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Three quick questions with a Digital Journalist

These days, you don’t need to head to the local news agency to get the news, you just go online.

Making those online cogs whirl are digital journalists. Just like Coco Pops are ‘just like a chocolate milkshake only crunchy’, so are digital journalists ‘just like print journalists only online’ (and occasionally, crunchy).

For many journalists the rise of online media hasn’t been a welcome one, as many of the traditional media outlets have lost revenue and as such, had to let many of their employers go. The good news is that despite grumbles, there are absolutely still paths for journalists to have and hold careers, they’re just moving online. Huzzah!

In fact, online journalism has blasted through some of print media’s biggest barriers and roadblocks thanks to lowered distribution costs and a huge (and growing!) range of technologies allowing for efficacious production and distribution of online content. Online journalism also means that writers are able to be a bit more creative with their work, as they can include video and audio in your content and connect with readers via social media who might otherwise have not read your article.

The internet is your journalistic oyster.

What’s a day in the life like?

On the face of it, being a digital journalist is a lot like being a traditional journalist. You fact check, spell check, consider the reader just like you would if everything was going straight to print. The differences tend to come at the tail end of the process with digital journos including links to relevant pages and sources, you publish. You reply “thank you” to kind comments.

As a digital journalist you’ll be able to sit back (but just for a minute ‘kay? The news doesn’t sleep) and watch readers interact with you and your content in real time. Keeping an eye on the stats helps inform future posts and frame stories better for social – it’s an art form. You simply don’t get these kind of analytics and feedback if you write for print.

Another difference: things can be a lot faster in online publishing. As soon as you click ‘publish’, someone is likely already reading your words and either agreeing or disagreeing with them.

Just like Coco Pops are ‘just like a chocolate milkshake only crunchy’, so are digital journalists ‘just like print journalists only online’ (and occasionally, crunchy).

Social media is your friend and Facebook is your best friend.

Obviously social is essential in the land of digital media. It’s where everyone is living and breathing after all.

As a digital journalist you’ll have to monitor character counts for headlines – not because they won’t fit on a page – but rather, how they’ll look and feel on social media platforms as well as monitor likes, comments and the movements of competitors. All this without getting distracted by memes and cat vids.

Social media also means you’ll quickly discover what your readers (or potential readers) are into as information can spread so quickly. It’s certainly a lot faster than knocking on doors or getting people to pick up their morning paper drop.

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How do I get my foot in the door?

For starters, read absolutely everything that you can. That means books, articles, news pieces, the backs of discarded cereal boxes… everything. The most valuable thing for a young journalist is understanding what works and what doesn’t in news and opinion. Even if you don’t realise it, you’re bringing in knowledge in a million ways. From words and headline skills to the college voting system and North African elephants’ habitats.

The other thing you’ll need to get your foot in the door is experience. Yes, this often means interning but there are other things you can do too. Volunteer at your Universities’ publications, start a blog or just practice, practice, practice.

Want more? Read the 9 tips to landing dream jobs in media or Zoe Foster Blake’s has some incredible insights and advice on getting into the media world.

Sound like this is for you? Find the course you need. 

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