12 and a half rules to be a good journalist

12. DO WHAT YOU LOVE: Be passionate about what you choose to do. Remember: If there’s no love in the kitchen, there is no taste on the table. Never reject the impulses of your youth. Be responsible for your life, don’t blame others for what you become or don’t become.

11. WAKE UP ANGRY, AMBITIOUS: Get the fire in your belly to do something, set things right. Respond to injustice, inhumanity, corruption. Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable. Don’t think it is somebody else’s job. Be the change you want to see.

10. DON’T BE THE LOYAL MEMBER OF ANY PARTY, GROUP, CLUB, NGO: Credibility is everything. Retain your independence, be skeptical not cynical. Don’t mortgage your integrity. It’s like virginity—once you lose it, you have lost it forever.
9. BE CATHOLIC OF WRITERS AND WRITING: Read newspapers, magazines, books across the board. Admire writers/writing irrespective of ideology. In the age of the internet, you have no excuses for your ignorance.

8. FIND YOURSELF A ROLE-MODEL/MENTOR: Have a hero or heroine who has been there, done that. Keep in touch with people who will help you achieve your aims. Meet at least one new person every day.

7. BE A THRIVER, NOT A SURVIVOR: Don’t coast along, don’t be afraid to try out something new. Aim high, dream, have an ambition, set yourself a goal. Take a risk, think big, think differently, don’t be predictable.

6. NEVER WORK WITH SUCCESS/ REWARD IN MIND: Work for fun and the satisfaction, the rewards will come on their own. Don’t fall for cheap praise and don’t be stalled by even cheaper criticism.

5. WRITE, DRAW, SHOOT, CREATE EVERY DAY: Eventually your habits become you. Practics makes you perfect. Develop the three Ds—discipline, dedication, determination—and reward and recognition will naturally follow.

4. KEEP LEARNING EVERY DAY: You cannot learn eerything in the classroom or the newsroom. It’s a constantly changing business, keep learning. Again, in the age of the internet, you have no excuse not to do so.

3. FEAR NOBODY, QUESTION EVERYTHING: You are in the business to get the answers. Don’t be in awe of big names, power, reputations, status. This business is all about meeting total strangers and asking them questions you wouldn’t ask your parents.

2. NEVER BE EMBARRASSED TO ASK STUPID QUESTIONS: There are no stupid questions, only dumb answers. Talk less, listen more. Be humble of your ignorance.

1. CHASE YOUR DREAM: Stop living for others, avoid temptation, life is not all about money. Let your reputation never be under question. It’s true—it’s possible to earn decently and live honourably as a journalist.


And this half-rule

If POSSIBLE MARRY OUTSIDE THE PROFESSION: There’s nothing more boring and dreadful than waking up with somebody who goes through the same pangs and pangas as you.


(With grateful acknowledgement to Dr Ramachandra Guha, the eminent historian and writer, who delivered the convocation at the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media (IIJNM), two years ago, from which this piece has been adapted and expanded)


  1. Sukhakara Patrikodyamakke hunneradu sutragalu 🙂

  2. Sir Marte Hunneradu vare Sutragalu 🙂

  3. ‘Press’ people, pls accept this ‘half-rule’ to get better half!

  4. boringjournalist

    Formulae for the success can be given freely. But somebody should be willing to follow them. You can take horse to the pond but can you make it drink?

  5. I broke the half rule 14 years ago and am very glad I did.

  6. […] you want to be a great journalist and have a great career? Well, Sans Serif offers up 12 rules to help you along. As for the half rule — I broke it 14 years ago and am very glad I did. […]

  7. […] 12 and a half rules to be a good journalist. The grammar’s a little off, but it’s an interesting list. Via Howard Owens. […]

  8. […] Serif has 12-and-a-half rules to be a good journalist. They are good advice to aspiring journalists and I think I have followed most of them, but the […]

  9. […] 2007 in Uncategorized Hopped over this morning to visit Howard Owens who passed on this tip about 12-1/2 rules to be a good journalist. A simplified version of several other journalism/photojournalism codes of ethics – with the […]

  10. […] As seen on Howard Owens blog: 12 and a half rules to be a good journalist. […]

  11. […] 12 and a half rules to be a good journalist. Not much new here, but it’s nice to have some inspirational guidelines for young journos all in one place. […]

  12. […] 12 and a half rules to be a good journalist | sans serif – Just what it says… […]

  13. BEING A journalist is quite challenging as you have the power to question people in higher offices who are being corrupt.as for the half rule, it can be broken thats why is it half.Love is everything

  14. Nedburn Thaffe

    I am a student journalist. i work part time at a media house in Jamaica and this has really lifted my spirit.
    I have a burning passion for journalism but I am not satisfied with my work.

    I am going to print this off and read it every morning when i wake

    1. Brandy

      I’m doing a journalism project in Writing class!! Anybody got any tips to help me with this??:)
      Send me at least 10 tips on journalism!!!!!:)

  15. Thulani Dladla

    yes journalism is fun but,challenging to but do try new things and enjony the,and it also require a strong person who’s not scared,who can do what he/she wants and get away with it.THAT IS A WORD OF JOURNALISM IT ABOUT TRUTH CAUSE TRUTH SET PEOPLE FREE.

  16. […] in writing articles for public viewing, but I’m more than willing to learn. Therefore I found ‘12 and a half rules to be a good journalist’ and ‘The Pillars of Good Journalism’ as starter guides. Wish me luck as I plunge into […]

  17. […] 12 and a half rules to be a good journalist […]

  18. I am newbie journalist,got the chance of taking my first ever face to face interview(someone important of course) and I thought I screwed it up but after reading this I realized I followed Rule no. 2 and 3. Hence, now I don’t feel like a complete loser, I have stopped telling myself “You can never be a good journalist” and I actually feel good inside. Thanks for the wonderful rules: very helpful, very inspiring.

  19. Sagarika

    How about writing/showing something that is useful, entertaining, uplifting rather than drivel?

    How about indepth research?

    How about writing gracefully and correctly?

    How about editing out all redundant words?

    What about laughter rather than the boring pomposity shown by so many?

  20. Nasim Sheikh

    Hi Myself Nasim Sheikh and i want to become a good journaist so pls give me some good tips and information on that so that i can become a good journalist and make my aim to be proved. Thanks

  21. erika

    do i really need to follow the half rule???????

  22. Sidi mohammed

    Thank you so very much for this great knowledge you have shared with us, which is very important for doe’s of us that have the ambition of journalism as a profession. Actually you have educated us in field more than what we can get from any university of the world. Thanks & God bless for this wonderful points and guard lines.
    I am interested in the mass media. As TV coverage of event and at the same time asking questions.
    Thanks I will continue visiting your interesting website and getting new ideas.
    Thanks once again From: Sidi Mohammed Ahmed Zaidan

  23. ella

    honistly this website is okay. i think you need a bit more help on understanding what the public really needs more then always making the story what you want. you should make some more tips on writing but actually about writing not the life style it comes with.

  24. Lily

    Hello. I’m only 13 and I want to be a journalistt. My teacher said I should be one when I made an article about Pythagoras and she said she was going to put it on the school website. I also love wirint books on my computer and I took a quiz and it said I would be a perfect Journalist! Isn’t that great! Everyone I know says I will be a great reporter! 🙂

    1. Hey Lily,,
      Hope you get to be a good journalist … meanwhile keep reading,, I read 6 papers in a day… some get delivered to my home.. some I read online…this other than the media blogs i read… by the time you are ready to choose your field of work when you are 18,,, you should always be hungry for information…

  25. […] want to read your article.For more advice about the job of a journalist, visit this website or this one or finally this one. Or you can also come and study in my school, the CELSA Share […]

  26. kajohnnwanjiroh

    I like the part of marrying outside the profession. The last mistake I can afford to commit is to marry a journalist, I don’t want a house of hustlers.

  27. Musa Naviye

    Vry important pointz 2 note.

  28. I like your wards and al problems that you faced in the flies of journalism.

  29. Mohammadkavish

    I am truly satisfied with the above knowledge which u have provided in this brief description about the role of journalist or reporter these few basic point made me more elligible for the role in media industries i am realy thankfull to u for giving such type of knowledgeble and interesting point of view . ishould follow these rule

  30. Sayma Sadia

    I am a student and I try to be a good journalist.In this information I make myself.

  31. the best formula to become journalist is: suspect everything
    you’re told. until your own effort / research proves it so.
    read, read and read all sort of stories in any paper you buy.
    second, write, write and write.
    no advice will work until one puts a pen on the paper.
    computer should be an instrument, and should be used last.

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