News reporters and correspondents (also known as journalists), gather news and information to keep the public informed about important events. They obtain their information through a number of sources. These may include personal interviews, contacts, wire services (news transmitted via satellite dishes), news briefings, and question-and-answer periods.
News reporters gather and assemble this information to be relayed to the public. Newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations rely on news correspondents to keep their readers, viewers and listeners informed.
Reporters play an active role in gathering information on current events. A large portion of their day is spent investigating news before sending it in as a story. Some work as correspondents in offices located far from head office. They are sent to the places that important events are likely to happen.
Whether it’s working for a newspaper, TV channel, radio station or news website, there are two sides to reporting that must work in sync with each other: reporting and editing. The reporter compiles all the information needed to create a story and then edits the story to fit a specific news page or bulletin.
Reporters sometimes work in a specific ‘beat’ that fits with their writing talent. A beat is a media term for the area or topic a journalist covers, like crime, politics, sports, business, etc. They may work in one or several beats at a time depending on the size of a news organization. Generally, there are two kinds of newspapers that reporters work for - dailies and weeklies. Reporters for dailies usually have less time to find and report the news. They may work in only one beat. Reporters for weeklies have more time to do their research and typically have to cover several beats at a time. They may take photographs for their stories as well as general office work, in addition to their regular duties.
Television and radio reporters usually have less time to write and edit than those in the newspaper department. The news is often broadcasted immediately after or during an event. Reporters in this area learn very quickly how to convert information they receive into news clips suitable for broadcasting.
The news doesn't wait for anyone, so reporters have to be quick and find the news while it is still relevant to be presented to the public. Reporting is not just about good writing, although that’s very important. A large portion of the reporter’s day is spent investigating the news before sending in the story. They must have excellent writing skills that allow them to tailor a news story to fit a specific kind of media in a short amount of time. Reporters must have excellent language skills and have the ability to communicate with people.
News correspondents also need to be fast learners. Once hired, beginner news reporters do most of their training on the job, moving from one department to another to get different types of experience. Adaptability is a necessary trait to have in order to deal with the pressure of many jobs. A novice reporter might start with obituaries or report on local police news before being assigned to more important events.
Early journalistic training can begin early; working on a high school newspaper or yearbook is a great source of experience. There are also many opportunities for college students to work as interns for newspapers or magazines. Many colleges offer courses in journalism but these students find it hard to compete with those who have a bachelor's degree in journalism.
The work of a news reporter is usually hectic. They are under great pressure to meet strict deadlines. Newspapers have to get printed and delivered to people’s homes on time. Broadcast journalism leaves very little time for preparation. This means doing whatever it takes to get a story written and edited on time.
Some reporters work in comfortable, private offices; others may work in large rooms filled with other reporters clicking away at their keyboards while printers spit out page after page for editing. In an even more hectic environment, some reporters are on scene trying to get a story while sirens and police or curious onlookers distract from the task at hand. This kind of work can also get dangerous as reporters cover wars, political uprisings, fires, floods, and other disasters. It's important that reporters are able to stay focused and safe.
Working hours vary. Reporters that work for a morning papers, often work from late afternoon to midnight. Radio and television reporters are assigned to a day or evening shift. Magazine reporters usually work during the day. Reporters have to keep their days flexible in order to meet deadlines or follow breaking news. This kind of work demands long hours, irregular schedules, and some travel.