20 Best Tips for Aspiring Online Journalists
Digital journalism is a competitive career. It’s a goal that requires talent, energy, and a lot of perseverance. If you’re an aspiring online journalist, you’ll know all too well that the climb is an uphill one, but that just makes the destination all the sweeter.
To help you succeed in finding your ideal digital journalist role, here are twenty tips.
1. Find the Right Journalism Course
If you have no previous journalism experience on your resume, your best course of action is to find a quality journalism course to teach you all about editorial content distribution. There are plenty of digital journalism degrees out there, but if you have already attained your bachelor’s, you can also apply for a digital journalism masters.
Having a masters is a sensible idea anyway, as it’ll put you ahead of everyone who only has a bachelor’s degree. Plus, you can often study for your digital journalism masters from home, allowing you to build up enough work experience to help you find a job after graduation.
2. Keep Up to Date with Your Professor
Once you’ve applied to either a bachelor’s or digital journalism masters, you should put an effort into keeping up to date with your professor. This is especially important if you are studying from home, as you’ll have to put in a little more effort to create a strong professional relationship. By being open with your professor, you’ll receive more advice and guidance in your studies, which will help you when you eventually apply for online journalist roles. Plus, there’s the bonus of an excellent recommendation!
3. Make Lots of Connections Early On
You don’t just need connections to get ahead in journalism; you also need them to get started. By making plenty of close connections with your classmates, workmates, and professors during the early days, you’ll find that more opportunities come your way later. For example, you could make a close friend during your digital journalism masters, and they might later recommend you for an online magazine role at their company.
4. Read the News Every Morning and Every Night
As an aspiring journalist, the chances are you already read plenty of articles. It’s time to make it a scheduled habit, as you’ll need to ensure you never miss any major headlines. To do this, start reading the news every morning and every night on a variety of subjects – even the ones you’re not writing about yourself. Not only will this gradually help your writing skills, but it’ll ensure you’re always up to date with the latest goings-on, which is an essential part of being a journalist.
If you have a targeted direction for your preferred journalism topic, you should focus on that subject during your reading. The more knowledgeable you are, the more likely you’ll get your dream job.
5. Start a Blog
One of the best hobbies you can start as an aspiring online journalist is blogging. You can blog about any topic you like, whether that is sports, green living, nature, or fashion. There are numerous benefits to doing this, including improving your writing skills, learning how to engage readers, and knowing how to use and edit images and videos.
While running a blog, it is also a good idea to learn SEO techniques and apply them to your site, as they will come in handy when you start online journalism.
6. Focus on the Topics You Are Interested in
As mentioned, it’s a good idea to focus primarily on the topics you are interested in, as this will increase the likelihood of you finding a journalism role you enjoy. After all, it’s better to be an expert in a couple of things than average at many! It’s also important not to limit yourself, though, so try to keep up to date with numerous topics while focusing your studies on the subject you want to write about.
7. Grow an Online Presence
Growing an online presence is a sensible idea for anyone looking for a role in the media, as it will appeal to multiple employers. Plus, many of the skills you learn while growing your professional online brand will carry over to your role in digital journalism.
There are several ways to grow an online presence, including:
Post Regularly on Social Media
Once you have your professional social media accounts, remember to update them regularly with quality posts and content.
Connect with Others Online
One of the best ways to grow online is to connect with other like-minded users. There are plenty of communities online based around different topics, so integrate yourself into one that suits you.
Put Out Quality Content
Even if it’s just a Twitter post or an Instagram picture, if you want people to take you seriously, always maintain a high level of quality.
If you post ten times in one week and then abandon your socials for a month, you’ll undo a lot of your hard work, so make sure you stay consistent with posting, commenting, and interacting.
8. Take an Extra IT Course
Online journalists need more skills than writing and interviewing; you’ll also need excellent IT skills. While you will learn a lot of what you need to know during your digital journalism masters, it’s also a good idea to take an extra IT course to properly familiarize yourself with all the technical knowledge. Plus, it’ll look great on your resume.
9. Work on Your Photography and Video Editing Skills
If you want to become a pro digital journalist, you’ll need to acquire multiple skills, including the ability to take great pictures and edit videos. It’ll serve you well during your studies and your first role, so have a look online for courses and guides.
10. Write Every Single Day
While journalism is no longer just about writing, it still plays the biggest part, which means you must have excellent writing skills if you want to succeed. One of the best ways to improve is to write every single day, whether that is for a blog, a diary, or some other personal notes.
You should also practice writing news pieces even if you don’t plan on publishing them. The more practice, the better, and it’s helpful to get out your first few low-quality pieces when there is no obligation.
11. Stay on the Lookout for Internships
As an aspiring online journalist, you might have to put up with some unpaid roles at the beginning for the experience. Don’t worry – it won’t be forever, and the experience you gain will help you find the role you want (that pays well). So, keep an eye out for digital journalist internships, and remember to keep updating your resume whenever you gain new skills, experience, and qualifications.
12. Learn to Grow a Thick Skin
Much like many writing careers, digital journalism requires you to have a thick skin. You’re not going to be an expert at first, and that’s OK! Rather than taking criticism on your work personally, see it as a valuable piece of advice to guide you in the right direction. Over time, you’ll become better at critiquing your own work, and you’ll find fewer edits have to be made.
13. Research Companies Before You Apply
Once you reach the stage where you’re applying to different companies, make sure you thoroughly research them before showing up. No matter how smartly you’re dressed or how prompt and charming you are, you won’t leave a good impression if you don’t know the first thing about their practices. So, once you’re lucky enough to land your dream interview, spend some time learning all about the company you’re applying for. Another bonus – it shows how good of a researcher you are!
14. Learn How to Spot a Credible Source
As a digital journalist, you will spend a lot of your time researching, which means you’ll need to understand exactly where to look. Professional online journalists are experts at spotting a credible source, which means you’ll need to be, too. A couple of things to look out for are the date of publication, the publisher’s authority, and the accuracy of the information.
15. Work on Your Interpersonal Skills
Throughout your online journalist journey, you will meet a lot of different people, and the impressions you leave will directly link to your success. To make sure you make great connections, then, you must work on your interpersonal skills. That means practicing empathy, active listening, and assertiveness.
16. Always Keep a Notebook in Your Bag
One of the most important habits to get into as an aspiring online journalist is keeping a notebook in your presence at all times – not just when you’re doing your digital journalism masters. By doing so, you can jot down ideas, sketch out plans, and keep memos wherever you go. Once you achieve your dream of being a digital journalist, it’ll be an essential habit, anyway!
17. Write Multiple Headlines Before Settling on One
If you want to catch the attention of a journalist recruiter with a portfolio, you want to make sure the headlines are eye-catching. After all, that’s the first thing that draws the reader in. Your first headline is often not the best one for the job, so workshop a few before settling on one.
18. Stay Organized
For digital online journalists, organization is key. You won’t be able to deliver the latest news without having excellent time management skills, after all. It’s better to practice these skills before starting your first job, as your first role will likely throw you into the deep end. So, stick to a schedule, always show up on time, and never miss a deadline – especially during your digital journalism masters. It helps to write a to-do list at the beginning of each week.
19. Question Everything You Read
Questioning everything you read online is a very handy habit to get into. By asking, “how factually accurate is this?” not only will you become better at spotting credible sources, but you will also start to look at news pieces from different angles, giving you a creative edge. So, the next time you read a short blog piece on ocean waste or a politically biased newspaper article, take a step back and consider opposing viewpoints.
20. Remember Why You Started
The world of online journalism is competitive and often challenging. When you’re still in the aspiring stage, you might feel a little overwhelmed with all the climbing involved, possibly to the point you feel like giving up. In times like these, it’s important to remember why you started your digital journalism journey in the first place.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Digital Journalist?
When the going gets rough, it’s important to think about all the benefits that await you once you nail that job interview and get your dream role as a digital journalist.
There is a Lot of Variety
One of the best benefits to studying a digital journalism masters and working in online journalism is the amount of variety there is day to day. One day, you could be covering a story about the environmental effects of plastic waste, and the next, you might be writing about a friendly neighborhood cat.
You Can Learn from Home
Another benefit is that you can achieve your digital journalism masters from home, saving time and money. Just remember to stay focused even when you have other obligations.
You’ll Never be Bored
With how fast-paced and urgent journalism is, you won’t have a single second to be bored. It suits people who enjoy being around people and crave a stimulating work environment.
It’s a Fulfilling Role
As an online journalist, you get to look at your piece of work from anywhere in the world knowing what you accomplished. After spending many hours writing, interviewing people, and gathering information, it is satisfying to know you have completed a quality project.
Being aspiring digital journalists isn’t easy. With enough dedication and persistence, though, you are sure to ace your digital journalism masters and get the job you’ve always dreamed of.