The Definitive Guide to Online Journalism Degrees & a Career as an Internet Journalist

One of the career paths that is garnering a lot of attention lately is journalism. The Internet has made it possible for writers to work from almost anywhere. And, while the blogsphere used to be filled with those who did not worry too much about standards associated with journalism, now that respected newspapers, magazines and even broadcast news organizations are creating online presences, things are changing. Online journalism is increasing, and there is a greater interest in working for respected online journalism outlets — some of which do not even have a print presence in the “real” world.

This shift offers some potential opportunities for those who are willing to work hard to distinguish themselves, and to learn and practice good writing skills. Even if you are more interested in “citizen journalism”, rather than working for a recognized online outlet, it can help to have some sort of training in writing and journalism principles. One of the ways you can learn good writing skills is to take writing classes, or even to earn an online journalism degree.

Choosing an Online Journalism Degree Program

You want to choose a decent program that can net you some respect, and maybe even some contacts, when you are done. Having a journalism degree can be a big help in providing yourself with some credibility when you begin your career in online journalism. Some of the items to consider when choosing an online journalism degree program include:

  • Accreditation: Make sure that your online college is properly accredited. As technology has advanced and distance learning has become more acceptable, many online universities are gaining more respect. However, you still need to be on the look out for diploma mills, and check for accreditation to ensure that you are getting a reputable degree.
  • Qualified instructors: Next, you want to make sure that the online journalism degree program you are interested in employs qualified instructors. Read profiles, and look online for their work. Make sure that your instructors have had some experience in journalism or some type of writing before you sign up. You should make sure that your online journalism teacher understands the concepts, and can provide practical guidance.
  • Time with instructors: Even though you will not be able to see your instructor face to face, you should still have some interaction. Find out how your instructors interact, including through social media, chats, webinars, email and even group discussions online. Make sure that your instructors are responsive, and can provide you with direction.
  • Possible career opportunities: One of the most valuable things to an online journalist is the ability to network. Find out what types of opportunities other students in the program have experienced, as well as what types of contacts instructors might be able to provide in terms of web introductions and other helpful contacts

Some online journalism degree programs are more expensive than others, so you may have to save up or take classes a little at a time. Another consideration is that there are journalism scholarships that can help you pay for your education. Once you have a journalism degree, you will have a better chance as you develop a career in online journalism.

Building a Career in Online Journalism

It is important to note that building a successful career in online journalism takes time and effort. You must utilize your writing skills, but you must also be able to make a name for yourself, and prove yourself reliable and credible. You start this by understanding the core principles of journalism, and using them in your writing efforts. Here are the seven main news values that can help you determine whether or not something is “worth” writing about:

  1. Impact: How many will be affected.
  2. Prominence: The subject is in the public eye.
  3. Timeliness: Something immediate, that applies within a specific time frame.
  4. Currency: Stories that focus on what is happening now.
  5. Proximity: How close, in distance, the news is happening.
  6. Conflict: Sources of strife and debate.
  7. Bizarre: Something unusual or out of the ordinary.

Once you learn how to use these items to discern what constitutes “news”, and use them in your writing, you will be on your way to showing that you understand how journalism works, and building your credibility.

It is also important that you put other practices of journalism into use in your writing. Whatever you write, it is important to do your best, and show that you understand the underlying principles of journalism. Some things to consider as you write in a journalistic style include:

  • Research: It is important to back your writing up with research and factual information.
  • Reliable sources: Not everyone is a reliable source. You should also realize that your sources themselves should have good credentials.
  • Reference: Be sure to reference statements that you make with links and attribution to reliable source of information.
  • Credit: Be sure to credit others when you use their words or get information from them, and avoid plagiarism, as you write stories on web sites and blogs.
  • An element of balance: Don’t forget to consider the other side, but remember that not all sources have the same credibility, and not all sides have the same weight of evidence behind them.

Remember that there is no such thing as true objectivity, and true neutrality is hard to find. The goal of the online journalist, though, should be to do his or her best to try and keep personal bias out as much as possible, and focus on the facts, as they are presented by each applicable side. Other elements of successful writing include proper grammar and usage, logical organization, and, for online journalists, AP style writing.

As you get started, realize that you may have to work for little money. Use networking skills to forge useful contacts, and work toward raising your profile through the use of social media and other methods. Doing good work, and being able to draw attention to it, can help you land more work, and better gigs. You can also start your own blog, reporting on what you find, and make money from ads. This can also be a good way to raise your profile. However, you need substance to go with the social media views. Without good journalism and writing skills, all the pageviews in the world won’t help you build a successful online journalism career.

Online Journalism Schools and Degrees

Ashford University — Ashford's bachelor's degree program in either journalism & mass communications or communication studies is a good fit for anyone pursuing a career in business, communication management, media, journalism, or public policy. Upon completion of either program, graduates are highly valued and sought after in the job market in all of these industries. Ashford also offers a similar degree in English/Language Arts that is geared toward individuals interested in a liberal arts education. AU is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, 985 Atlantic Ave, Suite 100, Alameda, California 94501, 510.748.9001, www.wascsenior.org. Read more about Ashford University.

Full Sail University — The MS in new media journalism from Full Sail University allows journalists to keep their skills sharp all while meeting the demands required by today's media consumers. The degree program combines traditional methods of journalism with emerging technology. You'll learn how to produce multimedia content, use social media to engage audiences and promote your work, and publish and distribute content across digital delivery platforms. Read more about Full Sail University.

Southern New Hampshire University — Southern New Hampshire University offers a MA degree in communication that combines courses in communication with a solid foundation in the liberal arts. Graduates of this program will be prepared to enter careers in advertising, business writing, corporate communications, journalism, and more. Read more about Southern New Hampshire University.

Walden University — Walden University offers a Bachelor of Science degree in communication that combines communication theory with practical skills. This particular degree focuses on journalistic aspects of new media, including Web publishing, online video, podcasts, Web conferencing, and more. Assignments consist of exercises reflecting the material and interaction with other students taking the same course.

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