How to Be a Successful Journalist in 2013

Doesn’t everybody love “how to” lists? They not only simplify otherwise complex tasks but they also perceive the “be” part as easily attainable by one and all!

As a recent journalism school graduate, I have looked back on my experiences at the school and various media outlets and have decided that to become a successful journalist in 2013 I must have the following experiences and/or qualities:

To be a successful journalist in 2013…

  1. You must come from a well-off family. That is, your parents must be willing to financially support you as you partake in that unpaid internship in New York City or Los Angeles. Didn’t find someone to sublease your apartment in your college town? No worries, the ‘rents have ya covered. It’s not like you had time to make over $10,000 while taking classes full-time the academic year before, so how would you be able to pay for your rent, food, and living expenses without the help of good ol’ mom and dad? Internships are what get you that job after graduation after all, or at least that’s what “they” say, and what parent really wants their kid to come home after 4 years kid-free? 
  2. You must be willing to sacrifice your social life. You won’t care about why Tony and Sheila broke up because you’ll be too busy caring about why the local school board is voting against a healthier hot lunch menu. The closest friends you’ll have are your fellow reporters, but even then you can’t always trust them since moving your way up the journalism hierarchy is rare and demands some competition. Also, your fellow reporter friends will get dull after awhile because you’ll just keep talking about the same thing — work. 
  3. In college, you must be willing to sacrifice your grades if you want to get some clips in that daily paper. Breaking news happening at the court house and you’ve been assigned to cover it? Well screw class! This shits more important to your editors! You won’t even realize that your reporting is affecting your grades until after countless absences in psych causing you to land an automatic “F” in the class. You needs a strong GPA anyways, as long as you graduate that’s all that matters! 
  4. You must have a smart phone or a tablet on you at all costs. Still using a Motorola Razr to keep in touch with your (tiny) social circle? Well you’re fucked when it comes to learning about breaking news. Unless your ass is hunkered down in front of a TV 24/7, but even then you’ll still be one of the last to know, since your 13-year-old neighbor, Sally, just texted you about the mass spread of bird flu all over Europe before it even hit the airwaves. 
  5. You must have at least a bit more knowledge and recognition than the average Joe on almost every important/relevant topic related to the United States, its world affairs and celebrity gossip. If you can’t write up a 400 word story about the conflict in Iraq in 30 minutes, you’ll be stapling paper packets for the majority of your career. And, if you get shit wrong in the 400 word story about Iraq, you’ll never write about the conflict, Iraq, or any world event again. 
  6. You must be open to trying new social media and technological advances as they happen. Even if you think it is the most stupid fad that’ll die out within six months, you must utilize it like it’s the greatest thing in the world! Not on Twitter? How do you crowdsource? Not on Facebook? How do you publicize your articles out to the public? Not on Instagram? Don’t you want to use different filters to make your random story/newsy photographs more appealing to the eye? 
  7. You must be really fuckin’ nosy or at least dangerously curious. No shy person can be a successful journalist. Why? Because you have to bug the shit out of people to get them to give you the straight answer, you have to snoop through their garbage to find the documents that you want to read but they’ve already shredded, you have to go up to random people and ask them either difficult or ridiculous questions and hope they don’t pour their 7Eleven Slurpee all over head because you bothered them or offended them with your question. 
  8. You must be completely content with being underpaid, under-appreciated, and constantly judged in the most negative way possible by the general public, as well as the GOP and other angry, bitter groups. 
  9. Don’t know AP style. No worries – whip out your Kindle or e-reader to look it up or shit, they even have a Twitter account you can reference. This relates back to #4 & #6, if you don’t have an e-reader, a smart phone, or use Twitter then you gotta rely on the old school method of memorization. But, really, who does that nowadays? 
  10. You got to have the passion for informing the public about issues, events, or persons that are either beneficial to their lives and understanding or that could be harmful to their lives and their understanding. Hopefully, journalism will slow the hell down and stop trying to curve words one way or another and return to its classic watchdog format and report words in a format that allows the reader/viewer/listener to make their own observations and decisions.

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