Journalism is a dynamic, high energy field which has been continually evolving in step with the advances in communications, i.e. print, photography, radio, television, digital media, and which offers a nearly limitless scope of professional venues.
In the United States, the press performs several functions, including political, entertainment, economic, social, and record-keeping. Still, the most important task the press is charged with, by far, is to monitor and report on the actions of the government and its branches.
The primary role of journalists is to provide their audiences with accurate and reliable information and to deliver a thorough and objective account of events and issues. The overall mission of the press is to enlighten the public and to further justice and progress by exposing social ills and biases. To put it into more romantic terms, journalists are the tireless seekers of truth, the voice of the working man, the guardians of societal conscience who challenge and keep in check the powers that be.
Journalism is a noble vocation, requiring a special mindset and commitment to serving the public. It’s been suggested that “the supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service”. Indeed, journalists are known for their intrepid spirit and willingness to sacrifice themselves, if necessary, to witness and chronicle an event. In search of stories, journalists may find themselves trotting the world, often in remote and dangerous locations, forgoing sleep and comforts of life, and enduring long periods of separation from their loved ones. Moreover, we know of many instances from past and current occurrences when brave reporters and photojournalists have literally put their lives on the line alongside the soldiers in the trenches to document the realities of combat and to capture and render a candid portrayal of the battlefield.
Journalism is a creative profession, requiring literary talent, intelligence, natural curiosity, contemplative ability, and advanced analytical skills, which all-in-all comprise key attributes of compelling and sophisticated storytelling. To grab and hold the attention of a discriminating reader, to engage the audience, provoke thought, and stir emotion, requires for a journalist to master the art of writing. In fact, celebrated writers Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, and John "Jack" Silas Reed started out as journalists. Precision in writing applies to all genres and media across the board, be it print news, broadcast news, advertising, or public relations.
The journalistic trade entails pursuing, investigating, interviewing, writing, reporting, broadcasting, and editorializing news, current events and developments of political significance, social, economic, scientific importance, entertainment value, or human interest for a newspaper or TV network. In order to be able to understand and analyze stories, situations, and platforms they may encounter, journalists must strive to develop broad knowledge and understanding of issues. A journalist specializing in a certain area, such as politics or education, is expected to demonstrate expertise on the subject and institutions he or she may cover.
Since its inception during the Colonial times, American journalism has undergone different stages of maturation - from openly partisan, sensationalized, anything goes “reporting” to responsible and balanced coverage of the news.
Although freedom of the press, a prerequisite for a free society and the foundation of democracy, is guaranteed by the First Amendment, journalists have established and adhere to self-imposed but none the less indelible codes of professional ethics which serve as guidelines for making journalistic and public relations decisions. Among main principals of good journalism are: truthful and unbiased reporting, avoidance of anonymous sources when possible, establishing credibility of sources providing information, protecting identity of the sources, testing and verifying the facts before publishing a story.
Newspapers, wire services, magazines, public relations firms, TV, radio, or online media outlets seek to recruit well-educated, articulate, versatile individuals with whom the public can identify and who can grow with the ongoing changes in the industry. All thriving journalists share a common thread - they understand how to tell a story through multiple media, using a variety of technological tools.
Many colleges and universities offer programs in Broadcast, Magazine, and Newspaper Journalism, along with Photojournalism, Mass Communications, Electronic Media/Communications, and Public Relations.
In addition to developing competencies in newspaper writing/reporting, feature writing, editing, design, stand-up performance, narrating, online journalism, photojournalism, and public relations techniques, individuals majoring in journalism also learn about legal aspects that govern the media.
Upon completion of the Mass Communications program at Glendale Community College, students will become skilled at reporting and writing the news and will obtain first-hand experience in the college newspaper El Vaquero. Moreover, individuals will develop understanding of the creative story-telling side of journalism, copy reading and editing, headline writing, newspaper layout and make-up, as well as the overall mechanics of newspaper production.
Students interested in pursuing a Bachelor’s degree should consult with an academic and/or transfer counselor to discuss university transfer requirements.
A degree in journalism may lead to a wide range of careers that can be exciting, unique and rewarding. Most journalists, however, start as reporters, specializing in general assignment, beat, lifestyle, investigative, entertainment, political affairs, or sports reporting.
Generally speaking, reporters collect and analyze information about events to write news stories for publication or broadcast. They either receive assignments or locate news leads and tips on their own to develop story ideas. The process of developing a story includes authenticating factual information through interviews, observation, and research, organizing material, determining the impact, mass appeal, angle, and focus of the story, and writing articles according to a prescribed editorial style and format standards. At a weekly newspaper, reporters often act as photographers or may even shoot videos to illustrate their stories. Reporters as well as correspondents deliver on-scene live coverage of an event or transmit communications via the mobile broadcast unit. Correspondents, for the most part, gather and cover news away from their home offices. In contrast to reporters who, by and large, exercise impartiality in their presentation of news, correspondents may put a personal slant on the story as well as state their own views and opinions. Foreign correspondents bring the latest stories from around the world. They are stationed overseas and operate with the support of foreign bureaus set up by sizable media companies. Newspaper reporters often wear several hats and may be called upon to edit the copy, create the layout, or assist with production.
The multitasking family of journalistic professionals consists of newspaper columnists, editorial writers, magazine editors, TV or radio broadcasters, newscasters, anchorpeople, etc. It's worth pointing out that regardless of the job title or visibility, committed journalists have one thing in common - they enjoy news work and share intense passion for what they do notwithstanding the scale or significance of their assignments. To them, journalism is more than a job; it’s a way of life. Individuals with all types of talents and competencies can carve out a niche for themselves, but to succeed in the field of journalism, which is known for its extremely competitive nature, it takes more then skillful wielding of a pen. One has to be prepared to stand up to the pressures and challenges associated with earning respect of his peers, forming a bond of trust with audiences, and cultivating a loyal following. Some young, budding journalism student might have grand visions of achieving primetime celebrity status and joining the ranks of the "up front" personalities, but it would be erroneous to equate journalism with fame and riches. Before entering the profession, it’s important to recognize that for every prominent TV anchor or a glamorous talk show host, there are hundreds of hard working reporters, staff writers, and correspondents putting in long hours behind the scenes in total anonymity.
To find out if journalism is for you, to get the taste of the newsroom work environment, and to gain hands-on real-world experience in covering news, students should get involved with their college radio station or newspaper or obtain an internship in a related line of work. The GCC Job Placement Center maintains a list of current internship opportunities in Journalism. While most internships are unpaid, internship experience should be included on a resume.
Key Skills and Characteristics
- Knowledge of journalism principles, sentence and story structure, grammar rules and usage.
- Understanding of the key elements of the news story and multiple mass communication media environments.
- A knack for investigating and reporting the news.
- Top-notch communications skills and literary talent.
- Honesty, integrity, and ability to project and inspire trust in others.
- Engaging personality; excellent social, public relations, and interviewing skills.
- Ability to develop and deliver effective presentations.
- Knowledge and skill in the application of journalistic research techniques.
- Computer literacy and proficiency in new technologies.
- Capability to manage a number of activities simultaneously, think and act fast, not crumble under pressure.
- Awareness of and compliance with editorial and ethical standards.
- Flexibility and willingness to work overnight, weekends and holidays.
Related Career Titles
*News Anchor *News Reporter *News Writer *News Director *Newspaper Gossip Columnist *Assignment Editor *Foreign Correspondent *Commentator *Editorial or Continuity Writer *Copy Writer *Copy Editor *Editor in Chief *Publisher *Producer and Director *Photographer *Photojournalist *Advertising Account Director *Public Relations Specialist *Freelance Writer *College Professor *Editorial Cartoonist * Political Analyst *Sports Broadcaster or Announcer
Please visit the GCC Career Center to research specific occupational information and learn more about your selected career path.