Friday, August 11, 2006

Do the average sport journo qualify

What it takes to be a journalist
11/08/2006 10:47 - (SA)

Lizette Rabe

It's that time of year again when matriculants have to decide what to study to keep themselves busy in a couple of years' time while earning some kind of living.

So why not consider journalism, some wonder, it seems.

But can anyone become a journalist*?

Only if you want to, is the short answer. Don't do it if you cannot close your eyes, ask yourself what your dream job is, and that magic word journalist appears.

Because journalism is a profession where you need the three h's. Hands - for practical skills; a head - for conceptual skills; and most importantly, a heart. Without passion you're not going to make it.

So who is a journalist?

Of course, none of us has everything that it takes. Otherwise you would be the perfect journalist. Our critics would say that must be a contradiction in terms.

But what characteristics do you need? What are the attributes that are must-haves for journalists?

You have to have a desire to make the world a better place. You need to be an idealist. Maybe some will accuse you of being unrealistic, but then that's their problem, not yours (and cynicism will not get its ugly grip on you).

You need to be inquisitive

Of course you need to be inquisitive. Journalism gives you a licence to ask. In fact, if you don't, you're not doing your job. The enquiring mind stops at nothing, and enquiry feeds enquiry. Question everything. That famous bullshit-detector must have an all-powerful 24/7 battery.

What else do you need? If you can answer yes to all the if's below, then it's your job:

If you're critical of everything around you - including your own profession and its shortcomings and challenges.

If you're a stickler for precision, journalism is your job. Dot the i's and cross the t's. Literally and figuratively.

If you fall in love with a phrase that's so elegantly written you want to burst out in tears, even after reading it for the hundredth time.

If you get frustrated behind your computer because that evasive phrase is driving you round the bend and back. I

f you see your keyboard as your instrument, and "compose", whether doing the two-finger two-step or the perfect ten-finger-waltz.

If you re-read your text, re-formulate a phrase, polish your copy, add a comma, delete a dash to get the perfect rhythm and register.

If you want to know what is behind something, and don't rest before you know. Everything. (Yes, you will become a pain.)

If you're a defender of the underdog, and the idea of being the voice of the voiceless sounds like the ultimate ideal.

If you're a lifelong-learner, and never satisfied with the here and now. If the knowledge and understanding of what we have today is not enough, and that constant yearning to unlock tomorrow is overwhelming.

If you want to tell our lives' stories, and the story of our lifetime.

If you're not afraid of hard work, and boring work, and long days (and longer nights). And if you remain enthusiastic throughout.

If you want to be the first to know, and to tell that story to the world. If you are addicted to news, on a need to know basis, and if people fascinate you.

If you get agitated when you start to think what you miss out because one just cannot possibly know everything that's going on.

If you're not afraid of the powerful, but rather want to ensure the powerful is not corrupted by their power.

If you don't mind being called names and being blamed for all the wrongs in the world.

Lastly, if you don't want to earn obscene amounts of money. Because journalism is not about the money. It's about doing a job you love.

Then, dear reader, you have what it takes to be a journalist.

Or, as some would describe this unloved species: homo sapiens journalismus. That strange, but fascinating creature that seeks out others of its kind, where they passionately discuss the latest skinner behind the story (oh yes), make insider-jokes (yebo), are irreverent over holy and unholy cows, dream up the ultimate intro for a story, fall in love with words and ideas. And above all, remain idealists.

Always inspect the expected
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