Thinking ahead a month might seem like an eternity for many journalists in the thick of holiday stories and planning for vacations. But before you hang up your hat on 2013, you should make a plan for how you’ll do better in 2014.
Want to be a better journalist? Here are three professional New Year’s resolutions you can make — and keep — for next year, and how to do it.
1. Learn something new
Yeah yeah, this is sort of what journalists do every day for their research. But when was the last time you sat down and took a class, attended a professional conference or just read a book related to your craft? In a world that’s constantly demanding new skills, you’ll soon be irrelevant if you don’t keep up on the trade. Here’s a few ideas on how to do it:
- Finally master your design software, learn how to layout pages or dive deeper into code languages with Lynda.
- Learn the basics of coding — for free at Code Academy (just in case stick to a budget is another resolution and Lynda isn’t in your price range)
- Sign up for the IRE CAR Bootcamp to learn how to find, access and analyze data for stories and graphics.
- Learn another language, such as Spanish, to help you connect with immigrants or other language minorities in your community.
2. Improve at what you already do
You’re already an awesome reporter, or maybe you take award winning photographs or design award-winning layouts? Great! But you can still get better with these tools:
- Sign up for courses on whatever is relevant to your career — from how to turn in better pitches to how to write cleaner copy — from Mediabistro, SPJ, Poynter or even a local college.
- Learn how to use all those numbers that come across about test scores, public salaries and business earnings with an IRE mini-boot camp on stats.
- Read or look at good work! You can’t be the best if you’re not consuming the best. Commit to following at least one local and national news source. Read at least one long-form article every week.
3. Engage with the journalism community
Whatever your job is or your interests are, chances are there is a professional group of people just as passionate about the work as you. You can learn from them, or you can help the fledgling professional coming up. Either way, you’ll be better at your job if you connect with others and swap ideas and anecdotes. Here’s how:
- Join the Society of Professional Journalists. Chances are there’s a regional chapter for your state or city, but even a national membership alone has value, including a publication, web resources and access to training classes/conferences.
- Join an association related to your field, maybe it’s Investigative Reporters and Editors, the National Press Photographers Association or the Society for News Design, or maybe it’s more specific, like the Education Writers Association or the National Center for Business Journalism, or whatever your speciality is.
- Join some media communities on LinkedIn or Google+ or at least chats on Twitter, such as the weekly web journalist chat: #wjchat.
Have other ideas? Share them in the comments or on Twitter @10000Words.
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