How to roleplay a journalist
The video below is a whistle-stop tour on how to effectively roleplay a journalist character, based on my own experiences.
If listening to my voice isn’t your thing or you’d prefer some more in-depth explanations, read on:
Part 1 – Introduction to journalist roleplay
Why roleplay a journalist?
Roleplaying a journalist can be incredibly rewarding and fun provided you have the right mindset for it. It’s mostly legal roleplay (though there are of course options for corruption which may spice things up a bit) and as such, it’s not for everybody.
As a journalist, you’ll find your character conducting investigations, interviewing public figures, writing up their findings and potentially broadcasting them too. With commitment and consistency, your character will also likely develop a certain level of fame and recognition.
I’ll say this ‘til I’m blue in the face though: journalism roleplay is meant to be fun – and that’s the main reason why you should consider it! If you try it out and don’t find it fun, maybe it’s not for you (or maybe you’re putting yourself under too much pressure – take it one step at a time).
What type of players could this appeal to?
It’s fair to say that not everyone would enjoy journalism roleplay, but here are the typical traits of the people who do:
Good writers. If you’re confident in your writing ability then this can translate very well into your character’s outputs. Writing is essentially going to be your character’s job; it’s what they’ll be judged against and paid for, so you either need to be confident in your current writing ability, or committed to improving it over time.
Investigators. If you like roleplaying as a nosy sleuth then journalism is right up your street. A journo can spend a long time investigating a given topic before actually writing about it, plus you’ll often find that stories have “layers” which get deeper and deeper the more the investigation continues.
Risk takers. If you want the juicy stories, you’re going to have to accept that your character is likely to end up in dangerous situations. Whether that’s as simple as venturing through a dodgy neighbourhood, or more involved like trying to infiltrate an organised crime outfit, life as a journalist is not without its risks.
Organised people. All that investigating and writing is great fun, but being organised will help you pull it all together. If you as a player consider yourself as organised, either in your home or working life, then this should translate well. If not, then you may find yourself getting easily frustrated with the many stories you may be investigating at any one time. Fortunately, being organised is a skill that you can quite easily work on as you go along.
Those who have broad shoulders. You have to be willing to accept that yeah – sometimes people are going to love your writing, and sometimes people aren’t. Some people may see your broadcasts as useful, and others may see it as spam. You’re going to be in the firing line with someone at some point, so having broad shoulders and not taking such comments to heart is important. Naturally, it’s also important to maintain a mature attitude when genuine critique and feedback is offered.
What type of journalists are there?
In the real world, there are so many different types of journalists based on the media they’re employed in (a magazine, newspaper, radio station, TV station, social network) and the niche they may specialise in – if they’re not a mainstream reporter.
On roleplay servers, I’ve typically seen journalists manifest in one of two ways: the tabloid gossip reporter and the professional reporter. The differences are probably obvious, but I’ll list them here anyway:
Tabloid gossip reporter:
· Typically less concerned with printing the whole truth
· Focuses on sensational and dramatic stories
· Embellishes for entertainment
· Willing to print rumours without substance
· More likely to speculate
· Stronger personality
· May be bias, but isn’t ashamed about it
· Marmite – you’ll likely love or hate them
· Generally speaking, more concerned with “truthful” reporting
· Sees it as their job to inform and educate
· May embellish slightly, but not at the expense of integrity/believability
· Less likely to print rumours
· Not likely to speculate
· Generally try to present an unbiased ‘front’ even if there is underlying bias
· Reserved, more serious personality. Arguably a little more forgettable?
· They’re just the messenger – you’re not likely to have a strong opinion on them.
You may choose either path for your character, or perhaps a mishmash of both. I’ve seen some really effective reporters who get the balance just right; they report on serious things but do so with personality.
How do you report on an RP server?
There are many ways and much of the time, it’s dependent on a few factors:
· The capabilities of the script. Here on GTAWorld, LSNN has the following commands:
/news for factionised members
/interinvite to invite guests
/interview for non-factionised individuals who have been invited
Finally, there's /joinnews to join the news itself (this is mainly for the audience of course)
· Whether you’re a lone wolf or part of a company. Lone wolves have historically tended to post articles in an ‘internet’ section on the forums, or similar. Some have set up their own separate websites before as well, or focused on using in-character social media. In companies, you may have access to dedicated websites and broadcasting capabilities.
· Whether you’re willing to speak up. For the brave souls who aren’t afraid of a little voiced roleplay, you can also consider recording news updates yourself and posting them. In some cases, they could even be featured as regular updates on player-ran XM stations. Really cool if you’re willing to do it, here’s an example:
So with this in mind, here are your primary options for journalism outputs:
· Internet articles
· Forum articles
· Forum magazines (more in-depth pieces, covered later)
· In-game broadcasts (once the capability is there)
· Pre-recorded radio updates (when you’re willing to do some voice RP)
Here’s an example of a radio update I did for another character of mine, which was played on a variety of stations at key points throughout the day (until I updated it):
Part 2: Getting started
Journalists in real life often come from a variety of backgrounds, so it’s not entirely necessary to have a full list of qualifications or previous experience. I’d advise you to make decisions for your character based on your own understanding/mastery of the English Language – if you feel like you still have some learning to do, it might be best not to give them 1st Degree Honours in English Language.
If you’re feeling confident that you can deliver a character that demonstrates such prowess in writing and communicating, these are some of the subjects your character may have studied:
· English Language
· Media Studies
· Journalism and reporting
· Public Relations
There are more, but you get the gist.
Other considerations for your character are:
· How old are they? Young ones are more likely to be rough around the edges, but also more likely to be daredevils and risk takers. Time and burnt fingers tend to teach seasoned journalists when it’s best to back off from a situation, or let something go.
· What’s their personality? If you’re roleplaying a gossipy reporter, it makes sense for your character to have a strong and outgoing personality. For serious reporters, you tend to find that these individuals are slightly more reserved and professional.
· What’s their goal? Most people in the real world go into journalism because they’re driven to it for some reason. It’s not a massive money-maker, particularly when low down in the ranks, so reasons tend to be “the pursuit of truth” or “holding public figures accountable” and suchlike.
· What’s their moral compass? Is your character going to play by the rules, or ‘break some eggs to make some omelettes’? Are they going to accept bribes? Are they going to let their own prejudices affect how they report on things? All important questions to answer about your character – and don’t forget this can all change over time!
Your character’s first steps
So you’ve made your character and are ready to get going with roleplaying a journalist. Getting started can be pretty intimidating – but it needn’t be. Here are a few top tips:
· Just start writing. It doesn’t matter whether what you write will eventually be published; you can spend too long trying to overanalyse what to write and then never actually end up putting pen to paper. Write about anything your character sees during their day, and see if you can make it entertaining or interesting.
· Get out and drive around. You’re bound to stumble upon something potentially of interest; a robbery, a fire, a business opening, someone with an interesting story to tell… but you’ll never know if your character stays stuck in their apartment all day (or offline!)
· Start establishing a network. Get out there and meet people, make sure your character is making new friends and contacts all the time. Be sure that they know to contact you if they come across anything interesting – and thank them if they ever do get in touch with something.
· Find your character’s tone of voice. This only really comes with consistent writing – but you’ll soon find that you as a player likely have your own quirk to how you write. Make the decision on how you’re going to inject your character’s personality and goals into their writing; just because it’s how you would write something, doesn’t mean it’s how they would.
· Publish! If it’s on the forums, get some articles up. If you’re in a news company and you have the permissions, get some broadcasts done. If you’re producing voice clips, fire up the microphone and get it sorted.
· Promote. Whether it’s using in-game advertising, social media or in other parts of the forums; make sure people know where to read your articles or find your broadcasts (or logs/records of your broadcasts, if it’s in-game).
That’s all there is to it. Rinse, repeat and keep getting better as you go.
What can you write about?
There are a wide variety of topics that your character can choose to write about – much of it is dependent on what’s happening in the world, but there are other options which are almost constantly available to you if it’s a ‘slow news day’.
Things to report on as they happen:
· Crime. Keep an eye out for car chases and police activity. In most situations, your character is likely to be asked to keep a safe distance. Depending on how you’re roleplaying the character, you may decide to abide by these requests, or not. But remember – keeping the police on your character’s good side (at least in the beginning) might lead them to be less resistant to any requests you make in the future.
· Fires and other disasters. Building on fire? That’s newsworthy. Where did it happen, how did it happen, is anyone hurt, did anyone die, who’s involved, was it deliberate? So many questions, and it’s your character’s job to find out and publish the answers.
· Political updates. These can come from the Government, or from the legal services which may have their own press offices. It’s important to keep an eye on what these institutions publish, so that you can analyse it and potentially repurpose it for your reporting.
· Events. Sometimes the Government or other organisations hold events like races, careers fairs and so on. It’s always good to attend these events and do a write-up afterwards; both players and their characters would no doubt appreciate reading about anything they’ve missed.
Other subjects you can write on at any time:
· Business reviews. Obviously, it’s dependent on the business being open, but this is also a great way to get to know who the influential people are in the city. Be careful though, your character will have a choice to make: do they remain truthful even if it pisses off the owner, or do they chum up to the owner and constantly post good reviews just to increase their network? Both have pros and cons!
· Interviews with public figures. This is where the “not pissing people off too much” part comes in. If your character has maintained positive relations with certain people of interest, or the businesses they work for, they may be willing to have an exclusive interview. You’re then free to set the terms of what the interview covers, and if it goes well, they may be willing to come back for more in the future.
· Area guides and informative pieces. People who are new to the city would no doubt find value in learning about the hottest spots in town – not just businesses, but “places to be” and “things to do”. Think about what players would find interesting to read; this is fine, so long as you then write it for their characters and from your character’s perspective.
· A specialist subject. Perhaps your character is interested in fashion, or cars. Find a niche that others would be interested in reading about, along with something to say about it (perhaps a new fashion trend), and give it a go.
· Opinion pieces. If you’re happy with your character losing a bit of their objectivity, then it’s fine for them to publish their opinion on a given matter as well – similar to how columnists and contributors do in real life. Pick a subject or a recent event, then analyse it through your character’s eyes.
There are no doubt more – please let me know and I’ll add them!
One important note: do not make things up completely. I have generally found that very people enjoy reading things which never actually happened – for obvious reasons. Surprisingly however I did receive a lot of requests for this in my time roleplaying a journalist; mainly because someone wanted me to publish a character’s “backstory” and establish them as some kind of badass. I personally advise against this; it’s up to the players to promote their own backstory. Their character’s reputation is then theirs to make and shape. Perhaps they’ll do this by working with you in the game, which is great, I just wouldn’t accept “this is what happened in Liberty City one week ago” type requests.
I'd also add (thanks to @knppel for this one) that you should try to make your character focus on the stories, rather than on making your character be the story. It's fine for fame to be the goal; but people will easily get bored if you're clearly just doing it purely for the fame and attention (this sort of crosses both IC and OOC boundaries too).
Section 3: Top tips for improving your journalism roleplay
I did journo roleplay for a good couple of years, running news factions as well as doing my own things as an independent. I learnt a lot, so if you want to take your RP to the next level, here are a few tips from me:
· Remain consistent. Set yourself goals for how many “outputs” you’ll produce in a given time frame, but don’t put yourself under undue pressure. It’s far better to consistently produce 1 article per week, than suddenly do 5 articles one week and none the next. Consistency is better than volume.
· Have a brand and a personality. If your character works for a news company, you already have a corporate brand. But give them a personality too; make people enjoy hearing updates from your character. Make them interesting, give them depth.
· Never stop getting your character’s name out there. It takes time to become known as “the news person”, but once you get there, finding stories becomes a hell of a lot easier. Why? Because many people will actually start sending YOU the stories rather than you having to go out and find them. Ironically this is how things work in real life: PR executives throw stories at journalists, and they get to decide what to use and what not to use.
· Connect with media relations early. Most of the legal factions have their own dedicated press office or media relations department. Ask to be put in touch with them early and they’ll no doubt help your character along their journey... provided you aren’t always printing controversial stuff about them.
· Don’t be afraid to piss people off. This may seem contradictory to the above point, but it isn’t: generally speaking, most people value the truth and can see through obvious brown-nosing. Good journalists are known for thoroughly investigating and informing the public, even if this ruffles feathers.
· To earn money, you need advertisers. You’re not likely to have much interest in the beginning, but if you’re consistent and you can prove that you have readership, then there will be a demand to advertise with your publication or on your channel. Keep at it, and the money will come.
· Put in extra effort. If you have the time and are willing to do so, think about how you could really show off your character’s journalism. Perhaps you could create your own magazine on Photoshop, or take the step into doing voiced reports, or something like that. It’s easier to stand out from the crowd when you do something different.
· NEW: proof read. This one is hilariously relevant; you should proof read everything before you post it as an article or broadcast. As an example, this guide was originally meant for "another server" and, when I posted it, I hadn't properly proofed it. And so (as you'll see in the comments) other people picked up on this instead. This is exactly what happens with errors in the real world and in journalism RP - and is far from ideal! It's also a good idea to get someone else to proof your stuff first, as they tend to spot things that you don't.
· HAVE FUN! It’s far, far too easy with legal roleplay to fall into the trap of treating this like a second job. It is absolutely not meant to be a second job. You’re playing any roleplay server to have fun, and you should never feel pressurised like you may do in a real life studying or work situation. If you ever feel like this, it may be time to take a break. Often in the past, this has come as a result of players or their characters criticizing my work; it takes a lot of maturity and some broad shoulders to consistently rise above that. If it gets a bit much, don’t worry at all about taking it slow. Your sanity and enjoyment should, as ever, be the key driving factor here.
I hope you found my guide to roleplaying a journalist interesting – I would love to hear your feedback, comments and suggestions 😊