Can I become a journalist 1


The profession of "journalist" has a long tradition. Its roots date back to the beginning of the 17th century, when the first regular newspapers were published in Antwerp and Strasbourg.

Main activities of journalists

(In addition to this: "Main tasks of journalists")

The main activities of a journalist include Research, document, formulate, edit, present, organize and plan. To this end, knowledge of business administration and IT is required more and more frequently. Expertise and a universal level of education are prerequisites for good journalism. [1] But journalists today are often not only expected to do the classic editorial work; they blog or produce video reports, for example. Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are now part of the basic digital equipment in many editorial offices. Statistically speaking, a full-time journalist, for example, spends 104 minutes and a freelance journalist 124 minutes a day researching, and about 120 minutes are spent writing and editing texts. [2]

The journalist takes on various functions [3]: Journalist to inform the public about facts and events that are of general, political, economic or cultural importance. In doing so, they contribute to the process of forming public opinion and thus fulfill an important social task. you articulate for the public issues and problems. In order to be able to do justice to this task as an "early warning system" and control body of society, journalists have special research powers, which regulate the press laws of the countries under the terms "right to information" or "right to information". Important tasks of journalism are thus criticism and control: Some topics from politics, economy and society are less intended for the public, but are made public through journalism, which can be useful for the community: "Fear of the press prevents more crime, corruption and immorality than the law . "[4] Journalists are also involved in drawing public attention to certain topics and events (Agenda setting) in order to help determine the agenda of public life. Journalism can also be a pure one Entertainment function take. Also not to be underestimated is that educational value of journalism: Much general education is still conveyed through the mass media. But journalism can also be one socializing and educating Have an impact on society and influence attitudes and ultimately behavior.

Journalism through the ages

The journalist profession has changed significantly over the past two decades. In the course of accelerated technological change, new "varieties" (online journalism, cross-media, mobile journalism, etc.) and associated new (research and presentation) practices have developed in everyday journalism. Integrative forms of journalism that include various media channels are increasingly offered; However, the potential of a new storytelling and the possibilities of networked thinking and networked work are far from being exhausted.

The revolutionary invention of the Internet laid an important foundation stone for these new challenges for journalists: never before has a "new" medium changed or changed people's lives at such a speed. Today the Internet is a melting pot for classic media, which creates new forms of presentation. The pressure on editors to be up to date has increased due to the Internet. [5] Here is the Online journalism characterized by the following features, among others: [6]

  • Online editors have (at least potentially) permanent contact with their readers and receive direct feedback,
  • Online editorial offices get information that they would never have received before or would have received (too) late,
  • Online editors can and often have to publish stories faster,
  • niches can open up for online editorial offices in which they can position themselves,
  • Readers from online editorial offices are a controlling element.

In addition to the classic functions mentioned above, online journalists also have the task of navigating users through their own offer and also pointing them out to thematically relevant information from other providers. In addition, they act as archivists by managing the news and opinion offer, which is continuously supplemented and thus grows. Finally, online journalists act as moderators in communication with and between users. [7]

Radio on the Internet (podcasts) and television on the Internet (video journalism) have emerged as new forms of journalism. Be like that Podcasts For example, now used by established radio stations to broadcast features, radio plays or reports. In the area Video journalism Extensive equipment (camera, microphone, headphones, laptop, software for cutting the material) is required, but a smartphone can be sufficient [8] to deliver completely cut and texted video contributions.

A new way to publish your own journalistic offers is the "Blog". The blog is a digital journal or diary created by at least one person, a so-called" blogger ". There is still some distrust of bloggers in that" the fourth estate "(the press)" now controls itself " Before the blogs, a minority alone decided what the majority could know. However, the thesis can be doubted that every single person can now inform themselves better than ever through blogs alone: ​​A critical examination, the sifting through, weighting and evaluation of information, these are still important core functions of journalism. [10]

Cross-media work is part of everyday working life for most journalists today. "Crossmedia" means a networking of different media at the production level, content level and brand level, which pursues the goal of unleashing synergy effects with their producers as well as their users. Due to the continuous change in technology, cross-media work represents a special, but also necessary, challenge for journalists. In this context, so-called integrative journalism is being used more and more often: everyone works together on and for a product, i. H. not only editors, but also developers, designers, infographics, technicians and software developers as well as moving image specialists. From a journalist's point of view, the goal is to gain new narrative forms for an ever faster turning technical, economic, social and linguistic world.

With this in mind, finally, too new research practices developed: In addition to classic library research, research on the Internet has become a matter of course. However, the reliability of information and sources should be carefully checked, especially on the Internet.

How do I become a journalist?

Access to the professional field of journalist is open, i. H. there are none required by law Training paths. This free professional access is derived from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations and analogously from Article 5 of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, which grants every citizen the right to "freely express and disseminate his or her opinion in writing, words and images . " Nonetheless, training standards such as journalistic traineeships have prevailed.

Since the profession of journalist is not regulated by higher-level bodies, but this professional group at the same time enjoys legal privileges, a journalist must meet a number of personal and professional requirements in order to be able to exercise his profession responsibly. To this conditions count among others

  • good general education
  • Expertise (especially in ubiquitous economic, legal and scientific issues)
  • pronounced sense of language
  • analytical thinking
  • quick grasp
  • social responsibility
  • personal integrity
  • high communication skills
  • Resilience and creativity
  • Work discipline
  • Self-confidence

In summary, a good journalist should bring technical expertise and journalistic skills to the table. If you have a purely technical background, a traineeship or additional training, e.g. at a journalism school, can make sense.

The Workload of journalists is often high. This is due both to job cuts in recent years and to the ever faster pace of reporting. Nevertheless, this professional group is very satisfied with their job [11] and appreciates the variety that the job often brings with it. Therefore, the professional goal of "journalist" continues to be very attractive to career and career changers. The report "Free Journalists in Germany" published by the DFJV contains detailed information on self-image, everyday work and job satisfaction.

As freelance journalist it is important to build up a good network of contacts. Agencies, associations, ministries, authorities and companies can also be good addresses for the payment of orders. The aim should be to become your own brand. (Members of the DFJV have a special guide on self-marketing available here.)

Journalism is a professional occupation like that of a doctor, a teacher or a lawyer. This can be determined from various attributes:

  • Journalists have their own professional knowledge and skills. This includes not only manual skills such as research, writing or editing. In addition, there are media-specific competencies as well as specialist content competencies in the respective professional reimbursement field (e.g. business, sport, medicine, etc.).
  • Training as a journalist may not be regulated by a training ordinance or the like due to the constitutionally required freedom of the press and the associated open access to the profession. Nevertheless, specific forms of training have emerged in which the aforementioned fields of competence are taught. Most journalists are academics.
  • There are ethical norms to which journalists commit themselves voluntarily. As a pioneer, the DFJV has developed such a code of ethics on the level of individual ethics. The institutional ethical press code that applies to publishers has an older tradition.
  • Journalism is a profession that is particularly useful for the general public. Journalists inform the public about facts or events that are of general, political, economic or cultural importance. You thus make a central contribution to the formation of public opinion.
  • Journalists work independently to a large extent. In the exercise of their profession, they are largely independent of third parties. They develop content independently and bear a great deal of responsibility by passing them on to their recipients.
  • Like other professions, journalists organize themselves in professional associations. Among them, the DFJV plays a leading role as a service provider.


[1] Cf. Schneider, W., Raue, P.-J. (2012): The New Handbook of Journalism and Online Journalism. Rowohlt. P. 17 f.

[2] Accessed on May 4th, 2012.

[3] Cf. Ruß-Mohl, S. (2010): Journalismus. The instruction and manual. F. A. Z. Institute for Management, Market and Media Information GmbH. P. 14 ff.

[4] Joseph Pulitzer, quoted by N. Jeske, J. (2001): Joseph Pulitzer, in: F.A.Z. v. 18.4., P. 26.

[5] Cf. Ruß-Mohl, S. (2010), p. 174.

[6] See Schneider, W., Raue, P.-J. (2012), p. 35 ff.

[7] Cf. Ruß-Mohl, S. (2010), p. 176 f.

[8] Cf. Schneider, W., Raue, P.-J. (2012), p. 40 ff.

[9] See ibid., P. 46.

[10] Cf. ibd.

[11] Accessed on May 4th, 2012.