In our knowledge-based society, we are continuously confronted with a flood of information that constantly has to be registered and processed. Whereas the private news that we receive through personal conversations or social media is contextualized by ourselves, journalists take on this task for us in professional media.
A journalist's task is to collect information, bundle it and publish it in the form of texts, images or videos. This can be done through various channels such as print media, radio, television or online via tickers, blogs, etc. In addition to editorial staff, the term also includes presenters or (foreign) correspondents who report live from the scene. The so-called “all-rounder” journalists cover the entire range of topics, while specialist journalists focus on a single department or subject area and often work for specialist media.
Journalists use various sources for their research. Face-to-face interviews, individual research and telephone interviews are the main focus, in addition to press releases and news from news agencies such as the dpa (Deutsche Presse-Agentur).
As a result of the advancing digital transformation, online journalism has also become more and more important in the industry. For example, all major editorial offices now run news tickers or Twitter channels in addition to their other products. Social media content is also increasingly being used for research purposes. In contrast to traditional newspapers, which have an evening editorial deadline, there are no fixed production times or locations for online editors and information must be distributed as quickly as possible. Cross-media forms of presentation are becoming more and more important, which means that the preparation of texts, images, infographics and photos suitable for the user as well as the use of social media and SEO are now part of the regular task portfolio of journalists. Frequently, infographics experts, software developers, video producers or designers, etc. work together in cross-media teams.
The number of specialization options in the field is rising, as is the amount of possible job titles. Positions can be found under the terms Executive Editor, police editor, realizer, content manager or technical editor, only to name a few. The lines between media-related positions are becoming increasingly blurred in conjunction with the diversification of occupational fields. Permanent employment as an editor at a newspaper or radio station is becoming increasingly rare, whereas related professions such as press speaker, corporate communications manager or social media editor are becoming more prominent. Also, completely new professions such as community manager or data journalist are emerging. For these positions, graduates with appropriate language skills and journalistic experience from other disciplines - beyond the typical social, language, cultural or media studies - have good chances of working for specialized magazines, scientific journals or all other academic formats. Here, everything from a physicist's TV show to a health care website to a psychology magazine is imaginable. Especially since the onset of the Covid crisis, the aformentioned data-driven journalism has become increasingly significant for mainstream, informative media (case numbers or the so-called R number come to mind). This encompasses all reporting based on quantitative values or numbers that are visualized and contextualized in the shapes of tables, interactive maps, diagrams or maps. Data-driven journalism is also an interdisciplinary occupation since it requires an interaction of journalism, statistics and design (might also be of interest: scientific communication).
There are several ways to become a journalist – there are no predefined training paths. Early personal journalistic experience is essential; you will often be able to get started through a classic journalistic traineeship (Volontariat). Attending a journalist school, which is usually subject to a fee, can also be one way, but is not a prerequisite. Due to the developments mentioned above, it would be advantageous to master not only writing, but additional media technologies such as photo editing, video production, social media etc. Since permanent positions with newspapers, etc. are rare, many journalists work as freelancers. They often earn considerably less than their colleagues in permanent employment and have to carry out other tasks in addition to their journalistic work (e.g. in PR or as lecturers) and invest a lot of time in acquiring assignments and maintaining their network. In order to start a career in the industry, it is therefore advisable to establish your own contacts in the media world at an early stage and, if necessary, to have a plan “B” or a second source of income at your disposal.