Journalism, in the broadest context, is the production of factual media content. Journalists report, write and produce the information the public receives via print, television, radio, and online. They inform and enrich public knowledge of news, government and political activities, business, technology, healthcare, sports, arts and culture.
Who They Serve:
Journalism serves and collaborates with three main groups: the public, public relations professionals and their clients, and advertisers.
Journalists serve the general public by reporting and distributing information. Because the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution specifically guarantees the right to a free and unabridged press, many journalists consider their profession a public service.
Since the press actively oversees the government, informs voters and can influence public opinion – also known as "the power of the press" – throughout American history it has been often called the fourth branch of American government. Consequently, many political and social justice journalists consider themselves public servants, albeit in the private sector.
Other kinds of journalists, such as those who cover business, sports, technology, health, education, arts and culture, serve the public by bringing to light trends and developments within their areas of expertise, or their "beat." It is their profession to stay informed in their field so as to better inform the public. Similarly, journalists who write for trade publications (publications dedicated to a specific industry or trade) serve professionals by broadening their knowledge of the work of others in their field.
Journalists also provide an audience for public relations professionals to deliver their message on behalf of their clients or the organizations they represent. Because of "the power of the press," public relations professionals often lobby publications for coverage in the same way that they lobby the government for representation of their interests. Public relations professionals also represent their clients in the media, and are available to comment on behalf of their clients or to make their clients available for comment. In this way, journalists and public relations professionals work collaboratively to deliver information to the public. For more information of public relations, see the Public Relations industry profile.
Indirectly, by creating and producing content, journalists create the demand for media sources. This demand provides opportunities for the advertisers to reach consumers by purchasing space alongside the content journalists create. In turn, advertising revenue lowers the direct costs of news and media content for consumers.
Reporters - investigate and communicate new developments and trends in breaking news, politics, sports, business, technology, health, education, features, arts and culture and for specialized trade publications. They are the eyes and ears of the media source they represent, and offer unbiased, factual reporting of what they see and hear by following leads, investigating news tips, and conducting interviews. Each area of specialization, or "beat," is the reporter's area of expertise, and the reporter is responsible for developing a body of knowledge and reliable sources of information within their beat. They are then responsible for communicating what they have learned to the public. Editors (in print and online media) and directors (in radio and television) are experienced journalists who assign stories and beats to reporters, and decide where in the publication or broadcast the stories will be presented.
Editorial writers and critics are experienced journalists or highly knowledgeable patrons of the arts who offer their opinions, insights and endorsements to consumers.
Photojournalists - are photographers and camera operators who work with reporters to capture visual representation of the news. This often entails working under great pressure in the field, sometimes in dangerous situations such as in combat or areas of natural disasters. On the contrary, those who cover sports, arts and entertainment are on the sidelines of major sporting events, backstage and along the red carpet.
Equally important to journalists are members of the editorial staff – editors (copy or video) and fact-checkers. Copyeditors and video editors oversee the presentation of stories for quality and clarity. Similarly, fact-checkers are responsible for verifying and confirming the factual content of the media.
However, journalists for shorter form media sources (daily newspapers, online news sources and daily newscasts via television or radio) who work in situations where timeliness is crucial to reporting breaking news often serve as their own copy or video editors and fact checkers.
The primary media outlets for journalists are newspapers, magazines, radio, television and online:
- Newspapers - are published daily or weekly, and designed to cover local markets. Newspaper journalists must be accustomed to tight deadlines and able to write succinctly and clearly. The advent of online news has caused a severe decline in newspaper circulation, with nearly all papers adding an online component in addition to daily or weekly print editions. The increasing efficiency of wire sources has caused nearly all U.S. daily newspapers to close their foreign bureaus. However, daily newspapers provide the best local coverage and are a staple of the American media. Consequently, newspaper journalism should be regarded not as a dying medium but an evolving one.
- Magazines - are published monthly or quarterly, and typically cater to readers with specific interests rather than geographical markets, although some magazines cater to regional or local interests (ie, Chicago Magazine, Southern Living). Most magazine work is editing while writing assignments typically go to freelance journalists, but there are more opportunities for photojournalists and art designers because of the increased focus on aesthetics versus that of a newspaper. Unlike newspapers, magazine circulation has not been greatly affected by the advent of online news, largely because magazine journalists are not competing to break news but to offer the in-depth, longform reporting that daily newspapers cannot provide.
- Radio journalism - is an evolving field. Radio news was replaced by television news as the source for breaking news in the fifties, but even today, opportunities for newswriters and producers continue to grow due to the increasing popularity of political and sports talk radio, satellite radio and national public radio.
- New media - such as blogs, podcasts and mobile media continue to grow and change the industry. Opportunities abound for online news reporters and multimedia content producers, while blogs are adding a new dimension to news, and blurring the line between reporting and analysis. Because new medias continue to emerge and grow, it provides the most opportunities for beginning journalists to gain entry to the field.
- Television news - when combined with its online components, is the prominent medium for news today. Even so, it continues to evolve – with twenty-four hour cable news channels came the twenty-four hour news cycle, shifting the focus away from the traditional evening newscast. Similar to print journalism, television news employs breaking news reporters (daily newscasts and cable news), investigative journalists (news magazines) and news analysts and critics. Because competition for breaking news is so intense among news networks and the use of wire services so prevalent, opportunities for news personalities, news analysts and critics are increasingly growing. Specialized news outlets catering to specific areas such as sports, entertainment and music, are also rapidly growing.
New technology and media outlets are causing rapid changes in the media. More traditional journalistic outlets, like newspapers and magazines, are shrinking as online outlets are growing. At the same time, the increasing efficiency of wire services such as the Associated Press and Reuters have decreased the demand for national reporters while increasing the demand for local reporters.
Hiring in the industry is as competitive as ever, as experienced and beginning journalists alike are competing for jobs. However, those looking to break into the industry can take advantage of new media sources to set themselves apart.
What Employers Want:
Undergraduates interested in going into journalism should have a bachelor’s degree in communications, liberal arts or journalism. At Hopkins, Writing Seminars, English and History would be excellent choices, as well as Film and Media Studies for those interested in broadcast journalism. Those interested in a specific area of journalism, such as politics or criticism, might also major in an area relevant to their field. Because the most important qualification is experience, undergraduates who graduate without substantial field experience might consider a master’s degree in journalism
Students most likely to successfully break into journalism are those with both internship experiences at professional publications and leadership experience at campus publications. Experience is crucial not only because it creates an opportunity to demonstrate skills in reporting and writing, but also for networking. Campus publications and smaller media outlets typically offer the most hands-on experience, while work at larger publications offer better networking opportunities. Most employers are looking for a combination of both. It is important to remember that good writing samples (“clips”) at a small publication are far more valuable than bad clips at a large one. In broadcast news, local news affiliates are the doorway to national news networks. While most internships in television and radio are unpaid, interns often emerge with professionally produced demo tapes, the broadcast equivalent of clips.
Employers are looking for candidates with knowledge as well as experience. Undergraduates should follow the news carefully, and in a variety of formats and from various outlets. Familiarity with different journalistic platforms will lead to versatility as a professional journalist, a vital ability in a changing news market. To that end, proficiency in the multimedia technology used in building and producing content is important. Software like Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Macromedia Flash and HTML are useful for news websites, just as the ability to edit audio and video using Avid, FinalCut Pro and ProTools is useful for broadcasting.
What They Hire Undergraduates to Do:
Recent graduates interested in print and online journalism can find positions as general assignment reporters, editorial assistants, fact checkers and copy editors. Large newspapers offer one to two year residency programs for beginning reporters at their metro desks or suburban bureaus. Freelance writing is also an increasingly popular way to establish oneself at local publications, though pay is low and often unsteady. Entry-level positions in broadcast journalism are production assistants, production coordinators, researchers and schedulers. In both fields, entry-level jobs are more readily available at local markets than at national media outlets.
Josh Orenstein - Director of Financial & Business Products, Associated Press English, Class of 1990, M.B.A. Finance, 1995
- How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - Always been passionate about media; at Hopkins & immediately after, I pursued the editorial side; then switched to business side.
- What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - From writer to editor to editorial management to business school to content finance to business development/marketing
- What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - Sports Information Intern at North Carolina State University; yes, a media role
- What advice do you have for current students? - Figure out what gets you excited and get as much experience as you can and meet as many people in that area as you can.
- What is your typical day like? - Reading, meeting, analyzing, writing, presenting
- What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Rewarding: The flow of high quality, objective, reliable information to the public is essential to our way of life. Challenging: constant change
- What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - On the business side -- marketing assistant, finance assistant
- Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - More nimble, more digital, more personalized -- much more consumer-focused
- What skills and out-of-class experiences are ideal for entering your industry/career field? - Familiarity w/ media, enthusiasm, determination
- Which professional organizations and resources should students look into or get involved with? - Magazine Publishers of America, Direct Marketing Association, and PaidContent.org.
- What related occupations and industries would you recommend students explore who are interested in your industry or career field? - Consulting, research analyst
Sara Clemence- Lifestyle Editor, Conde Nast Portfolio, International Studies, Class of 1996, Writing Seminars, Class of 1998, Journalism, 2002
- How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - I thought I wanted to go into the Foreign Service, or work for the UN. I was always best at writing, and enjoyed it most, but my family had raised me to believe it wasn't a viable/legitimate career choice. I took writing classes throughout my years, and during my junior year abroad decided to take on a writing minor.
- What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - Not at all. I was a private banking analyst at JP Morgan. I was recruited from school, and though the job was not a good fit, I'm glad I did it. I learned not to be afraid of finance, that money didn't make up for being unhappy at your job.
- What advice do you have for current students? - Explore. Do the things you enjoy most, because those are the things you will be best at. Take classes from teachers who care and inspire, because you will learn more.
- What is your typical day like? - I arrive at the office around 9, check my email and the editorial schedule. I usually edit a couple of stories, sometimes sending them back to writers for changes. I try to come up with some ideas, review pitches and make assignments. I usually have a meeting every other day or so. I attend events a few evenings a week.
- What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Rewarding: I learn every day. When I was a newspaper journalist, I felt like I was making a difference in people's lives. As an editor, I help writers and stories fulfill more of their potential. It's great to get a scoop. And because I've appeared on television, I get a fair amount of attention at reunions! Challenging: It's rare that you will make a fortune in journalism. It's very competitive, especially in New York. Newspapers have been in decline, which is sad and shrinks the job market. You have to pay a lot of dues. And it can be very stressful!
- What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - Editorial assistant, news assistant, junior reporter, desk clerk. The advice is the same as in any industry. Work hard, show initiative, have a good attitude. You make have to do sucky grunt work, but if you're always complaining and acting like you're above it, nobody will want to give you anything better.
- Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - More towards digital media. More video. It will be increasingly valuable to have a range of skills. Being an expert in something--anything!--will be more important.
- What skills and out-of-class experiences are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - Strong writing skills, ability to generate ideas, accuracy
- Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - Depends on education and experience. Traditionally, two or three years as an ea or junior reporter, then a reporter or writer, and an editor within ten years. But not everyone wants to be an editor.
Mike Rosenstein- Producer, NFL Network/NFL Films, Johns Hopkins University School of Arts & Sciences, Political Science and Sociology, Class of 1995, Master's in Broadcast Journalism
- Describe what you do and how you got started in your current career. - I oversee the budget and production of the show Playbook for NFL Network. I coordinate content, production elements, promotion, and graphics for the show.
- What is most rewarding about your job and/ or industry? - I go to work and talk about football... it's nice to have fun at work.
- Is your career the same or different from what you had envisioned your career would be when you started at Hopkins as an undergraduate? How is it similar and/or different? - Much different. I had been on a pre-law track, until deciding after graduation that I didn't want to be a lawyer.
- What advice do you have for a Hopkins student interested in entering your career field / industry? - Be ready to do the dirty work. Be ready for a less than attractive work schedule. You have to pay your dues in the beginning. But it's all worth it in the long run.
Additional Alumni Profiles
Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.
If you would like to talk about how your search is going, we invite you to make an appointment with a Career Counselor by calling 410-516-8056.
LinkedIn.com - a professional networking site where you can identify Hopkins alumni. Join the LinkedIn Johns Hopkins University Alumni Group to add over 4000+ alumni to your network.
Job Search Sites:
Professional Associations: General
Professional Associations: Special Interest
If you would like to talk about how your search is going, we invite you to make an appointment with a Career Counselor by calling 410-516-8056.