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Do You Have What it Takes to be a Citizen Journalist?

Citizen Journalism

Citizen Journalism on Ulitzer

If you’re seeking wealth and fame, journalism might not be your best choice. No one enters the field to get rich, and only a few ever become famous.

An entry-level journalist will barely earn enough to survive if a job is even available in today’s shrinking journalism job market. Even experienced beat reporters don’t live in the rich part of town. The only people receiving truly handsome wages in the news media today are celebrity journalists seen on network and cable television news stations.

Fame is also elusive for most journalists. Only a few become as renowned as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two reporters from The Washington Post who broke the story of the Watergate break-ins in the 1970s. Their front-page articles were responsible for forcing President Richard Nixon to resign.

But what other famous journalists can you name? They will likely be those who read the news on the nightly half-hour network television news broadcasts or who present the news or wag their opinions on one of the 24-hour cable news channels. Most people cannot name the editor of the local newspaper they’ve been reading for the last decade.

The point is wealth and fame is hard to come by in the field of journalism, just like it is in most professions. Over the years, thousands of dedicated journalists have practiced their profession with integrity and grace while receiving modest pay and little or no recognition. Their constant adherence to the ethics of their profession, the quality of their work and the generosity of their service to their communities have gone largely unnoticed.

So why would do anyone want to become a journalist? Because journalism is an exciting and significant career that attracts people with certain characteristics.

Journalists have an insatiable curiosity
Journalists have a unique opportunity to explore important issues. Throughout their careers, they will develop an understanding of how governments, businesses, organizations, economies and decision makers function. The more curious the journalist, the more successful he or she will be.

Journalists are skeptical without being cynical
When journalists see a fire, they will wonder if it was arson. If they hear a sheriff explain the actions of a deputy, they will seek answers to additional questions. When a journalist sees a politician having lunch with a powerful businessperson, it makes him or her wonder which one is benefiting the most from the encounter.

Journalists have a nose for news
Journalists are able to discern the important from the exciting and the serious from the frivolous. This requires resourcefulness, thoroughness, tenacity and a grasp of reality.

Journalists become insiders

Journalists acquire interesting and important inside information on events and individuals and with greater context than those in other professions. They know the story behind the story.

Journalists enjoy a challenge
Journalists often find themselves in situations where they are not welcome or in the presence of individuals or organizations that want to suppress certain information. This requires them to match wits with powerful forces and individuals to get the story and get it right. 

Journalists want to inform people
Journalists are sources of public information. Consumers depend on journalists to help them understand and organize their world by providing context and clarity concerning the events that are happening around them.

Journalists are not afraid to seek the truth
Journalists have a strong desire to seek the truth and are willing to do research and meticulous fact checking before they write a story. Journalists have the ability to set aside their own prejudices and presuppositions in their pursuit of the truth.

Journalists know how to write
Journalists love their notepad and keyboard because they represent the starting place of their labor. They love subjects, predicates, adverbs and adjectives that make up each sentence and paragraph they write. They love the flow of a thoroughly sourced and clearly told story.

This chapter will include much more in the finalized edition of the handbook, including a 10-question test to discover if you have what it takes to be a citizen journalist.

[This article is an excerpt from the soon-to-be published book: Handbook for Citizen Journalists by Dr. Ron Ross & Susan Carson Cormier.]

  • For more on the National Association of Citizen Journalists, please visit www.nacj.usA
  • For more by Ron Ross, please visit www.RonRossToday.com
  • For more on training for citizen journalists, please visit www.SusanCormier.com
  • Each of these websites will have information on the soon-to-be-published book Handbook for Citizen Journalists.

More Stories By Ron Ross

Dr. Ron Ross is a publisher, author, speaker, radio personality residing in Loveland, Colorado. He is the author of two published books and several e-books. He is the host of Tidbits Radio on 1310KFKA-AM and on CastleRockRadio.com. He writes a weekly motivational and inspirational column that is published in a variety of newspapers.

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