Five character traits of exceptional journalists

Five character traits of exceptional journalists

Some people choose a career in journalism because they want a way to pay the bills. Others choose the journalism field because they have a passion for the truth, the hustle of life and a strong attachment to the written word.

This latter group of professionals is what we might call the exceptional journalists of our communities. They report new events, they touch us emotionally and they grace our kitchen counters and computer monitors each day.

If you want to become an even better journalist than the one you already are, work on improving these 5 character traits that all great journalists share.

1. Determination. Finishing a story may not always be easy or even safe, but exceptional journalists display unwavering determination to report such events to the world. If journalists were to give up on a story every time a situation felt dicey or a key piece of information was difficult to obtain, many important world events would have gone unmentioned.

While you don’t need to put yourself in harm’s way just to become a better reporter, you should take a good look at your motivation and work ethic in times when your determination is challenged. For even the smallest news stories, a strong determination to do your job to the best of your ability can not only make you a better reporter, but also lead to career advancements and industry recognition in the future.

2. Goal-Oriented. The ability to be goal-oriented and think in terms of the distant future is another key character trait of exceptional journalists. Did you think that your favorite new writers earned those bylines without hard work and sacrifice? Many exceptional journalists work their butts off in college, sacrifice time with their families and risk incurring the wrath of the public throughout their careers. But each of these obstacles must be handled and overcome by anyone who is looking ahead to the final goal.

If you’re an up-and-coming journalist in college, spend your personal time or even weekends dedicating yourself to your craft. If you’re an experienced reporter, take some time to evaluate your goals and maybe even set some new ones. With meaningful goals in front of you for motivation, you’ll be able to work around any life obstacle to get what you want in the end.

3. Passionate. Having a passion for both your work and life is one of the most recognizable traits of all great journalists. Whether that passion is for justice, health, technology or education, passion is what fuels journalists to pour their hearts and souls into a story—it ensures that the finished product is the best and most informative article possible.

If you haven’t been feeling very passionate about your work lately, take some time to revisit the moment when you knew you wanted to be a journalist. Why did you choose this career path? How did you hope to contribute to the field? Breathe some new life into your journalistic passion, and try to find new ways to do this every so often. The errands and tasks of daily life are enough to make anyone’s job feel mundane. However, as a journalist, these feelings can affect the quality of your work. Keeping your passion alive is just one significant way your career and work can flourish.

4. Open-Minded. As every journalist knows, you won’t always get to write about topics you care for. On the flip side, you’ll sometimes have to write about topics that you care for too much. Exceptional journalists are able to subdue their personal biases in both of these instances and create an objective and informative article for every type of reader.

For many of us, deeply political and moral issues strike a strong chord in our personal beliefs. We naturally want to show others why our views of such matters are correct but, for the journalist, such self-satisfying behavior can be negative to your career’s outcome. It’s important to always ask yourself, Am I looking at this from both sides? Am I displaying biased writing in any way?  If you can, have a friend with an opposite stance on an issue proofread your article before you submit it to your editors. Being more open-minded is a much-needed way to improve the quality of your journalism.

5. Optimistic. Exceptional journalists all seem to share an optimistic view of the world. This character trait is both necessary and helpful for the career of any serious journalist, because it helps you maintain motivation in the face of terrible tragedies. An optimistic worldview is also incredibly useful for creating viral articles because optimistic content generates more interest and shares on social networks than negative content. Since 644 million people are currently getting their news online, an optimistic outlook might actually help your paper’s digital copy.

If your beat doesn’t exactly provide the most optimistic news stories to write about, that’s okay. Don’t consciously try to bias your articles into sounding more positive than they are. Just don’t let negative news get you down, and give your readers hope when it’s appropriate.

In the end, you can only be as good of a journalist as you try to be. If you’re dedicated to continually bettering yourself as a journalist, you can use these five character traits to boost your morale and maybe even your career.

What other character traits would you add to this list?

Kayla Matthews is a productivity blogger with an enthusiasm for Green initiatives and promoting the betterment of society. You can follow her on Google+ and Twitter - or at ProductivityTheory.com - to get updates on all of her latest posts!

Photo: Stack of newspapers via Shutterstock

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