To get to the very top in the world of journalism, it is important to first become a student of the game. You need to learn the trade secrets and optimal ways to approach the profession from the top guns. You also need to uncover the unique qualities of top journalists and media organizations and what makes them revered globally.
Over the decades, several prominent figures have left a mark on the industry for their tenacity, fearless reportage, etc. Several of them have contributed to maintaining the integrity of journalism, especially in the digital era filled with clickbait culture and citizen journalism.
These professionals are highly influential in the industry, and their bodies of work are beneficial reference points for anyone looking for an accredited online journalism degree. This article covers some major journalism organizations and concludes with valuable tips for achieving a successful career in this field.
Important journalism organizations in the US
Most industries have bodies and organizations that serve as checks and balances. Journalism is no different, and there are lots of organizations in the US that help maintain integrity and professionalism in this field.
Beyond serving as regulatory bodies, these organizations are also a source of support. The business of being the fourth estate comes with strict ethical obligations and scrutiny. So, media houses and journalists often face a backlash at some point or another. These organizations are an integral support system. They have also contributed significantly to maintaining the growth of journalism and keeping it relevant through the years.
American Press Institute
This organization focuses on professional development in the industry. The American Press Institute was formed in 1946 and organizes seminars to draw in the top and prospective journalists across the country. These seminars touch on the different departments in print, digital and other media companies. Members range from actual journalists to sales, management and distribution personnel within the industry.
American Society of News Editors
Previously known as the American Society of Newspaper Editors, this organization changed its name in 2009 to accommodate other aspects of journalism. This is a membership organization created for news editors in the daily newspapers and other mediums of journalism, including TV and social media.
The American Society of News Editors came into the picture in 1922 to achieve several objectives. The organization fights for the freedom of information and the rights of journalists. It also focuses on promoting innovation, workforce diversity and sound leadership. Members have to be vetted by the board of directors. Here is a list of individuals who can join:
- Top officials in journalism schools
- Top officials in media organizations and houses
Editor & Publisher
Believe it or not, the print media remains a major and relevant element in US journalism. Editor & Publisher is one of the top bodies striving to maintain and improve the relevance of the newspaper industry. This monthly news magazine covers different aspects of the newspaper industry, such as popular awards, vacancies, circulation data, and more.
Through the years, it has evolved into other aspects of journalism, such as podcasts. Beyond this expansion, it also addresses issues of news publishing. It has grown beyond just a magazine to become a renowned organization fighting to improve the journalism industry.
Like many others, Editor & Publisher is invested in the fight for freedom of the press and advocacy for local journalism. Since its inception in 1901, this news magazine has evolved through mergers and acquisitions with other entities such as Newspaperdom, The Journalist and The Fourth Estate.
International Center for Journalists
This global organization focuses on media innovations and technologies. It’s a non-profit that promotes journalism worldwide, and the online platform is available in eight different languages. The official website contains plenty of useful tools for members, such as journalists, educators in journalism, media managers, etc., to build expertise and digital skills for quality journalism.
This organization is an information hub informing readers on the latest developments in journalism as well as training programs, guides and resources for emerging journalists. It was founded in 1984 and is headquartered in Washington DC.
National Association of Black Journalists
As a global initiative catering to journalists of color, this organization operates not just in the US but also worldwide. Founded in 1975, the association focuses its advocacy on minorities in different departments in journalism. This organization has over 4,000 members ranging from journalist students to practicing journalists and other media personalities. The National Association of Black Journalists achieves its objectives in a number of ways, as stated below:
- Conventions and Fairs: This organization comes up with some of the most prominent programs in the US, with reputable personalities such as former US presidents in attendance.
- Scholarships: The association offers scholarships to journalism students of African American descent.
- Awards: The organization uses annual conventions and career fairs as an opportunity to celebrate people in the industry.
The most influential journalists today
The top journalists in the industry today are professionals who are willing to take risks to inform the public and maintain the utmost honesty, integrity and professionalism. Here are some of the most prominent and influential journalists today in no particular order.
Christiane Amanpour is a veteran in the industry with a career spanning more than three decades. She serves as the chief international anchor of the popular TV channel CNN. In addition, she is the host of a popular nightly program named after her: Amanpour.
During her amazing career, she has worked with other media houses, including ABC News and PBS, and has managed to develop a solid followership from all over the world. Amanpour is highly respected for her fearless reportage and exclusive interviews with controversial personalities, global dignitaries and world leaders, including Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi. She is also a recipient of several awards, including News & Documentary Emmys and George Polk awards.
Fredricka Whitfield is an anchor famed for the weekend CNN Newsroom show. She has had an illustrious career spanning more than three decades, and her résumé is stellar, to say the least. She has covered major stories worldwide, including the London Olympic Games, Barack Obama’s 2008 Inauguration, the War in Afghanistan, and the Kosovo refugee crisis.
Before joining CNN in 2002, Whitfield worked as a correspondent at NBC News. Based in Atlanta during that time, she was part of major shows, including The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and Dateline NBC.
Whitfield is no newcomer to industry awards. In 2002, she received an Emmy award nomination for storytelling (long form). She went on to set greater benchmarks with awards such as the 2005 Ebony Award for Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications, the 2008 NAMD Communicator of the Year, and the 2009 NYABJ Long Form Feature.
When listing journalism icons, Robert Upshur ‘Bob’ Woodward will likely make any list. A US-based investigative journalist, Woodward is revered in the industry for exposing the Watergate scandal that occurred during President Nixon’s administration. He made this report public with the help of a friend, Carl Bernstein, in 1972 while working for the Washington Post.
Currently, Woodward is an associate editor at the Washington Post and has written and co-authored 18 books, all of which ranked as bestsellers (national nonfiction). For his 2015 book The Last of the President’s Men, he received numerous plaudits from other journalists, including Bob Schieffer (CBS News), who referred to Woodward as “the best journalist of our time”.
Woodward has received the highest possible award in journalism – the Pulitzer Prize – twice. The first (1973) was due to his reporting on the Watergate scandal. He received the second in 2003 for his emotional reporting of the 9/11 attack on US soil. His other notable awards include the George Polk Award (1972), Heywood Broun Award (1972) and William Allen White Medal (2000).
Anderson Cooper is the anchor of the popular CNN show Anderson Cooper 360°, a program known for digging deep to uncover uncommon truths. Cooper started his journalistic career in 1992 and has worked with professionals in more than 40 countries to date. He has covered major news events and is known for his live reportage.
Cooper is a vital asset to CNN in terms of election coverage, having anchored several conventions and debates. In 2016, Cooper was handpicked by the Commission on Presidential Debates to be the co-moderator for one of the three presidential debates that featured political juggernauts (aspirants at the time) Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Cooper’s versatility has solidified his positions at CNN and CBS News – where he hosts a program called 60 Minutes. His contributions to accurately covering the Hurricane Katrina disaster helped CNN collect the Peabody Award.
He has also received several accolades of his own. Since landing on the journalism scene, Cooper has won a mind-boggling 19 Emmy awards, two of which were awarded due to his meticulous reporting of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. He also has an Edward R. Murrow award on his résumé.
Louis Theroux works for the BBC as a documentary filmmaker and journalist. Theroux is revered for his documentary Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends. According to Theroux, this program aims to sieve out odd events in regular settings and get people to grant him insight into their beliefs, irrespective of the ‘weirdness’ involved.
He’s also the brains behind the British show When Louis Met…, in which he travels around interviewing celebrities to understand their daily lives.
Theroux has also written for some publications, including The Idler and Hip Hop Connection. It’s pertinent to note that Louis Theroux didn’t start out as a journalist. He was a writer before he made the sudden transition into journalism.
The unicity of Louis Theroux’s journalism is how he gets his interviewees to open up and enunciate hidden truths of their lives. This stellar attribute has earned him two BAFTA Awards (nominated three times). Thanks to his TV shows, he has also won the prized Royal Television Society Award (nominated twice).
Robin Roberts is a top-tier journalist at ABC News. She anchors the famous show Good Morning America, which has received the Emmy Award three times in a row during her time there. Roberts began her journalistic journey in 1983. During this period, she worked for WDAM TV as a sports reporter and anchor.
In 1990, she transitioned to ESPN, where she remained a sports newscaster until 2005. One of her most notable achievements came in the same year when she led the emotional Hurricane Katrina reportage in her hometown on the Gulf Coast.
Roberts broke a milestone in 2009 as she became the first journalist to report live about the swine flu pandemic directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2009 also saw her host the Academy Awards pre-show for ABC News – a feat that she repeated two years later.
Roberts played a critical role for ABC during the 2008 presidential election. Besides interviewing notable aspirants, she was the first journalist to interview Barack Obama immediately after he was sworn in as the US President.
Tips for becoming a successful journalist
A career in journalism is demanding but can also be exciting and immensely fulfilling. If you’re great at talking to people and crafting captivating stories or enjoy the rush of hard-hitting news, then you’ll likely enjoy this profession. Here are five success tips for prospective and emerging journalists.
1. Fine-tune your writing techniques
A journalism degree is essential for most roles in this profession. However, if you want to make an indelible dent in journalism, it’s just as important to improve your writing skills. Doing so requires experience, which comes with practice. You should write across varying subjects, including your strengths and weaknesses. A great idea is to create a public blog and leave room for comments. Besides the criticisms that you’ll receive from readers, covering different topics will allow you to become versatile, an attribute that tends to come in handy in the ever-evolving journalism landscape.
2. Learn the act of interviewing
As a journalist, you’ll need to think on your feet. While interviews are often prepared with pre-determined questions, you should be able to improvise whenever the need arises. Doing interviews as a newbie is never easy, but you can build your confidence by watching other journalists in action.
You can adopt their processes and see if it earns you the desired results. Fortunately, the internet is packed with valuable resources and interviewing tips for journalists.
3. Apply for an internship
One of the best ways to master your craft as a journalist is by seeking an internship. As an intern for a newspaper or TV station, you’ll get hands-on experience in the day-to-day roles of full-time journalists. Many newspaper outfits are going digital. Therefore, online publications are in high demand. Start by curating an article or two daily about notable events globally. Good pieces may catch the interest of the company you’re interning at and snag you a permanent position.
4. Create a portfolio
A journalist’s portfolio is their signature. This file contains your best works and achievements and is a great way to show prospective employers your journalistic prowess. Creating a portfolio is rather easy. You just need to have published content. With the internet and social media, an online portfolio is within everyone’s reach. You don’t need to buy a blog or domain to set things in motion. With services such as Medium, all you need is an account.
5. Be available
The best journalists are always ready for a story. In the same way, you should make yourself available to receive calls from publications and magazines. This is especially important if you’ve posted some quality content on a pertinent topic.
You can also pitch your work directly to editors at the local newspaper or magazine houses. Let them know that you’re available to meet tight deadlines and always give your best.
Begin your journey as a journalist
Journalism is an honorable profession but becoming successful within the field can be challenging. Fortunately, journalism degrees are available to provide you with all the necessary theoretical groundwork from which you can hone your craft and build a lasting career. These programs grant insight into ethical journalism approaches and competencies such as podcasting, social media, storytelling, mobile experiences, etc. Arming yourself with a master’s degree further opens doors for more high-paying opportunities.