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Professionals Speak: How to Become a Successful Journalist

By Andrea Charcas
University Life Editor

Every aspiring journalist has one goal in mind: to make it to the top. Some strive to be the leading anchor, the most famed producer, the most furtive reporter, or the most successful social media director.

It is often said that the best way to learn is from other peoples’ mistakes, but it is also valuable to learn from other peoples’ successes. These lofty goals will most likely take many years of struggle and many ounces of patience to achieve, but some professionals from ABC 15 and Channel 3 can give some tips on how they scored their dream jobs.

1. Be prepared to work difficult hours.

“A nine-to-five job, get it out of your head,” says Cameryn Beck, executive news director of Channel 3 News. “I work really awful hours.”

It’s expected that a job that always has to be ready to break the latest news has unnatural hours. A shocking global event can occur in the middle of the night, and it’s essential that someone is available to report it.

“At that time when you’re in bed, there are people here around the clock. The goal is to have the new story,” says ABC 15 managing editor Andy Ramirez. “And when we break it immediately, we say ‘yeah! We win!’”

Andy Ramirez and Erisa Nakano from ABC15 talking to SJI students. Photo credit to Andrea Charcas.

Andy Ramirez and Erisa Nakano from ABC15 talking to SJI students. Photo credit to Andrea Charcas.

News stations constantly have to be on top of things or else they risk their ratings falling: “It’s our goal every day to get high ratings,” says Beck.

Everyone wants the news as soon as it breaks, but journalists constantly walk on the tightrope between being fast and being accurate: “It’s always better to be right than first,” says Beck. Being inaccurate not only destroys your credibility as a person, but it destroys the credibility of your entire publication or news station.

2. Education and internships are crucial.

“We know the difference between someone who went to Cronkite and someone who didn’t,” says Ramirez. “The thing about ASU is that it’s one of the best journalism schools out there.”

Undoubtedly, going to a renowned school like Cronkite will make you stand out, but don’t underestimate the power of internships.

“You get out of an internship what you put in,” says Beck. “I worked tirelessly, fought hard and asked a lot of questions.”

Beck is living proof that internships can make it or break it when future employers are on the lookout for new employees. She emphasized the struggles that she endured, but several years later, she can proudly flaunt that she is the executive news director of one of the most respected new stations in Arizona.

Channel 3 news studio. Photo credit to Andrea Charcas.

Channel 3 news studio. Photo credit to Andrea Charcas.

3. Be familiar with multimedia journalism.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, specializing in one subject is not going to cut it. Especially because technology is quickly becoming the number one way to receive news, knowing the basics of photography, videography and, of course, writing are essential to creating a product that the public will respond well to.

“This business is changing rapidly, so we had to change the way that we do business,” says Beck. “It’s a three-platform business. The one constant is content. Content is what drives us no matter what platform we’re on.”

With the skyrocketing growth of social media and mobile phone use, modern-day journalists need to be adaptive to new technology. From Facebook to Twitter to Vine to Pinterest, technology is dictating the way that news is distributed, and it does not go unnoticed.

“We’re breaking all kinds of records right now,” says Erisa Nakano, the news web producer at ABC 15. “Our website and mobile numbers are growing exponentially.”

4. Ignorance is not bliss.

“We need to be well-read enough to know what’s going on in the world,” says Beck.

One of the worst possible things that a journalist can be is ignorant about what is going on in this world, especially stories of great magnitude that affect numerous people and have the potential to shape the world.

In addition, Ramirez stressed the importance of being bilingual, especially in a large city where people from across the globe with different cultures, customs and languages intermingle.

“How important is knowing Spanish? It’s huge,” says Ramirez. “We have to have a good representation of the population we’re serving. It gives you an edge above other people. Even if you don’t know Spanish, learn it.”

ABC 15 news studio. Photo credit to Andrea Charcas.

ABC 15 news studio. Photo credit to Andrea Charcas.

It’s important to know that the path to success will not be smooth; there will be obstacles that may be nearly impossible to overcome, but learning from professionals who were once were in the shoes of a high school journalist can guide determined young writers into achieving their full potential.

Reach the reporter at andrea.charcas22@gmail.com or via Twitter @DreaCharcas


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