Not all that dream of making a living out of writing tend towards fictional writing of novels, short stories, or other kinds of literature. Even scientific writing is not among the wishes of people that are more into the investigative kind of writing: Journalism.
The newspapers and magazines are filled with articles, reports, and revelations published by journalists. Yet, not every article is the same – just as not every journalist is the same. They differ not only in writing style and preferred field, but also in the way of journalistic work altogether.
If you are an aspiring journalist and already know which field you want to dive into, this article provides some extra information for you on how to acquire information and structure your journalistic work. Inform yourself of the different forms or genres of journalism, and pick the ones most interesting for you or the ones you think you have the best skills for.
A journalist that engages in investigative journalism does all and foremost one thing: investigate. The topics can wary from economics to political corruption, from crimes to reports about a certain nation or social class. Weeks, months, even years can be spend on deeply investigating on and preparing for a report. It is most commonly used in newspapers, wire services, and by journalists working as freelancers.
The sources and approaches an investigative journalists resorts to include analyzing (legal) documents, different governmental reports, or records; public reports and large databases filled with information; conducting interviews with known, well-known, and anonymous sources; documents from government agencies.
Together with the growing importance of sports in general, sports journalism gained more and more prestige among the journalistic world, almost every newspaper having a sports section and whole magazines being dedicated to the purpose of reporting about sport events and athletes.
Some parts of sports journalism could be called investigative as well, longer and more profound reports being based on the same investigative work than the ones of “real” investigative journalists. Mostly, however, sports journalism consists of recapping an event or game. In some instances, especially in radio journalism, it also includes the live commentary of an ongoing game.
A tactic used often, but by no means exclusively, by television journalists is ambush journalism. This aggressive take on journalistic interviewing involves the questioning and often pressuring of people that usually do not want to be interviews; may they be politicians, experts on their field, or eye witnesses.
Ambush journalism is heavily criticized by other journalists because of it’s unethical methods. Journalists practicing this kind of journalism are often accused of valuing a sensational story higher than work ethics or proper investigation and research. Others, however, defend ambush journalism as being the only tool to get a comment from certain people in certain circumstances.
While the term may leave a few questions open, the subject of Gonzo journalism is explained quickly. In sum, this form of journalism involves the retrieval of information mostly through first-hand experience. Equally, the report or article produced is for most parts written in first-person perspective, revolving around the journalist’s experience, personal thoughts, and opinion.
This more personal approach of journalism is less featured in newspapers. Pieces of Gonzo journalism can often be found in internet media or magazines, and support a heavy usage of sarcasm, humor, self-satire, and exaggeration.
Science Journalism – Reporting about findings in science by bringing them closer and making them understandable to a broader public.
Celebrity Journalism – Reporting about celebrities or other well known people, mostly involving gossip, statements from the “stars” themselves as well as “experts” on the topic in question (e.e. drug abuse).
Community Journalism – Can occur in any of the types mentioned above, and is merely distinguished by it’s strong local focus.
Which genre could be the perfect one for you can either be denoted by personal preferences, or only be found out by actually giving several methods a fair try. Furthermore, one journalist doesn’t have to choose only one genre and stick to it by hard. Variations, mixtures, or more innovative forms of journalism are just as common as the genres mentioned above.
What they all have in common though is that they should serve the purpose of informing and/or entertaining the public without spreading false information. Every journalist has his or her own style of writing that may influence the genre in a way just as much as the tools used to gain information.
Every journalist should make sure that their text is correct not only with regard to grammar and spelling, but also with regard to the validity of the statements made.