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Now that you all know about my aspirations to become a real writer, I need to narrow down my options. Do I want to write fiction? Or do I want to go into journalism? Before any decisions are made, first I need to improve my writing.

During my quest for enrichment, I came across a great blog called Common Sense Journalism, which is an extension of the Common Sense Journalism monthly column by Doug Fisher. Fisher is a former broadcaster, newspaper reporter and wire-service editor.

Fisher shares some great information on a recent entry titled, "Advice to young journalists" and provides advice written by Gil Thelen, long-time public journalist and retiring publisher of the Tampa Tribune.

The new journalist has to have some of the very same qualities of the wire service reporter of old. They need to be able to go short and quick as well as be able to craft the longer narrative. What I tell younger journalists about preparing for success is this: 1.Be able to practice a craft skill such as copy editing, design or reporting with competence. You don't have to be equally competent on multiple platforms but you must be able to perform basic skills such as real time - web posting. 2. Understand and be prepared to acquire new skills and techniques to strengthen your professional tool kit. 3. Be an avid student of changing media and customer needs so you can help evolve the craft.

Fisher then continues his entry by including a wish list of requirements for journalists which came from Irma Simpson of the Gannett Foundation at a February meeting of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication. The list is long and you can read it here, but I'll post those that caught my eye:

I asked several recruiters and editors about what 21st century newsrooms need in new employees. Here are their comments:

  • A strong background in news reporting is a must for all levels of journalists these days. “The resumes we get from those saying they want to be columnists or features writers are a dime a dozen.”

  • There is a growing number of “niche” and non-daily publications operated by newspapers. Students on the publications/magazine track can find opportunities in newspapers that weren’t there until recently.

  • Well-prepared with not only basic writing and reporting skills, but also in libel law, ethics, computer-assisted reporting. “Today’s journalists must be comfortable being interviewed on TV or radio, handling a digital audio recorder to provide sound bits for the website and in some cases they must be able to use a digital camera to provide photos. To perform at the highest level you need a wide range of skill sets. It’s the content that matters, and it doesn’t matter how people get it.”

  • Cross trained – able to write, edit, present news and graphics on Web, in print, broadcasting, PDAs, cell phones. Understand how information is presented differently in each medium and be able to do so seamlessly.

  • Copy editors and those with a talent for headline writing are also nearly priceless.

  • Internships: Preference is given to students who have focused on their interest in journalism and communication, and made an effort to educate themselves accordingly for the field. Strong leadership experience. “Students whose majority of clips are their opinion columns and/or links to their various blogs need not apply.”

  • Looks like I've got some work to do.

    And another thing, I miss the press hat (pictured above). You only see reporters wearing those in classic black-and-white movies or old newsreels. I think we should make reporters wear those again, that way journalists can be easily identified out in the wild. How about it?