A radio journalist has similar duties to a print journalist in that his or her job is to collect, collate, and then report the news. This could be in a local, national, or worldwide capacity. A good radio journalist typically will use sounds such as interviews, press conferences, and sound effects to make the listener feel as though they are also on the scene.
The difference between radio journalism and other forms of journalism is that a radio report is often heard once and then it is gone. Listeners do not have the luxury of listening to the radio report again; because of this, radio journalists have to make sure their stories are concise, brief, and easily understood. Like a television journalist, a radio journalist often presents the news live.
Learning to use the voice as an instrument is one of the most important skills a radio journalist can possess. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, but a large part of it involves talking slowly and clearly, learning proper breathing techniques, learning to speak naturally, and conveying emotion. Many veteran radio journalists had these skills down pat, and thus were able to connect with their audience on an individual level, contributing to the past popularity of radio.
One of the biggest parts of being a radio journalist is conducting interviews with people. Interviewing is a skill that can be developed over time with practice. A radio journalist needs to be able to make an interview subject feel at ease and be able to quickly come up with follow-up questions and responses. The best interviews generally end up sounding like a conversation as opposed to an interview.
Radio journalists are also usually required to have some kind of technical skills, which involves recording, editing, and mixing all of the audio that is recorded. Depending on the size of the newsroom a radio journalist works in, he or she may be required to do everything from on-air interviews to editing the audio. Larger newsrooms will often have specific people to do each task, whereas a small local newsroom might only have a few staff members who share all the duties.
Many colleges have programs in journalism and often offer courses in various media, affording students the opportunity to pick a concentration. In addition to attending a journalism school, most radio journalists gain experience by volunteering at radio stations. Many colleges have radio stations that are run by the students, allowing ample opportunities for prospective radio journalists to learn the craft. Local radio stations are also often looking for volunteers, even if it is just for a couple of hours a week.
Though radio is not as popular as it was from the 1930s to the 1950s, there is still work for radio journalists. Things such as podcasts and digital radio are opening up new opportunities for journalists who like to work with their voice. This line of work remains competitive though, and radio journalists wanting to keep their job need to stay on the top of their game, constantly learning about new technologies to update their skill set.