Journalists gather information on specific subjects, people, events or occurrences and write the information in a report form for the press, radio, television, Internet, public relations division of a company or other institution.
Junior reporters are usually assigned to write on more general news events like court and crime reporting, school and municipal news. As journalists' writing abilities develop, other important matters are covered, for example, sport, finances, news, art, culture and politics.
Experienced newspaper and broadcast journalists may report on international news, or they may become foreign correspondents for their specific media institutions. South African foreign correspondents employed by news media institutions, are usually based in major cities such as London, Washington, Amsterdam, Canberra, Tokyo and other international centres.
Journalists usually specialize in either print journalism or broadcast journalism. Print journalists can work for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, journals and technical publications, while the broadcast journalist is usually assigned to report for radio and/or television.
Regional and country newspaper journalists often have to report on a wide variety of subjects, and journalists working for regional newspapers have to be very versatile, often combining writing and photographic skills to report on news events varying from politics to crime, sport, school events, art and culture.
Magazines employ fewer full-time journalists mainly because they make use of experienced writers or freelance reporters.
Specialized reporting for trade and technical publications is a fast growing and important facet of print journalism, as well as so-called "hobby" magazines, which provide careers for journalists who have the necessary knowledge and interest in special fields. These journalists provide the latest information on developments in special fields for specialized publications concentrating on, for example, music, theatre, agriculture, business, engineering, different sports.
Freelance journalists work on their own without a regular income. These journalists write on a wide variety of topics for various publications and radio and television stations and often find markets for their material by researching topics and visiting places of conflict, which are not regularly assigned by the conventional news media.
Another facet of journalism is the work of the press photographer, sometimes known as a photojournalist, who fulfils a very important task in reporting on news events.
Journalists may work in offices of newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Generally these offices are crowded and busy. Magazine offices however are much quieter. Journalists have to visit the sites of events of interest. They research their assignments in libraries and information centres. They work irregular hours and their duties often compel them to work at night. There are risks involved in covering events such as fires, bomb explosions, unrest and strikes.
Journalists may also work as editors. Other areas of specialty include:
- Columnists: write a regular segment within their particular interest category, e.g. gardening, fashion, and politics
- Feature Writers: write detailed stories or present commentaries on specific news topics
- Leader Writers: discuss news topics in the editorial columns of newspapers or magazines
- News Reporters: report on day-to-day news events, e.g. crime, education, health, sport
- helping the public to keep informed about important subjects and events
- working on a new story almost every day
- meeting interesting people
- being part of exciting events
- the pressure of the job
- the long and irregular hours
- the danger involved in covering some types of events
A journalist should have/be:
- ability to write clear, concise, interesting and objective material quickly
- good general knowledge
- interest in current events
- accurate and unbiased
- initiative, curious and creative
- aptitude to learn keyboard and shorthand skills
- persistence to investigate records, interview and probe unremittingly
- able to mix well with all kinds of people
- ability to speak clearly when working on radio and television
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.
Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended Subjects: History, Languages
Degree: Journalism - UJ, Wits, US, Media Studies - RU, NMMU, or Communication Studies - UFH, UFS, UJ, NWU, UZ, UNISA, UP, UKZN, Monash..
Postgraduate: Journalism Hons etc - NMMU, UJ, Communication - UZ, UNISA
Diploma: N.Dip: Journalism / Communication - CUT, TUT, CPUT, DUT. An advanced course (MTech and DTech Journalism) which may also be followed by students with basic qualifications in a related course, is offered at TUT.
Some correspondence colleges offer a 1-year course in Journalism / Freelance Journalism, eg Damelin, Intec, Varsity College..
An academic background is preferred but is not essential.
An academic background is preferred but is not essential.
Training of journalists can be divided into two categories: career-orientated programmes and broad communication courses. Tertiary students are trained within career-orientated programmes, where theoretical training is combined with practical training.
Some employers also offer in-service training.
- Television and radio
- Government departments, e.g. as press secretary
- Self-employment, working as a freelance journalist
Different publishing agencies employing journalists
South African Journalists’ Association
POSTNET Suite 530
Private Bag X113
41 A Frost Road
Tel: (011) 716-1308 Fax: (011) 716-5647