Connecting My Dots From Journalism to UX Writing

Same beat, a different song, I get it. You’ve read every article about someone transitioning from journalism, technical, or another writing field to UX writing, right?!

Well, I’ve had the luxury of working with major news outlets like NBC, Telemundo, and ABC. I’ve done everything from writing for the newscast, digital platforms, working on the assignment desk, and everything else.

All of these experiences are making me a well-rounded UX Writer, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Covering stories

Do you like stories? Movies. Music. Books. I know I do. As a kid, I reenacted a war journalist with a camcorder. I repeated everything Peter Jennings said. Being an on-air journalist was a dream job.

But I didn’t want to be on tv for the sake of being on tv: I wanted to inform people about their community and what they can do to see change: to empower them. So whenever I got the chance to go out and cover a story, I was there. I wrote about things ranging from protests in Downtown Los Angeles to a new head coach for the Lacrosse team.

School newspaper to the big leagues

I went to three different high schools before I came across Daniel Pearl Magnet High School—a Journalism and Communications magnet.

So, I convinced my mom to sign me up, and the rest is history. I wrote for the high school newspaper where I researched, interviewed faculty and students, did voice-overs, and all the nitty-gritty things journalists do. It was a lot of fun.

Fast forward to UCSD, where I wrote for the campus publication and other outlets. I even started my own radio show. But the real fun started when I interned for NBC7 & TLMD 20 in San Diego. After all, it’s the big leagues.

I wrote for the newscast, the station’s digital platforms, went out in the field with reporters, and learned the ins and outs of the business.

It wasn’t easy. If you went to a school on a quarter system, you know my pain. I worked three jobs and had an internship. Sometimes I’d go to the station without any sleep.

It wasn’t the smartest idea because it hindered my performance. Yet, I had no other option.

My leap to UX writing from journalism

It wasn’t until I was about to graduate that I started reflecting and looking at my career aspirations. I started wondering if journalism aligned with my personal long term goals.

That’s because the hours are crazy and inconsistent, jobs are declining, and it doesn’t pay much. At least at the beginning or in the near future. Plus, the market doesn’t know what it wants.

Even a well-known, respected journalist told me, “I feel bad for younger journalists. You have to work more and get paid less.” And it’s the truth!

Don’t get me wrong: it’s fun. I’m young, and I can do it. But what about when I’m older, have kids, and my expenses rise. Is journalism something I’ll be able to or want to maintain? The answer: no!

It sucks, but I knew there was something out there besides PR, marketing, or something similar that I’d find interesting.

UX Writing is just what I needed

That’s when I found UX Writing. My roommate, at the time, told me all my skills were transferable.

He’s a UX researcher who was getting advice and mentorship from no other than Don Norman. He’s the Design Director of the Design Lab at UCSD.

So I did more research to see if I could take a crack at the tech world. It turns out the steps it takes to air or publish a story is similar. Sure there is a learning curve, but I had the hard and soft skills to be successful.

A few similarities between journalism and UX Writing

  1. Broadcast writing is short, concise, and even sweet like UX Writing. There’s only 15–30 seconds on average to write a script, so there’s no room for fluff. Every. Word. Counts. Just like UI screens.
  2. Interviewing people is part of being a great journalist. Being able to think on the fly and create follow up questions without a script separates the average from the great. So conducting user interviews is so natural to me.
  3. Research. Many people don’t realize it, but before typing, we need to know the whole picture. That means digging deep so we don’t skip a beat by talking to law enforcement to confirm information. 
  4. SEO. I mean, how is anyone going to find us? By following SEO best practices, my articles reached over 58,000+ readers organically, helping the news publications gain more traffic and empowering readers with information.

I can keep going and talk about progressive disclosure and the pyramid triangle, but I think you see the similarities that make me and any journalist a well-rounded UX Writer.

UX Writing project

Once I knew I had the skills, I dipped my beak into UX after graduating. A team of three designers, a researcher, and I jumped on a freelance project for a party rental company close to San Francisco.

It was fun. We conducted stakeholder interviews, looked at our competitors, created personas, epics, and all the beautiful things that go into making a digital product.

A lot of work went into creating an e-commerce website for a party rental site. Yet, I found it captivating. It fueled my hunger to learn more about this field.

So Medium became my bible. I joined every UX group so I could see what UX pros were doing and listened to every UX podcast.

UX Writing courses

But I knew books, articles, and podcasts could only do so much to help me learn. Since I don’t have a background in UX, I dug into my savings and signed up for the UX Writing Hub’s flagship course.

There were two main reasons (not sponsored):

  1. Mentorship. I don’t mean graded assignments with a touch of feedback, but dedicated, hands-on mentorship that gave me a different perspective and insight to make better decisions on my UX Writing projects.
  2. A real course project. Yup. This really made the course stand out from the others. Not only did I work on a personal project, but on one that would have a real impact on people.

A future proof career?

In case you haven’t heard, Google is launching a career certificate program on Coursera. Once it goes live, I’m getting started on it!

You ask why? Well, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 3% year-on-year growth through 2028 in demand for industrial UX designers.

Compared to Journalism, the job outlook from 2019–2029 is expected to decline by 11%.

Plus, the pay is great. According to Google, the median annual wage for a UX Designer is $84,000. Far from what most journalists make. But that isn’t the reason why I’m getting into the field, and it shouldn’t be yours either.

If you’re a natural problem solver, have empathy, love writing, enjoy research, and using data to inform your decisions, then you have the foundation for a career in UX.

And if you’re still unsure, look at me: I’m doing it, and so can you. But if there’s one thing I hope you take from my article, it’s this: if you have the drive, it doesn’t matter what career you’re transitioning from because there’s a little bit of UX everywhere you look; so explore.

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