I know that, for the younger generation, becoming a YouTuber or esports athlete sounds more glamorous. Admittedly, that’s true. Most people don’t admire or even recognize journalists.
However, being a journalist is one of the professions with the most extended career age. In fact, most jobs behind the scenes have a longer lifespan. In Indonesia, there are Rosihan Anwar (departed) and Goenawan Mohammad (GM) — which are my idols. Both of them were still actively writing in their 80’s.
Some of my seniors behind the editorial desk only began to reach their career peak after turning 40.
On the other side, who doesn’t want to work following their passion? Gaming/esports journalists will continuously pursue and write those topics every day — even though it’s better too if you want to learn more than those fields (that I will discuss it later).
So, if you are a gamer or an esports fan who wants to find a job according to your passion and has a long career path, becoming a journalist in a gaming/esports media is a choice that you could take.
However, I do believe that there is no easy job in this world if you want to reach the highest level. Yes, it’s easy to cook an instant noodle, but it’s a whole new world if you’re going to be a chef in a five-star hotel or restaurant. You should need no longer than a year to learn playing a guitar. Yet, if you want to reach the same level as Carlos Santana, prepare to spend dozens of years to get there. This is also the case with your writing and journalistic skills.
I started my career as a journalist/writer in a printed magazine in 2008. 12 years of experience in the gaming/esports industry seems quite decent; though, it’s nothing in the writing/journalistic field — since there are seniors such as Rosihan Anwar or GM I mentioned earlier.
So, if you are looking for a shortcut, I think you should close this page. In contrast, if you’re prepared for a long journey, these are some fundamentals to learn.
Above Average Language Skill
Personally, this is the first fundamental skill that has to be honed continuously — no matter how long you’ve been learning.
Why is this the first skill? Because, no matter how smart you are, you are useless if you can’t transform your idea into verbal language. This could be useful for other professions too.
Language skill isn’t as easy as most people imagine, though. Identifying and understanding language units such as word, phrase, clause, sentence, and paragraph are just necessary to have. Likewise, it’s also essential to fully understand 4 aspects of language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
These 4 aspects of language may sound simple enough. We could hear since we were born. We learned to speak when we were 1-2 years old. We should be able to read and write during our first year in elementary school. Yet, once again, it’s not that easy. Forget reading, I know a lot of people are struggling to become good listeners.
Meanwhile, in fact, you have to be a meticulous reader if you want to be a good writer. If you’re going to become a good writer and speaker, you must learn to be a great reader and listener. That’s just the rule of thumb.
I always emphasize to the writers in my team that we have to be fully aware when reading, especially our own writing. It’s simple: if you don’t love to read your own writing, don’t hope other people will like it.
Willingness and Tenacity to Explore Knowledge
The second most important thing to have, in my opinion, is our willingness and tenacity to dig information and to understand knowledge.
Your current knowledge is worthless if you don’t want to dig deeper tenaciously. We were born with zero knowledge. The difference between one person and another is only a matter of our willingness to accumulate knowledge over time.
This may sound trivial, and especially so in this age of democratization of information. Nevertheless, with so much knowledge in our fingertips, human become lazier and less inclined to investigate further.
For example, I’m not sure if all gamers know the difference between a game publisher and developer even though the information is straightforward to find.
In recent years, asking questions on social media has become more frequent even though the answers could be readily found using a search engine. Humans, you and me (since I don’t like the dichotomy of ‘we’ and ‘they’), prefer to be fed rather than finding the information themselves.
Games and esports are not that easy to learn, honestly. I know many people don’t realize the difference between esports and gaming industries. Understanding and memorizing esports teams, players, and competitions also take a lot of time. Furthermore, it’s indeed difficult to truly comprehend the gameplay of each different game.
Why is knowledge and our tenacity to dig deeper critical? Because, if you yourself don’t truly understand the subject you’re covering, then you can’t realistically expect your readers/listeners to be able to gain an understanding from your work.
Besides knowledge about games and esports — which should be the foundation of all people who want to have a promising career in this industry (not only the journalists), in my humble opinion, learning about different fields will also provide an advantage for you. For example, I’m interested in learning more about philosophy, business, and psychology. Those interests are the ones that make me unique compared to the others in the same field.
I also firmly believe that our mindset is influenced by whatever knowledge we seek. Besides, I think it’s important to learn outside the box so that we are not trapped in our own narrow perspective.
Social Capability and Equilibrium
A great journalist must have a balanced capacity between personal and social capabilities. In other words, the ideal journalist needs not only rich knowledge but also many friends.
In my head, if I have to simplify human capabilities, I divide it into two categories. The first is our cognitive function as a human being, which could be how to think critically, how fast we could understand new concepts, how good we memorize things, etc. Second, it’s our emotional capability like empathy, self-control, or effective communication.
I know some brilliant people who have difficulties in making new friends. On the contrary, I also know many famous people who have numerous friends but are ignorant.
From my experience, I have to balance it out and stay in the middle — since every human has a time limitation. To develop our cognitive capacity or to make friends, we have to spend our time. Meanwhile, we only have 24 hours every day. That’s why we have to manage our time between learning new things or maintaining our network.
I do think there are other jobs which are more suitable for those who want to focus on one side. A programmer or engineer, for example, should have better cognitive capacity than social skills. However, your network is more important than cognitive skills if you want to be useful in business or become a celebrity.
To be a decent journalist, you have to find an equilibrium point between two sides. Nevertheless, I do think this balancing point is also vital for every profession. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg are not the smartest in their respective fields. They are just better in balancing out their cognitive and social capabilities.
Before going broader, social capability is necessary because interviews are an integral part of being a journalist. Whether you believe or not, there is so much information unavailable on the internet so you can’t just google everything.
Personally, I get more off-the-record information that couldn’t be published. If a story couldn’t be published, what’s the purpose? Those stories could affect my thinking in assessing or understanding so many things. I genuinely believe that our capabilities to evaluate everything will be influenced by how much knowledge we have accumulated.
Besides that, trust is one of the most important things to have. In fact, our personal relations will always be relevant to our professional career. For example, if I publish every story, I will lose the trust of my colleagues, which means I will get less information in the future. Moreover, being a journalist in this internet age doesn’t always have a positive image since there are so many clickbaits and so much quote twisting done to gain attention.
I do understand why media do that, actually. There are so many contents on the internet nowadays. That’s why media have to steal the attention in every possible way. However, honestly, I don’t want to sacrifice the trust I gained just to get more clicks or views.
Fortitude in the Journey and Pay Attention to Detail
Finally, we reach the last important aspect for a journalist in gaming or esports media.
Why is this part pertinent? Because gaming and esports industries are full of young people who don’t always have for the fortitude for a long process. Again, if you want to become famous in the shortest possible time, this career isn’t suitable for you.
As I mentioned earlier, the productive age of a journalist is quite long. It’s like a marathon instead of a sprint. So, you have to think further ahead building this career.
Journalism has been around since the 1400s. Modern journalism started in 1703. Therefore, there are so many people with so much experience here. You may feel superior working as a social media specialist for 15 years because Facebook was launched in 2004 and, before that, there was no such profession (AFAIK). Another example, it’s justified if you feel arrogant when you have been learning Phyton (programming language) for 20 years since Phyton 2.0 was released in 2000.
Yet, in journalism or even language and literature (which are older), my 12 years experience is nothing. I have written this in the beginning, but I do feel the need to emphasize it again since I saw many people feel satisfied with only 1-2 years of experience.
The ability to pay attention to detail is also related to perseverance, I guess. I know that so many people want to finish doing something quickly. You can’t treat journalistic work in such a way — what matters is done. Indeed, the deadline is also another integral part of a publication, but that doesn’t mean putting aside so many details.
I think this is the complexity of being a journalist. On the one hand, you have to keep up with the deadline but, on the other hand, you just can’t sacrifice the quality.
Most of my experience comes from journalism and writing about the gaming industry however I do think that every quality mentioned above can very much be relevant to other professions as well.
For me, the most significant difficulty as a journalist is finding the equilibrium point. Too much time spent on studying without doing social activities isn’t ideal. While having so many friends with so little time on reading will make your writing banal. Furthermore, a balance between keeping up with the deadline and paying attention to detail could take years to acquire.
Lastly, I’m not perfect with so many flaws. I need so much more time to improve. Nevertheless, those things I shared above are the ones that carry me to this point, and I hope this article could be useful.
Feat Image: via Deposit Photos