move quickly and analyze information on the fly, all while dealing with interviewees who may have just undergone a serious trauma or financial disaster. If you want to understand the definition of stress, walk into a newsroom in the minutes after a major news story breaks.
Changing Job Market
In the words of the "American Journalism Review," the mantra of the industry should be "adapt or die." With the advent of the Internet and the subsequent changes in the publishing industry, the field of journalism has undergone tremendous changes since the end of the 20th century. Journalists who once held esteemed jobs as TV producers, newspaper reporters or magazine editors have had to reinvent themselves as web writers, bloggers or social media experts -- and often at a significant reduction in pay. Journalists no longer have a single path toward success; rather, they must be prepared to handle the news for print, broadcast or digital platforms every day.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.