Connecting My Dots From Journalism to UX Writing

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

Well, Iโ€™ve had the luxury of working with major news outlets like NBC, Telemundo, and ABC. Iโ€™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 wouldnโ€™t want it any other way.

Table of Contents

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 didnโ€™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 Schoolโ€”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, itโ€™s the big leagues.

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

It wasnโ€™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 Iโ€™d go to the station without any sleep.

It wasnโ€™t the smartest idea because it hindered my performance. Yet, I had no other option.

My leap to UX writing from journalism

It wasnโ€™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.

Thatโ€™s because theย hours are crazy and inconsistent, jobs are declining, and it doesnโ€™t pay much. At least at the beginning or in the near future. Plus, the market doesnโ€™t know what it wants.

Even a well-known, respected journalist told me, โ€œI feel bad for younger journalists. You have to work more and get paid less.โ€ And itโ€™s the truth!

Donโ€™t get me wrong: itโ€™s fun. Iโ€™m young, and I can do it. But what about when Iโ€™m older, have kids, and my expenses rise. Is journalism something Iโ€™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 Iโ€™d find interesting.

UX Writing is just what I needed

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

Heโ€™s a UX researcher who was getting advice and mentorship from no other than Don Norman. Heโ€™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. Thereโ€™s only 15โ€“30 seconds on average to write a script, so thereโ€™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 donโ€™t realize it, but before typing, we need to know the whole picture. That means digging deep so we donโ€™t skip a beat by talking to law enforcement to confirm information.ย 
  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 donโ€™t have a background in UX, I dug into my savings and signed up for the UX Writing Hubโ€™s flagship course.

There were two main reasons (not sponsored):

  1. Mentorship. I donโ€™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 havenโ€™t heard, Google is launching a career certificate program on Coursera. Once it goes live, Iโ€™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 2019โ€“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 isnโ€™t the reason why Iโ€™m getting into the field, and it shouldnโ€™t be yours either.

If youโ€™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 youโ€™re still unsure, look at me: Iโ€™m doing it, and so can you. But if thereโ€™s one thing I hope you take from my article, itโ€™s this: if you have the drive, it doesnโ€™t matter what career youโ€™re transitioning from because thereโ€™s a little bit of UX everywhere you look; so explore.

Join our FREE UX writing course

In this FREE industry-leading course, youโ€™ll learn about:

  • UX writing processesย 
  • Testing
  • Research
  • Best practices