What Does A Journalist Do?

"If I become a journalist, will I have an exciting career? Growing up, I read a lot of National Geographic magazines, and I’m really good at writing, so I have been thinking of becoming one. But then I wondered if it’s really as exciting as I imagine it to be or if I just have some kind of Hollywood idea in my head. Would I really get to spend all my time traveling the world and stuff? Or would I be spending most of my time in an office, like everybody else?"

asked by Tom from Bend, OR

Unfortunately to some extent at least, I have to dash your hopes. Yes, journalism is largely a job where you set in an office, or more likely a news room, and write, call out and make contacts, and research. That said, there is certainly an element of field work involved, and depending on what type of journalism you specialize in, there could be more or less of that.

Not every journalist on the planet gets to land a job at a magazine like National Geographic though, and you do have to be prepared for the likeliness of doing some mundane work.

You aren’t going to find too many jobs in any field which involve lots of travel and excitement. So that is just something which you realistically will need to get used to when deciding on a career. If you still find you are interested in journalism (like you said, you do enjoy writing and are good at it), I recommend that you call up a news room and ask if you can take a quick tour. There is a good chance they will say “yes,” if you explain that this is career research.

In college, if you get an internship, you can get an even better idea of what day to day like is really like for a journalist.

One thing you can try to do to make it more likely you will actually get out and about is to try and choose a specialty which involves more travel. You can try to pave your career path in the direction of travel journalism or geopolitical journalism, for example. But you do have to be aware that these jobs are very competitive, and that most new journalists spend at least some time doing something more mundane, like obituaries.

Another thought might be to take an approach where you are doing a job which entails field work all or most of the time.

Instead of becoming a journalist for example, why not consider a job as a field reporter or a camera operator? These professionals still report the news, but they necessarily have to go out of the office to do it. Most of these jobs will be local, but will still get you outdoors and actively involved. And many of them will also take you overseas, for example jobs where you become a political or war correspondent.

Ask your advisor for more ideas so you can get on the right track, and good luck!

Career Spotlight: Journalist

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