So You Think You Can Write?
Tips for Aspiring Journalists
By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you a journalist. Yes, you.
Journalism is for the creative and willing mind. If you fall under this category, you're well on your way to success.
Journalism is an ever-changing and diverse field, which means that journalists must remain on their toes. The news cycle stops for no one, so you might as well learn how to pedal.
Here are a few tips for aspiring journalists that might be the extra "push" that you need for your writing.
- Good writers are good readers.You can easily learn good writing from reading the works of others. Read good writing, or read bad writing; just read writing. Discover your favorite author and begin to emulate them. You'll begin to feel the rhythm of their writing and develop a unique version within your own.
- Writer's block only happens when you're writing about something that you don't care about. Quite frankly, journalism is in trouble. We need writers that are passionate, authentic, and adaptable. Find something that piques your interest, and write about it. Your audience will inherently experience your enthusiasm for your topic.
- News is what you say it is. If you ever find yourself without a story, open your eyes. There's always something going on. You only need to pursue it. Make friends and connect with possible sources. Investigate rumors, and never be afraid to tell the truth; that's your entire job.
- Find your news-peg. Your news-peg is your reason for writing a story. Stories should be timely, relevant, and interesting. Always ask yourself, "Is this timely?" It wouldn't make sense to write a Christmas story in April, so be aware of time-sensitive stories. If you're wondering whether or not your story is relevant, think, "Are people going to care?" The closer to home the story hits, the more likely it is to sell. If your article isn't interesting then it's far less likely to be published or read. You're always chasing clicks, views or sales, so be sure to research what your audience finds interesting.
- Use concise language. Life is short and so are AP style paragraphs. There's a huge difference in English writing and AP style writing. Don't be afraid to cut-out the flowery language when writing your stories. We have a short amount of time to grab the reader's attention, and traditional print media only holds so much space. Every word in your story counts, so use intentional language to convey your points.
- If you don't have a source, you don't have a story. If you aren't able to get to the subject of your article, make friends with the behind-the-scenes people. You don't always have to go directly to the subject, especially if they're a VIP, or through Public Relations. Develop relationships with the secretaries and/or the janitors. They hear a lot more than they're given credit for. One minute you're bringing them a coffee and smiling. The next minute, they might be calling you because something is about to go down.
- A journalist that doesn't write consistently is going to struggle. We all know the old phrase, "practice makes perfect." This is especially true for journalism. It's a craft and an art. It takes years to build up a vocabulary that's diversified enough to cover a multitude of stories. You'll begin to grow as a writer as you hone your craft.
- You are only as good as your last story. Journalism is a game of finding the next-best story. What sold last time might not be fresh enough to sell again. Work to "one-up" yourself each time you begin a new article. It's important to understand that there's always room for improvement.