A good journalist has several characteristics that cannot be taught in school. They are characteristics that must be part of who they are. A good journalist must be resourceful. Resourcefulness gives a person the ability to be able to always find a solution to difficult situations that can sometimes be at a dead end. Being a committed journalist is also important. There are sacrifices that must be made in a journalists' personal life at times in order to get work done. The news business is highly unpredictable, and the person who refuses to work nights, weekends, or holidays usually won't get far. Speed and accuracy is also crucial. It is not enough to write well you have to also be a fast writer. This is where many aspiring journalists have problems. They might do well in writing classes and show a good grasp of the news, but when it comes to deadlines they suffer.
Having a thick skin can also be helpful. There will be times where editors may yell and you will find yourself in a high-pressure environment, you may have problems with co-workers under similar stress. Readers will criticize you and your work and sometimes will call you nasty names. Unfortunately you might even receive threats because of stories you write. Can you handle all the stressful situations that will come your way? Being able to judge the news is also important. Journalists have to have an eye for what is newsworthy, what the importance of the story is. Editors are there to help journalists develop good news judgment, but there are times when journalists will have to make snap decisions on their own and find the proper focus for a story.
A good journalist turns in relatively clean copy and is not dependent on the editors to catch every error, which means they must posses decent spelling and grammar skills. When a completed copy of work is turned in and it contains multiple grammatical and spelling errors, it can seem very unprofessional and you can loose your credibility as a journalist. Journalists have to juggle many things at a time which is why multitasking is also a must have skill. Press releases and tips flow into your in box, people are throwing more stuff on your desk, an editor may want a rewrite on the same day you have another story due. Good journalists have prioritization skills to keep from missing stories and to keep everything organized so that being overwhelmed does not destroy them.
Interpersonal skills are extremely important in order to be a good journalist. Even if others consider you to be a shy person you must change that right away when speaking to someone in order to obtain information for your work. At time there are press releases where the journalist will ask and be asked questions in which you must respond in a respectful professional manner. Having confidence in yourself not only makes you feel better about yourself it also exudes on to others. You need to be able to feel that you can ask the tough questions, act accordingly, get the details to get a story written with accurate facts and quotes. A good journalist must have the strength to take that extra step in order to get his or her story written.