Even as technology has greatly changed the way people receive their news, the basic tenets of journalism writing have largely remained the same for hundreds of years. It is the type of writing used to report news stories in all media formats.
Clear and accurate writing is essential for every journalist, whether they cover a daily newspaper beat, write investigative books, create magazine feature stories, produce web videos, or work in broadcasting - where script-writing skills are vital.
To capture the attention of readers of all backgrounds and educational levels, journalists use short, simple sentences that present objective facts. They utilize quotations from reliable sources to uncover the facts and give stories credibility. Most editors require investigative journalists to have at least two sources confirming a story that has legal implications before it goes to press and/or online.
Attribution is key to journalistic writing, and articles should contain the five w’s – who, what, where, when and why. News reporting uses the pyramid method of writing. Reporters put the most newsworthy information first in the lead. This is followed by important details in the body of the story. Other general information is included at the end of the article. By using this method, journalists help readers ascertain the key elements of the story immediately. This method helps newspaper editors cut the article from the bottom if space is limited.
Constant Change is the Hallmark of Journalism Writing in US History
Journalistic writing has been front and center in determining the public’s knowledge of and reaction to historic turning points in United States' history. It all began in 1690, when America’s first newspaper, Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, was published in Boston. From the country’s early days through the 19th century, newspapers in America were mostly politically partisan and/or promoted religious point of views.
The first newspaper to fit the 20th century style of journalism was the New York Herald, which was politically independent. It was the first to have a city staff with regular beats and to have foreign correspondents.
One of the great ironies of American journalism history is that Joseph Pulitzer, the father of “yellow journalism” that sensationalized the news in the late 1800s, went on to fund schools of journalism that set higher standards for the field. As the publisher of the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the New York World, which he acquired in the 1880s, Pulitzer used “yellow journalism” to open the way to mass-circulation newspapers. Today, he is known mostly for establishing the Pulitzer Prizes, which are given annually to recognize and reward excellence in American journalism. His $2 million endowment founded The Columbia School of Journalism, which opened in 1912. This followed the opening of The Missouri School of Journalism founded by the University of Missouri with Pulitzer’s urging. Both schools remain among the most respected long-established schools of journalism, along with the Medill School at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Interest in American journalism skyrocketed in 1971 when Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein played a leading role in unraveling the Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon Administration.
21st century journalism in the US has seen the rise of the blogger and user-based journalism. In addition, the linked nature of the internet has given rise to aggregators like The Huffington Post and Google News that no longer rely on individual journalists to provide news, but pull news stories from various sources. This trend has led to a greater focus on advocacy journalism that seeks to attract an audience interested in viewpoints that attempt to put the news into context.
Jobs, Salaries, and Recommended Education to Succeed in this Challenging Field
Today, journalists can write for print newspapers and magazines, radio and television news broadcasts, and online newspapers, e-newsletters and blogs. Professional journalists go into broadcast news, digital media, and print publications. Topics reporters cover public affairs, sports, financial and legal affairs, science and medical news, local and national politics, educational issues, and more.
Whether it is at the undergraduate or graduate level, students interested in getting into this field should take courses that hone their writing, research and editing skills. This is the foundation that is needed to meet the needs of the 21st century’s diverse media landscape.
Most major media outlets require people coming into the field to have a Masters of Journalism. Top journalism schools empower students to hone their research and interviewing skills. In addition to getting a solid journalism education, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that people should focus on writing for online newspapers and local print newspapers before applying to major media outlets. According to BLS, people going into this field should consider freelancing for newspapers, magazines and other print – both print and online.
According to www.journalismdegree.com, education and training in this field can start in high school, where students can write and edit their high school newspapers, and write for local community newspapers. At the undergraduate level, this website suggests that students should write for their college newspapers, try to obtain internships in the field, and develop their own blog or write a local newsletter.
With the print side of this field shrinking, journalism writers face growing challenges to earning a decent living wage. According to www.glassdoor.com, the average base salary for an average journalist is $45,925. According to this website, the average salaries range from a reporter making $43,000 a year to an editor making $56,000 a year.
According to www.payscale.com, the median salary for a journalist in 2017 is $39,432. Payscale reports that one in four journalists lack any major benefits, but that people in the field report a high level of work satisfaction.
At the high-end of the salary scale for journalist writers, a typical New York Times journalist/reporter salary is $105,620. Salaries at the Times range from $95,000 to $115,555, according to www.glassdoor.com.
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