No single set of rules exists to define the qualities of the ideal journalist for every publication. With all the journalistic venues in existence -- from small town newspapers to nationally recognized news magazines, from consumer magazines about cosmetics to scholarly trade journals -- a good journalist must understand the specific expectations held in his chosen venue. Several common essential qualities do exist from one venue to another, however.
Curiosity Compels Questions
Curiosity drives the good journalist forward. An individual who watches life passively or apathetically lacks the ability to ask the right questions. A good, thorough journalist constantly asks questions about the world around him and always seeks the full truth behind every story.
A Way with Words
Solid writing skills often make the difference between an average piece and an enthralling piece. Any writer must have a love of words. The successful journalist must take her love of words and create grammatically accurate, concise articles capable of capturing an audience's attention within a restricted word count.
A good journalist needs an accurate awareness of current events. He must read a broad range of print and digital news sources in order to obtain the most updated information. A broad range of background knowledge also helps, as does the ability to research quickly and precisely in order to obtain unknown background information for a story.
A Way with People
Good communication skills prove vital for the journalist. A good journalist knows who and how to interview for the best, most crucial information. If an interview turns sour, the interviewer must remain calm. Additionally, a good journalist also knows how to frame an article in order to maximize its appeal to the target audience.
Ethics Must Prevail
With the competitive nature of journalism, many journalists often fall into the trap of abandoning their ethics for the sake of notoriety. A great journalist knows how to balance a sense of ethics with a thirst for uncovering secrets. Maintaining accuracy, even at the cost of losing the scoop to another journalist, helps maintain the ethical nature of a piece.
Professionalism and Confidence
Even a beginning journalist must consider himself a professional, rather than an amateur. Part of professionalism within the journalism community means meeting deadlines, working irregular hours and accepting criticism from editors on articles. Journalists must maintain a sturdy sense of self-confidence in order to continually put their work out into the public eye. On the other hand, they must recognize their own limitations and always seek improvement. If an article receives criticism, the writer must accept any constructive remarks as a basis for self-improvement.
Persistence and Discipline
Success typically comes after months, even years, of hard work. During this time, the good journalist must remain persistent and disciplined in her journalistic efforts. She must have honed her ability to find contacts and good leads. Good stories rarely jump into a person's lap. A journalist must persistently chase after the truth in all matters, both before and after her abilities receive recognition.