The process of news writing begins with an assignment from the editor or a pitch from the writer that is accepted and approved. The assignment is a general outline that the writer will adhere to while investigating the story, which could be a brief interview with a recording artist about the start of their summer tour or an in-depth look at the complicated financial affects of streaming services on cable television subscriptions. Based on the outline, the journalist researches the topic to gather background information and decides on appropriate contacts to include as sources for the article. The rule is that a credible article needs at least three sources, or quoted individuals, and at least two differing opinions represented beside the evidentiary facts. As we have been taught in grade school, all informative articles must explain who, what, where, when, why, and how. Beyond that, the journalist makes decisions about how best to frame the article to make it compelling and interesting. A categorical listing of facts is not terribly interesting to read; it is the writer’s job to breath life and creativity into the story.
After collecting background information and speaking with sources, the journalist formulates a first draft. This is only a rough version of the article. Every writer is different, but most iterate the copy at least twice before sending it to the editor. It is the editor’s job to review the article for spelling, grammar, and style and then to work with the writer to trim the article and perfect the content. At this stage, it may even be necessary for the writer to gather new background information and contact additional sources. Again, the writer makes necessary changes and submits the draft to the editor. When he or she is satisfied with the story, the editor will approve the story for publication.
Skills & Education
A college degree in journalism, English, or creative writing is recommended for this career and should include courses in non-fiction writing, reporting, new media journalism, editing, and mass communication law. Writers must have a strong command of the English language and the fundamentals of constructing a compelling article. Familiarity with basic HTML and CSS is encouraged. As the news media makes the next evolutionary leap to a web-focused model, contributors should be familiar with content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, and Tumblr and be knowledgeable about embedding rich media content like videos and podcasts. Excellent computer skills are necessary. Experience within a particular segment of the entertainment industry is beneficial, such as previous employment in film, television, music, live production, or video game development.
What to Expect
Like most jobs worth having, the career field for entertainment journalists is highly competitive. The traditional print media is shrinking, as established publications struggle to stay profitable against free online news outlets. Salaries for print journalists have seen a decline in recent years, but pay is based on experience and the size of the company. On the flip side, numerous opportunities exist with online publications covering general news and specific entertainment industries. Of course, the most appealing perk of being an entertainment journalist is the press pass and behind-the-scenes access to events. Most publications will consider applications submitted via email with resumes accompanied by a cover letter and examples of written work. Generally, you do not need to wait to find a specific job opening, simply contact the editor or human resources department.
Once hired, writers can expect to work erratic hours, possibly requiring significant travel. Though a typical workweek is nine to five and Monday through Friday, a certain story may have you out late at night or well before the sun rises in the morning. To gain experience and begin to compile work samples, volunteer for your high school or college newspaper and maintain a professional blog. Freelance writing opportunities are also available, allowing the writer to work for numerous publications on contract.