How to Become a Journalist

Written by Calvin Bowers

There are many routes to becoming a journalist so being able to answer “how to become a journalist” is relatively complex in this day and age with so much focus on the internet and writing for the web rather than old-fashioned print publications. 

One of the best ways to become a journalist is to follow a journalism apprenticeship. There are two different apprenticeship standards for journalism and these are for junior journalist and senior journalist.

The junior journalist apprenticeship is at a much lower academic level than the senior journalist apprenticeship, which makes sense given the difference between the two roles. The junior journalist apprenticeship is an “advanced” or “Level 3” apprenticeship and the senior journalist apprenticeship is a “degree” or “Level 7” apprenticeship.   

What Does Being a Journalist Involve?

This is a role that has been evolving a lot recently, largely to the advent of the internet and the democratisation of information that has come about as a result of this. Journalists will try their best to always produce well-sourced and accurate content. The rise of websites which accept content from people who haven’t been trained to these high standards means that fact-checking can often be difficult on the internet. 

Some journalists tend to find it difficult to compete with other sources of information which pervade the internet and can often have even extremely well-sourced and fact-checked articles called into question by readers and members of the public more generally. Having said this, it is also a good barometer of a journalist’s own biases to have them challenged online in comments sections or on the social media sites that their publications are a part of. Sometimes seeing how someone else perceives your work can help you to improve on impartiality for the next time. 

Search Engine Optimisation

Increasingly, journalists are being asked to write their articles with the major search engines in mind. This means that they must do keyword research using popular tools such as SEMrush or Ahrefs before they think of the title of the article, in order to maximise the traffic that they can pull in. They must be able to use the correct keyword density within the article to ensure that it will rank well in the search engines and gain organic traffic when people search for the relevant terms.

Clickbait Headlines

In this day and age, there are really only two types of headlines that journalists are required to know and that is SEO-optimised headlines and clickbait headlines. SEO headlines will help with a longer-term search engine ranking but clickbait headlines will often help to get users over the first couple of days via social media sources, and this is why you may see articles have their headlines changed after the first couple of days. The journalist or copy editor will sometimes change out the initial clickbait headline for one more tightly focused on search engine optimisation after a few days.

Social Media Content

As well as being able to write solid articles on the topics that are needed, it is increasingly the case that journalists must be able to engage with social media as well. They must be able to pull in traffic for their articles and the publications that they work for. This can be done via Twitter and Facebook posts, like on and many other methods. The days of journalists only writing articles are well behind us now though and they must be able to focus their efforts on promotion more widely. 

Video Content

Many journalists have been persuaded of the merits of social media platforms like TikTok, which encourage the production of video content. It is more and more common to see news articles presented alongside a video that explains the situation or has a funny twist on it, and there is more of an expectation now than ever before that journalists can produce this content themselves.

How to Become a Journalist – Things to Consider

There are many things to consider when thinking about how to become a journalist and we have listed some of the biggest below:

Ensure You Are Comfortable With the Editorial Line

This can be something that is challenging for many journalists as often a publication or broadcaster that they may have wanted to work with will have a different editorial line than the one they would like to work with. This can be true of print, broadcast and online media outlets and it is important that journalists are able to make this decision in a way that allows them to work with a clear conscience.

An editorial line can be in favour or against a particular political party or ideology or it can push a particular slant on all world events. You may be expected to write all articles through the lens that Brexit has been particularly successful for the UK and it was long overdue when it happened. This, of course, may be very difficult to do for people who are firm believers that Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster and has drastically harmed the economy.

Joining the National Union of Journalists

This can be particularly handy as they have a number of high-quality resources that are accessible to journalists who are looking to improve their abilities. Another useful thing the NUJ does is that it offers an NUJ card, which acts as a “press pass” and proves that you are a journalist to anyone who should have cause to ask, such as the police etc. 

This can actually be a huge benefit for many journalists as it is one of the easiest ways to prove that the reason you are at a crime scene isn’t anything nefarious, it is to follow up with information on a story. 

Journalists also have legal support from the NUJ, and can ask for help with disputes with their employers as well, if such circumstances arise. Another major benefit is that the NUJ holds events for local groups of members so you will be able to meet and network with other people locally who are in the same kind of field.  

How to Become a Journalist – Find an Apprenticeship Today

If you would like to take advantage of the fantastic opportunities available in the field of journalism, you can take a look at our dedicated apprenticeship jobs board in order to find something that is both suitable and local to you. 

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Last Updated: Wednesday November 16 2022
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