Journalists gather information on specific subjects, people, events or occurrences and presents the information in a report form for the press, radio, television, internet, public relations division of a company or other institution.

A Journalist gathers information from a number of different sources and presents the information in way that ensures all the arguments are represented. They keep their audience abreast of events by investigating events thoroughly using their contacts and by interviewing experts who provide them with information, opinions, leads or tips. A story may be a once off event, or an ongoing event, which requires updates and postings as the story unfolds.   

Journalists often have to report on a wide variety of subjects, and have to be knowledgeable and curious as well as versatile, to report on news events varying from politics to crime, sport, school events, art and culture.

In the past journalists specialised in either print journalism or broadcast journalism. Print journalists worked for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, journals and technical publications, while the broadcast journalist is usually assigned to report for radio and/or television. 

With the advent of the internet and social media has provided journalists with new ways of expressing themselves. Much of the news today is shared through social media and many events are covered through by citizen journalists.

News and media organisations employ fewer full-time journalists mainly because they make use of experienced writers or freelance reporters. Freelance journalists work on their own without a regular income. These journalists write on a wide variety of topics for various publications and radio and television stations and often find markets for their material by researching topics and visiting places of conflict, which are not regularly assigned by the conventional news media. 

Journalism is no longer the monopoly of multinational publishers and individuals are able to grow a following of readers of their own through means of a webpage, or blog or vlog. Journalists are able to grow their audience through writing for a specific target market and use social media to grow their “followers” and increase revenue through advertising.

Journalists today often combining writing with photographic, video, audio and social media skills. They need to be constantly updating their skills to embrace new forms of presentation.

Specialised reporting for trade and technical publications is a fast growing and important facet of print journalism, as well as so-called “hobby” magazines, which provide careers for journalists who have the necessary knowledge and interest in special fields. These journalists provide the latest information on developments in special fields for specialised publications concentrating on, for example, music, theatre, agriculture, business, engineering, different sports.

They research their assignments in libraries and information centres. They work irregular hours and their duties often compel them to work at night. There are risks involved in covering events such as fires, bomb explosions, unrest and strikes.

Journalists may also work as editors. Other areas of speciality include:

  • Columnists: write a regular segment within their particular interest category, e.g. gardening, fashion, and politics
  • Feature writers: write detailed stories or present commentaries on specific news topics
  • Leader writers: discuss news topics in the editorial columns of newspapers or magazines
  • News reporters: report on day-to-day news events, e.g. crime, education, health, sport

Personal Requirements

  • ability to write clear, concise, interesting and objective material quickly
  • good general knowledge
  • interest in current events
  • accurate and unbiased
  • initiative, curious and creative
  • aptitude to learn keyboard and shorthand skills
  • persistence to investigate records, interview and probe unremittingly
  • able to mix well with all kinds of people
  • ability to speak clearly when working on radio and television

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: No compulsory subjects
Recommended subjects: History, Visual Arts, Economics 

Pass in Matric with a Bachelor's pass 
Check each universities entrance requirements for admission to a degree programme. 

What to Study

Degree: Journalism - UJ, Wits, US, Media Studies - RU, NMMU, or Communication Studies - UFH, UFS, UJ, NWU, UZ, UNISA, UP, UKZN, Monash..

Postgraduate: Journalism Hons etc. - NMMU, UJ, Communication - UZ, UNISA.

Diploma: N.Dip: Journalism / Communication - CUT, TUT, CPUT, DUT. An advanced course (MTech and DTech Journalism) which may also be followed by students with basic qualifications in a related course, is offered at TUT.

Some correspondence colleges offer a 1-year course in Journalism / Freelance Journalism, e.g. Damelin, Intec, Varsity College..

An academic background is preferred but is not essential. Training of journalists can be divided into two categories: career-orientated programmes and broad communication courses. Tertiary students are trained within career-orientated programmes, where theoretical training is combined with practical training. It may be advantageous to take courses in, multimedia design, including web design. Keep up to date with skills in photography, video and audio recording. 

Some employers also offer in-service training.


  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • radio and television
  • government departments, eg. as press secretary
  • self-employment, working as a freelance journalist

Further Information

South African Journalists’ Association
41 A Frost Road
Milpark, 2109
Tel: (011) 716-1308

Getting Started

  • arrange to speak to a journalist to get more information about this occupation
  • submit articles and stories for publication in your school magazine
  • try to obtain vacation work at a newspaper or magazine

Programmes by Study Institutions


Study Journalism at Stellenbosch University

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