Job profile journalist

Ulrike Weiser

What are the main tasks of the job?
Researching, analysing, writing – and an instinct for a story. As a newspaper journalist, nowadays you work not only on print material bus also cross-media, for both print and digital. This means that the day-to-day story topics arise in part from the occurrence of events whilst some you "create" yourself – e.g. if you uncover something unjust, conduct an interesting interview or pose a sociopolitically relevant question (and immediately answer it). Setting topics is altogether very important,   because a newspaper's choice of focus and the way in which it presents articles, in terms of content and look, distinguish it from the competition.

What qualifications and expereriences are desirable?
There is no mandatory course of education for journalists. However, as a rule, many complete or at least start a university course. Among the editorial staff of the ‘Presse' for example, subjects studied  range from chemistry through philosophy to law. Here the advantage is that of having solid knowledge of at least one discipline (economics being desirable). The actual skill of journalism is often learned later on through a variety of jobs. Here it's advantageous to acquire experience as early as possible in parallel with studying. More recently an alternative and good education route has also opened up: universities of applied science offer courses highly relevant to real practice alongside the possibility to build up contacts with future employers whilst still studying.

What career paths are possible?
The formal promotion route is through taking on organisational responsibility. This could mean supervising daily production as service manager or heading up a portfolio (e.g. home affairs or business). At the head of the editorial team, senior to portfolio managers, is the editor-in-chief. Prospects for development also exist for those who don't want or cannot assume organisational responsibility but can write or research particularly well. Such people are acknowledged and developed as the paper's commentators, investigative "whistle-blowers" or experts – albeit this route is of course also open to those who carry organisational responsibility. Within the portfolio of foreign affairs, there's also the possibility of spending some time abroad as a correspondent.

How is this job special?
Presumably this is somewhat different for every journalist. Certainly one attraction  is to be a ‘chronicler of the times'. You recount the present, try to organise, analyse and interpret events. In this context you have the privilege of posing questions to people of whom some are very clever and interesting. Whilst it has to be conceded that upheavals in the media business make the job challenging at the moment, nevertheless the times were never as exciting as now.