What it takes to be a good journalist

By Aznan Mat Piah

What does it take to be a good journalist? Or simply what are the main characteristics a good journalist should possess?

A known figure in journalism, Datuk Ibrahim Yahaya who is currently the Chief Executive Officer of BERNAMA TV, frankly shared his knowledge and experience with graduating students at a Practicum session held recently (2 April 2014) at IIUM in Gombak.

Good knowledge, communication skills, paying attention to details, accuracy, credibility, exposure and field experience are some of the criteria and qualification sought after by media establishments, according to Datuk Ibrahim Yahaya.

A journalist must also have an inquisitive mind and should always be alert and sensitive to latest development on current affairs that impact on society. They must know what constitutes news and how to present news to create interest to their readers and audiences. Another criteria like having proficiency in language and being bilingual in both English and Malay would be added advantages.

Datuk Ibrahim Yahaya have had a wealth of experience in journalism and had worked extensively in the field with Berita Harian, TV3, Berita Publishing and RTM which sprang a period of over 30 years. He was also the Director-General of RTM for two years from 2009 to 2011. He is also a known blogger.

He stressed the importance for journalists to do their homework before going on their assignments so that they would not be unnecessarily caught in a situation of not knowing the subject discussed at the press conference and therefore would appear too ignorant, embarrassed or even stupid. They must therefore have a passion to build on their knowledge so as to enable them to do a good reporting as well.

A journalist, he said, must also commit himself or herself to certain work ethics and journalistic principles and should not write false reports. The importance of maintaining credibility must be observed and practised at all times.

Journalists working in the traditional media organisations are now facing competition from social media in terms of contents and speed at which news are disseminated by the new media. He mentioned that audience are now exposed to four screens daily from mobile phone to tablet, computer and television. Technology has overtaken everything in their professional job. Journalists have no other choice but to learn to use the new technology and should have good knowledge on how technology works in broadcasting and journalism. They must expose themselves to technology and learn how to benefit from it in terms of reporting and communicating.

Datuk Ibrahim also pointed out that communication graduates are also facing competition from non-communication graduates for jobs. This is true as in some respects media organisations would prefer employing graduates in other fields like economic, law, business studies or even natural sciences because they have the advantage of the knowledge in their respective fields which the media are looking for. It is for this reason that communication graduates would have to prove themselves with extra skills and knowledge to convince future employers that they are equally good for the jobs.

Students aspiring to go into journalism when they graduate from the university should by now already braced themselves of what it takes to be real good journalists or broadcasters. They have been advised to learn fast from the experience of other professionals who are in the field and put them into practice. Many would have a chance to prove themselves when they go for their internship with the media during short semester in June.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Shawal Ras

A lecturer by day and a music blogger by night. Formerly: Managing editor at IIUMToday, and lifestyle writer for Esquire Malaysia and The Score Magazine.

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