What makes a good journalist?
Специальный английский

What makes a good journalist?

Even journalists will disagree on the order of importance of the qualities that go to make a good journalist.(1) But they are all agreed that paramount in the make-up of a journalist(2) is a deep and genuine interest in people — good people, bad people (who often make good news!), famous people, humble people, rich people, poor people, old people, young people, Black people, White people — people of every type — everywhere.

What makes a good journalist?

Many things. Even journalists will disagree on the order of importance of the qualities that go to make a good journalist.(1) But they are all agreed that paramount in the make-up of a journalist(2) is a deep and genuine interest in people — good people, bad people (who often make good news!), famous people, humble people, rich people, poor people, old people, young people, Black people, White people — people of every type — everywhere.

A person who has not this interest in other people will never make a good journalist. So. if you are not very interested in other people and think that most people are a bit of a nuisance(3) and you prefer not to have anything more to do with them than is necessary,(4) journalism is not for you.

Hand in hand(5) with this interest in people, should go the qualities of sympathy(6) (so that you can see the other side of an issue even if you disagree with the person who holds it), open-mindedness(7) (so that you do not make a hasty ill-informed judgement(8)) and an inquiring mind (so that you can really get to the bottom of the thing you are asking about). Last, but certainly not least,(9) the journalist needs to have humility.

That does not mean that he goes around like a Sunday School teacher!(10) But it does mean (11) that the man who thinks he is a pretty clever chap(12) and does not mind the world knowing about it, will never make a good journalist. The journalist — certainly the reporter — spends most of his day talking or listening to other people, and none of us is very fond of the man who is a show-off, who thinks he knows it all.

So these are the basic qualities for a journalist, but the required qualifications are very different things.

Let us look at the qualifications a journalist needs. Obviously he must be well enough educated to be able to write fairly clearly in whatever language it is he hopes to work in.(13) The best journalists write simple, plain, direct English, generally preferring short words to long ones.

What about the rest of the educational qualifications for a journalist? Often it is the pupil who was fairly good at five or six subjects, and not brilliant at just one, who makes the best journalist. These sort of people seem rather better balanced,(14) as it were,(15) for the sort of life a journalist leads — often with a nose in half a dozen things in one day — than the specialist, who was so interested in, say, biology, that he never took much • interest in history, geography, literature and other subjects.

But of course, nobody can say exactly what the best qualifications for a career in journalism are. They will vary enormously, according to the individual. There are plenty of highly successful journalists who were generally at the bottom of the class when they were at school, while many a man(16) with a university degree has failed to make any mark in journalism.(17)



1 the qualities that go to make a good journalist качества, которые необходимы, чтобы стать хорошим журналистом
2 paramount in the make-up of a journalist is… основным качеством журналиста является
3 a bit of a nuisance они вас немного раздражают
4 you prefer not to have anything more to do with them than is necessary вы предпочитаете не иметь с ними дела больше, чем это необходимо
5 hand in hand рука об руку
6 should go the qualities of sympathy рука об руку) с интересом к людям должно идти сочувствие к ним
7 open-mindedness широта кругозора; непредубежденность; восприимчивость
8 judgement суждение, мнение, взгляд, оценка
a hasty ill-informed judgement опрометчивое, необдуманное суждение, основанное на недостаточной информации
9 Last, but certainly not least последнее, но, конечно, не менее важное
10 That does not mean that he goes around like a Sunday School teacher! это не значит, что он должен вести себя как учитель церковной воскресной школы!
11 But it does mean… но это значит… .
12 a pretty clever chap очень умный парень.
to feel pretty well чувствовать себя вполне прилично
he is pretty (well) tired of the whole business ему все это порядком надоело
13 to be able to write fairly clearly in whatever language it is he hopes to write in уметь писать достаточно ясно, на каком бы языке он ни собирался писать
14 seem rather better balanced кажутся наиболее подходящими
15 as it were так сказать
16 many a man многие (книжный стиль)
17 to make a mark in journalism достичь успеха в журналистике
Quality качество
genuine подлинный, истинный, настоящий; genuine interest искренний интерес
famous знаменитый
humble скромный
issue 1. спорный вопрос, предмет обсуждения; 2. выпуск, издание, номер, экземпляр (газеты, журнала и т.п.)
to inquire спрашивать, узнавать
inquiring mind пытливый ум
humility скромность
obviously явно, ясно, очевидно
qualification квалификация, подготовленность
educational qualifications профессиональная подготовка
educated образованный; развитой
educated mind развитой ум
educated taste развитой вкус
plain 1. ясный; явный, очевидный; 2. простой, незамысловатый


to write in the language
in plain (direct) English (Russian)
to be good (bad, brilliant) at smth
to be interested in
to take an interest in
to have an interest in
to listen to



1) Read the text and translate it into Russian consulting the vocabulary

2) Look through the text and find English equivalents for the following Russian phrases

  1. быть в классе среди неуспевающих учеников
  2. профессиональная подготовка журналиста
  3. предпочитать короткие слова длинным
  4. сделать поспешный вывод, основанный на недостаточной информации
  5. стать хорошим журналистом
  6. какие качества важнее, чтобы стать хорошим журналистом
  7. на простом, ясном, понятном английском языке
  8. проводить большую часть дня, беседуя с людьми
  9. заниматься массой дел в течение одного дня
  10. лучшая подготовка для профессии журналиста

3)    Answer the following questions about the text

  1. What quality is the most important in the make-up of a future journalist?
  2. What kind of people should a journalist be interested in?
  3. What other qualities are essential for a future journalist?
  4. Why is it necessary for a future journalist to have sympathy for other people?
  5. Why aren’t people usually fond of a person who is a show-off and thinks that he knows everything?
  6. Why does the author think that a journalist needs humility?
  7. How should a journalist write?
  8. Is it good if a journalist uses very long sentences? Why?
  9. Is it better for a future journalist to be good at several subjects than to be brilliant at just one? Why?
  10. What kind of life does a journalist usually lead?
  11. What kind of conclusion does the author come to?
  12. Do you agree with the author’s conclusion? Give your reasons.


4) Read the following sentences and develop the ideas expressed in them by adding one or two sentences logically connected with them

  1. Many things make a good journalist.
  2. Even journalists can’t agree which of them are more important.
  3. First of all a journalist must be interested in people of every type.
  4. One who has not this interest in people will not make a good journalist.
  5. A journalist  should  have the  qualities  of sympathy,   open-mindedness and an inquiring mind.
  6. He needs to have humility.
  7. He deals with people.
  8. None of us is fond of the man who is a show-off.
  9. The journalist must be a well-educated man.
  10. He must be able to write in clear, simple, direct language. ‘
  11. He must be interested in many subjects but not in just one.
  12. Nobody can say what the best qualifications for a career in journalism are.


5) Translate the following word combinations into Russian. Learn the English variants and use them in sentences of your own

basic arguments
genuine manuscript
famous journalist
humble person
plain speech

6) Match the meaning with the correct word

basic having a mind open to new ideas
famous having or showing a modest opinion of oneself, one’s position, etc.
genuine said, made or done too quickly
successful very bright; splendid; causing admiration
humble quick in learning and understanding things, skilful
open-minded above all others; the most important
ill-informed true; really what it is said to be
inquiring known widely; having fame; celebrated
plain having success
brilliant fundamental
hasty in the habit of asking for information
clever simple; ordinary; without luxury
paramount based on poor information


7)  Work out which adjectives in Exercise 6 (basic, genuine, famous, humble, plain) can be used with the following nouns

  • journalist
  • signature
  • mind
  • people
  • judgement
  • pupil
  • interest
  • answer
  • problem
  • qualification
  • quality
  • question
  • picture
  • actor
  • principle
  • painter
  • fact
  • face
  • language
  • truth
  • argument
  • statement


8.    Explain in your own words what we mean when we say that

a)    someone is
a humble person
a show-off
an open-minded person
a famous public figure
a well-balanced person
a bit of a nuisance
a pretty clever chap
b)    someone has
an inquiring mind
a good educational background
a genuine interest in people
the basic qualities of a journalist
c)    one
is good at writing fairly clearly
will make a good journalist
is at the bottom of the class
has failed to make any mark in journalism


9a) Study the difference between clear and plain

Clear and plain mean easy to see, hear or understand, but they are used differently. For example, we can say: a clear sky, a clear day, clear air (without clouds, mist or fog), or clear water, clear glass, clear crystal, or, figuratively speaking, clear thinking, a clear mind, a clear style.

Plain would not be used with these words. Plain English is English without any long or literary words. Clear English is English in which thought is expressed clearly. If the water in the river is clear, you can see things at the bottom. Plain water is water without anything in it, like tap-water.


9b)    Try to think of situations where the following sentences might be used

  1. His explanation was clear.
  2. The sky is clear today.
  3. It was a clear case of murder.
  4. The road is clear.
  5. He has a clear vision of reality.
  6. She wore a plain blue dress.
  7. The food was plain but good.
  8. She was a very plain girl (not beautiful; not pretty).
  9. He was a plain working man.
  10. His plain remarks sometimes offend people.
  11. His meaning was perfectly plain.
  12. The house was in plain sight.

9c)    Explain the meaning of the saying «Clear thinkers always have a clear style «

9d)    Study the following phrases and give sentences of your own

  1. as clear as day — ясно как день, совершенно ясно
  2. as clear as a bell — ясно слышимый, отчетливый
  3. as clear as crystal — четкий, ясный (например, о стиле)
  4. in plain English/Russian  language — без обиняков, прямо (ср. Я тебе русским языком говорю!)
  5. a plain-clothes detective — сыщик, полицейский в штатском

9e)    Remember

Plain living and high thinking means having plain, simple food and leading a philosophic life.

10)    Explain in English what is meant by the phrases in list (a)

(the phrases in list (b) will help you).
Translate the phrases into Russian:


  • a politically-minded person
  • a broad-minded teacher
  • a socially-minded scientist
  • a narrow-minded specialist
  • a practically-minded woman
  • an absent-minded scientist
  • a scientifically-minded student
  • a high-minded writer
  • an internationally-minded writer
  • a fair-minded person
  • a worldly-minded person
  • a feeble-minded person


  • one who is interested in social activity
  • one who is interested in  international affairs
  • one who is interested in  politics
  • one who is interested in  scientific problems
  • one who is interested in  science
  • one who is so deep in thought that he does not notice what is happening around one who is just
  • one who is subnormal in intelligence
  • one who does not understand or sympathize with the ideas of others
  • one who has high ideals or principles
  • one who is concerned with or interested in material things


11)    The following exercise will help you get ready for a discussion on some of the problems dealing with the make-up of a journalist.

a) Answer the questions by choosing one of the alternatives and give reasons for your choice:

1.    Why do you think a future journalist should be interested in people?

  • to be able to understand their lives better
  • to be able to make his articles more understandable
  • to be able to make his articles more interesting
  • to be able to get more information from people
  • to be able to do his work better professionally

2.    Why do you think a journalist should be sympathetic towards people?

  • to understand people’s needs and hopes better
  • to help people in every possible way
  • to see the other sides of the issue he is writing about
  • to avoid hasty ill-informed judgements
  • to understand other people’s feelings or viewpoints

3.    Why do you think a journalist needs humility?

  • to be able to get on easily with people
  • not to impose his views on people
  • to make a favourable impression on people
  • to make people talk with him
  • to win the respect and Sympathy of people
  • to make people favour him with their confidence

4.    Who do you think may be considered a well-educated person?

The man who

  • has graduated from a university
  • is brilliant at many subjects
  • is a keen reader of books and newspapers
  • has a wide knowledge of international events
  • has a good educational background
  • is a self-made person with a great range of information in different fields
  • can behave appropriately under different circumstances

5.    Who do you think may be considered the best qualified person to take up journalism as a career?

A person who

  • has graduated from the school of journalism
  • can write in simple, plain, clear language
  • is good at many subjects rather than brilliant at just one
  • has mastered typing, short-hand writing and driving a car
  • has worked on a newspaper for a long time
  • has contributed to a newspaper as a non-staff correspondent
  • is experienced as a journalist


A person who is good at

  • gathering important and interesting information
  • speaking forejgn languages
  • taking interviews
  • reporting events
  • selecting and presenting news

6.    Why do you think a journalist must have an inquiring mind?

  • to get as much information as possible
  • to find out all the details about the event he is reporting
  • to be able to understand people and their qualities better
  • to be able to see the background of the event he is analysing
  • to be able to present the event from an unusual viewpoint
  • not to make a hasty ill-informed judgement

b) Sum up the information in (a) and answer these questions

  1. Do you agree that journalists write for people and about people?
  2. Is it difficult or easy for a humble person to attract people’s attention to what he says or does?
  3. How can a humble person get people interested in what he says or does? Comment on the following:
  4. «Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he knows no more. » (Cowper)

12) Practise asking questions. Imagine that you are an editor-in-chief and are interviewing an applicant for a job on your newspaper.

Ask’ him

  • whether he has had any experience in journalism
  • what newspaper he has worked for
  • what his mark in English was at school
  • why he has decided to take up journalism as a career
  • what subjects he was interested in at school
  • what was his favourite subject at school
  • what mark he got for the subject he liked best at school
  • whether he can speak any foreign languages
  • whether he can type
  • whether he is good at short-hand writing
  • what speciality he would prefer to work at
  • what newspaper he finds most interesting
  • whether he is a keen reader of newspapers
  • whether he has ever had any experience in conducting interviews

13) Express your agreement or disagreement using the following expressions.

Give arguments for your viewpoint.


  • I think so;
  • I believe so;
  • Right;
  • You’re right;
  • I agree with you there.


  • I don’t think so;
  • I hardly think …;
  • I’m afraid not;
  • I’m afraid you’re wrong;
  • Nothing of the kind.


Do you agree that

  1. a successful journalist is one who works in a big newspaper?
  2. an ill-informed judgement is one which is based on rich information?
  3. a hasty answer is one which is given without thinking? without deep knowledge? too quickly (hastily)?
  4. a brilliant pupil is one who knows a little about many subjects? a lot about many subjects? a lot about just one subject?
  5. an open-minded journalist is one who easily changes his opinion?
  6. a person with an inquiring mind is one who asks many questions? reads a lot of books? asks for information? doesn’t know anything well?
  7. a clear style is one which contains many short words? expresses the author’s ideas clearly? can be easily understood without a great deal of thought?
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