It’s realistic, even rewarding, to work as a journalist, according to veteran Paula Moyer. Since 1992, she has supported herself and her family in a profession that has transitioned from print-centric reporting to cross-media publication. If you are looking for glamour and wealth, journalism is more about hard work and moderate pay. However, you can earn a living as a journalist and enjoy life-long rewards, learning as you write, building relationships and working independently.
Like many professions, journalism as an industry plummeted in 2007 with the economic collapse, according to the 2011 annual survey by Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication. However, the industry is recovering and the survey reports a slight increase in average salary. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a broad range of salaries within the more general classification of “media and communications,” ranging from $27,000 for announcers to $63,000 for authors.
Journalism is a discipline that requires a bachelor’s degree. Schooling provides an opportunity to explore different media, make mistakes and learn at your own pace. While you can continue on to earn a master’s degree in journalism, the pay difference doesn’t justify the cost unless you enter into a different mass communications industry like science writing. In that case, you also need a science degree. However, a graduate degree provides valuable experience and networking.
Experience means to practice the skills you learned in class. If you want a job or career as a journalist you need to gain experience. You can start in school, reporting or editing the school newspaper, or you can pick up an internship. Web blogging, writing and editing can also build experience, although you should look for opportunities in the journalism media you want to pursue, such as broadcast or newspaper.
Journalism requires strong communications skills, which is also the foundation of building relationships. You have to be professional when sourcing leads, especially over the phone and in person. One of your most important relationships is with your editor, who helps you clarify the story and verify the facts. Also, you need to understand who your readers are and write for them. Because of Web-driven technologies, journalists have an interactive audience accessible through “tweets” and “likes.”
It is realistic to freelance as a journalist. If you choose this path of working independently, you will need to build a client base. Find reputable publications, and seek submissions that pay. Also, it is important to network with other freelancers because it can be isolating work. Hone your skills, read good writing and think of freelancing as building a business portfolio. It can help you with the next step in your career.
- Paula Moyer; Journalist; Minneapolis, MN
Charli Mills has covered the natural food industry since 2001 as a marketing communications manager for a highly successful retail cooperative. She built teams, brands and strategies. She is a writer and editor of "This is Living Naturally," a consultant for Carrot Ranch Communications and a Master Cooperative Communicator.