Journalist Interview Questions
Journalists are responsible for researching and compiling stories regarding current events for publication or broadcast to the public. They gather information from as many sources as possible and ensure that facts are reported free of bias.
Journalists typically research, write, and then submit work to an editor for approval. Journalists may be required to travel extensively for their work, tracking down information wherever it can be found.
A journalist’s responsibilities include:
- Keeping track of current events for developing future stories
- Conducting research using both material and human resources
- Ensuring final work is factual and unbiased
- Complying with and assisting in the editing process
- Traveling to wherever needed to report on stories or conduct research
A journalist’s skills should include:
- Excellent writing and grammar skills
- Experience in extensive and thorough research
- Good communication and interviewing skills
- Ability to network with people from all walks of life
- Being ethically minded when approaching sensitive stories
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in journalism is required for a career in journalism along with coursework in journalistic ethics, writing, and grammar. Training in IT skills relevant to modern print and broadcast journalism can give applicants a competitive edge.
Knowledge of basic graphic design can also be relevant in the journalistic field. With many publications focusing their efforts on online mediums, computer skills are an absolute necessity.
Salaries for journalists range between $27K and $70K with the median being $43K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a journalist include:
- Degrees (associate's, bachelor's, master's)
- Size and Type of the Publication
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the manager or editor you report to)
- Type of Stories Covered, Articles Written, Syndication, Etc.
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations, etc.
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Journalist Interview Questions
Question: Why have you elected to apply for a writer’s position at our publication?
Explanation: This is a general question which the interviewer will ask early in the interview to begin the conversation, collect some information about you, and learn more about your background. This question provides you the opportunity to direct the interview toward topics you are willing to discuss and questions you can easily answer.
Example: “While deciding where I would like to work next, this publication repeatedly rose to the top of my list. I have always admired the stories you publish and the other writers who work for you. Your publication has a reputation for integrity, honesty, and investigative excellence. You also have one of the largest circulations in this area which would enable my stories to be read by the most people. I would be honored to join your staff and help contribute to your ongoing success.”
Question: How adept are you at using technology for storytelling?
Explanation: Technology has made a significant impact on journalism during the last 50 years. Publications have adopted technology for research, writing, publishing, and distributing content across many different mediums. You should be able to discuss this and talk about how it has helped you succeed as a journalist.
Example: “Even before going to college and obtaining a journalism degree, I used technology for my writing. This began when I used my home computer to do homework and write assignments for English class. In college, I used the internet to research my stories and publish articles and blog posts on various social media platforms. Another technology I employ is my phone which I use for recording interviews, taking notes, and communicating with the editorial staff. I can't imagine doing this job without the use of technology.”
Question: Are you experienced with content management systems?
Explanation: This is a follow up to the previous question. During an interview, you can anticipate follow-up questions whenever the interviewer has a specific interest in a topic or wants to explore it in more depth. Keeping your answers brief and to the point will enable an interviewer to ask follow-up questions. This is another technique that can help you control the interview.
Example: “I am very familiar with and have done a lot of work using content management systems. I use these to manage my writing when working on a variety of different articles or assignments. They also assist me in reviewing my articles and ensuring they meet the publication’s guidelines. Finally, content management systems assist me in creating articles with high SEO scores which help attract readers to both my and the publication's websites.”
Question: What types of publications do you enjoy reading in your own time?
Explanation: The purpose of this question is to learn more about your background and understand the type of articles and writing you prefer. The best way to prepare to answer this type of question is to do a lot of research before the interview. Learning more about the publication with which you are interviewing will enable you to align your answers with the type of articles they publish and the writing style of the publication.
Example: “When not writing, I spend a great deal of time reading. The publications I enjoy include novels, other people’s blogs about writing-related topics, and news articles about current events. I also enjoy the classics, mystery novels, and science fiction.”
Question: What contributions have you made which have increased readership in previous publications you have worked for?
Explanation: Most publications are in business to make money. They hire writers who will increase readership which leads to higher advertising revenues. You should be able to discuss how your articles helped the previous publications you worked for increase their readership, sell more copies of the publication, or attract additional advertisers willing to pay a higher rate.
Example: “While working for my current publication, the articles I wrote increased readership of both the printed and online publication by 20%. I accomplished this by researching the audience and discovering what type of information they were interested in. I then wrote articles about these relevant interests which contained helpful information and were just controversial enough to create discussions among the readers.”
Question: Have you ever been tempted to embellish or twist the facts in your stories?
Explanation: Integrity is a key trait of any journalist. Once your integrity is compromised, it is difficult for you to function as a credible journalist. You could answer this question by discussing a time you may have been tempted but did not follow through on embellishing the facts or making up information for your articles.
Example: “When writing journalistic articles, I always maintain my integrity and use nothing but the truth. If I’m writing fiction, I can embellish as much as I want to make the story more interesting. I was once asked by an editor to embellish a journalistic story I had submitted and add some elements which would make the story more controversial. I was briefly tempted to do this but immediately refused, knowing it was a dangerous thing for any journalist to do. Although the editor was angry, I know I made the right decision and would do it again.”
Question: What is your approach to staying informed and updated on current events and social trends?
Explanation: As a journalist, you need to be up to date on current events and emerging trends. This is as important as maintaining your writing skills and frequently publishing articles. You should have a specific plan for staying abreast of current events and be able to describe that to the interviewer.
Example: “I spend a great deal of time staying abreast of current events. This contributes to my ability to write articles that are timely, contemporary, and of interest to our readership. I track current events by reading both print and online publications, watching several different news channels, setting up alerts on my phone for any breaking news, and reviewing the blogs and articles of other journalists.”
Question: If you could have written one of the major stories from this year, which one would it have been?
Explanation: This is another question that will help the interviewer understand your preferences and the type of topics you enjoy writing about. They are trying to confirm that you will be able to write articles that their readership will be interested in. Again, your answer should reflect the type of articles the publication currently prints and the writing style of their journalists. This will be based on the research you did before the interview.
Example: “Without a doubt, if I could write about one of the major stories from this year, it would be about the pandemic and the impact it has had on the social and financial lives of people around the world. Your publication has given a lot of attention to this topic, and the articles your writers have published have been thoughtful, accurate, and compelling. While my current publication doesn’t currently cover this type of news, I would be excited about the opportunity to write about this important and timely topic.”
Question: Can you discuss some common ideas or elements you include in every story you write?
Explanation: Most writers have a specific style and will include similar content in the articles they write. They will also use a similar style, and it is easy to detect their voice when reading their articles. You should be able to describe your ideas and the elements you include in your articles and discuss your writing style in depth.
Example: “When writing an article, I always focus on the topic and why people would be interested in it. I look for the impact it will have on the readers’ lives and how people with different backgrounds can have a different perspective on a common topic. I also include examples of real-life situations so the readers can relate to the article. Finally, I always try to add a small amount of humor to my articles to keep even the direst article upbeat and positive.”
Question: Would you accept an assignment for a story that could possibly hurt a person’s reputation?
Explanation: This is another question which seeks to understand your integrity as a journalist. When functioning as a journalist, it is your role to report the truth, even if it may damage someone’s reputation. However, you cannot target an individual and write an article that hurts them while ignoring other facts that may help them. If a person has acted in such a way that their reputation will be damaged, you can report this in an honest and forthright manner.
Example: “As a journalist, I am obligated to write the truth. Before writing an article, I do a great deal of research to collect all of the facts which either support or detract from the issue at hand. If I were to receive an assignment that could possibly hurt a person’s reputation, I would accept it then write the article factually and truthfully. If the person had acted in a way that would negatively impact their reputation, that is on them. However, if the facts indicated the claims against the individual were wrong or incorrect, I would do my best to expose that and help the individual maintain their reputation.”
Additional Journalist Interview Questions
How well do you work under strict deadlines?
Describe your writing style. What makes it unique from others?
How do you approach new research?
When it comes to interviewing a person, what steps do you take to establish a rapport?
How would you handle an uncooperative interview subject?
What was the most difficult story you researched and why?
What kind of stories do you particularly enjoy reporting on?
How do you handle disagreements in the editing process?
How do you prioritize stories when multiple deadlines are approaching?
What is your familiarity with online media in journalism?
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