A journalist is a person who wants the truth to be made known to the world. A journalist wants to enlighten, embolden, and inspire. A journalist… is a lot like most people out there, is that not right? Well, journalism is a skillset, a lifestyle.

It is a profession that takes years to master, just like any other. However, the core of being a good journalist, to have what it takes to make it big, is actually a set of very common and important values for functioning members of society. Why not read on to see if you have the essentials to be a good journalist?

The best journalists in the world have tons of expertise. They probably have a niche, a specialty on which they focus much of their work. They have been developing that niche for years, maybe even decades. However, that can be the last thing on the mind of an aspiring new journalist. Jack Hawn started his journalism career out of nothing but a need for income; he was a copy boy for a Hollywood newspaper and was often commissioned by the writers to do reviews for plays, and he was eventually hired as a writer when a vacancy opened at the Los Angeles Times. After forty-three years as a journalist, he is now retired and has written a delightful retelling of his career, entitled Blind Journey: A Journalist’s Memoirs. In it, he details some of the key moments, including working to cover everything from Muhammad Ali boxing matches to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. performances. In the field of entertainment, he is definitely an embodiment of the characteristics of a good journalist, and his only training was the work itself.

Really, the important traits for a good journalist to have are very much common with the important traits to be a good person and academic.

A good journalist has integrity. Like any other profession, ethics is a major part of the job description. Ethics and morals are things that must be upheld both in and out of the public eye and the eye of authority. A journalist must collect, assess, and present the information for the sake of informing the audience, the general public, of the facts of the matters of the present world. Many bad journalists are known because of their tendency towards the opposite purpose – furthering their own selfish agendas. Journalists who knowingly hide information, bend the truth, and spread lies are not really even journalists, but puppets of great scams and scandals; free speech and the press are important, but these individuals ruin them. Honesty is the best policy for everyone, but especially for journalists. To be able to show honesty and integrity, finding and presenting harsh truths, a good journalist also requires courage and confidence. Journalism can be a cutthroat business, and having the courage to chase the stories and shreds of evidence you need and the confidence to deal with the critical authorities and the demanding audience would be essential to one’s survival in the field. Luckily, these can be developed over time, as any journalist would tell you, just like Jack Hawn.

Curiosity is another important characteristic of a good journalist.

Curiosity stirs the imagination and allows one to draw a genuine interest to figure out what content to cover and what burning questions to answer. When a journalist has a genuine interest in their subjects, they can then develop their skills in the process of journalism more effectively. In gathering and assessing data, investigative skills are essential. Subject expertise, along with analytical and critical thinking, is what can contribute to this mastery. Then, there are communication skills. Whether the medium is through audio, video, or writing, it is important to develop one’s style of presenting the information, conveying it clearly and neutrally while also adding personality that becomes a journalist’s personal stamp on their work; there is not much room for individual interpretation when delivering the truth to the public, so this must be maximized.

Finally, what would really decide one’s career longevity and eventual success is persistence and perseverance. One must learn to work patiently just as much as to wait patiently. Journalism is not an easy job, and there is always more to cover. All it really takes, however, is the will of a person who is willing to dedicate the time and effort it takes to provide the truth. The rest will follow.

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