Why get into online journalism?

Internet this, dotcom that, forward slash the other; it’s all we hear these days. It’s a good thing though: the internet connects people around the world and provides us with instant news, entertainment and information.

The world of journalism has been revolutionised since the creation of the internet. We now live in a world where we don’t have to wait for the News at Ten to get the day’s headlines. We have them 24/7 at the touch of a button, just a click away, on our iPhones, Blackberry’s, computers and laptops.

Of course, online journalism isn’t just about news. It can cover pretty much any topic, from celebrity gossip and opinion articles, to last night’s television, football transfer news and movie reviews. It can come in the form of blogs, video clips, sound bites, web pages, e-zines and press releases.

What does an online journalism career involve?

Generally, online journalists and print journalists are like two peas in a pod. They’re not too dissimilar at all. An online journo’s job involves getting stuck into plenty of research, writing stories and interviewing people.

You’ll be required to attend press conferences, read press releases sent from PR gurus, attend events and handle phone calls from people who are giving you the lowdown on breaking news stories or interesting article ideas.

The cool thing is that you can embed videos into articles, reach readers immediately and encourage debate from site users. In short, it’s a more interactive and easily accessible type of journalism.

Depending on the size of the website, there are a number of different roles you could pursue, including:

  • Web editor
  • Reporter
  • Specialist reporter
  • Deputy editor
  • Sub-editor
  • Assistant editor.

If the website is smaller or more specified to just one topic, one person could take on all the roles. You’ll need to have a good understanding of web development to do this though, as well as having the journalistic expertise to bring readers to the site.

How can I kick-start a career in online journalism?

A lot of aspiring journalists these days write blogs to get a foot in the door. Usually, your blog should cover just one topic, such as sport, music, celebrity gossip, snowboarding, fashion, food and drink, sleeping, travelling, dating, politics or funny things that your dad says.

It can cover anything you like. As long as it’s interesting and well-written, then it’s a perfect example of work to show any potential employers. They can get an idea of your writing style and it’s also proof that you know your way around a computer.

For people starting out, freelance work can be a pretty good way of getting up and running. If you’re interested in music, go to a gig, write a review and send it off to a music website. It may sound simple, but it’s a good way for you to refine your writing skills. If the article doesn’t get published, there’s no reason why you can’t follow up and ask them for tips on how to improve your style.

A degree is by no means a necessity, but a BA in English or journalism can provide you with the techniques that you’ll need to become a superstar of the online journalism world. If you haven’t done a degree that’s directly related to journalism, you could always consider doing a journalism-related masters.

You’ll also need to develop an exceptional understanding of the technical side of online journalism in order to thrive in the industry. Furthermore, you’ll need to learn all about the importance of unique users, page ranks and search engine optimisation.

So, if you know your way around the web like the back of your hand and you’re an aspiring journo extraordinaire, you should definitely consider a career in online journalism!

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