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What Does a Newspaper Reporter Do?

Field reporters usually report from the scene of the event.
Obtaining a degree in journalism or communications is typically the first step to becoming a newspaper reporter.
Reporters working for a small newspaper might take photos to accompany articles.
A newspaper reporter may cover recovery efforts following a natural disaster.
Some newspaper reporters attend local meetings and write about important highlights.
A newspaper reporter writes newspaper articles on research or other information that he or she has discovered.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2014
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A newspaper reporter investigates a subject, performs research and conducts interviews to gather information, then writes a newspaper article on what he or she discovered. The very term reporter suggests that it is someone who tells other people about what is going on or what the reporter knows. Sometimes used synonymously with the word journalist, a newspaper reporter is usually someone who actually performs research and investigation into a subject or story and reports it. There are some exceptions, however, as some newspaper reporters may serve more as columnists who write advice or opinionated editorial pieces rather than researched stories about current events.

Many newspaper reporters will go out and find a story or do further research into something that someone else reported. The basic idea is to discover the truth, especially when there has been an attempt to obfuscate or ignore it, and then to reveal what has been discovered to the wider public audience. On other occasions, the work of a newspaper reporter is not so much involved with uncovering details, but in simply relaying what happens or what is said to a wider audience. This approach is especially true in special coverage such as wartime correspondence or political rallies and debates.

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Some newspaper reporters serve more as columnists and editorial writers than investigators out to report the hidden truth. These people are often experts in a specific field or specially qualified to hand out advice on a topic. They are often trusted advisers with a long history of providing advice to the public, either through newspapers, radio, or television. These types of articles can often include letters written by readers asking questions of the reporter or long diatribes decrying the state of public affairs.

Someone will usually have a degree in journalism to become a newspaper reporter, though that is not always mandatory. Such education is usually considered most important for investigative journalists, who often need an educational background in journalism to establish a reputation for themselves. While a reporter may eventually build a name for himself or herself through the work he or she does, a degree can help earn initial trust or respect. A newspaper reporter’s ability to secure a job and work for prestigious newspapers can be directly connected to the journalistic integrity of the reporter. Readers need to be able to trust the people bringing them the news, and when that trust is broken, it can be difficult to repair.

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anon308835
Post 12

I am a newspaper reporter/photographer. I am very young, but I have a lot of experience. I would like to share my story with you:

I have always been a very avid photographer and writer. I am a highly creative individual, and parts of my job allow me to express myself in artistic ways, which I enjoy. There are positive aspects of the job, but I really don't think it's worth the sacrifices I must make in my everyday life.

I will tell you what, from my experience, what a day in the life of a newspaper reporter is like (being totally honest).

Every day, I have a huge amount of work to finish with impossible deadlines. I am called by various people to cover lots and lots of events, each at a different time and in a different place (in one day). I am always dead tired, stressed out, being yelled at about how I "misquoted" this person or that person, and I have no time to spend with my family or my husband. I must neglect everything in life besides my career in order to finish the amount of work that is given to me in order to meet deadline. The schedule is so erratic. Sometimes I have an assignment at 8 a.m., then another at 7 p.m. Driving all over the place all day gets old fast. Also, I make barely any money at all, less than someone working at a fast food drive-through (not that there is anything wrong with that job, I respect people who work hard.)

As a journalist, you can NEVER please everyone, and although it may be interesting sometimes, it's not worth it. It will destroy your relationships, your health, and your mental well-being. Most nights, I am awake until 4 a.m. editing photos and articles. Sometimes I am so busy, I do not even have an opportunity eat. This career has made me a basket case.

Now, I absolutely hate writing, which has been my life long passion. I despise and dread writing articles. When you are forced to produce good writing like a machine, it isn't so fun anymore. I still love personal writing, like poetry and writing in my diary. But when it's on a deadline, it is not fun.

My advice to anyone aspiring to be a journalist is this: Please, use your talents in a way that will allow you to express yourself freely. Journalism is not one of them.

Saraq90
Post 10

I hate to hear that newspapers have declined and therefore that a newspaper reporter salary has declined as well (or maybe stayed the same for years without raise, which is like a decline when you calculate in for inflation).

I personally love opening up the newspaper with my husband and sharing stories from the sections we are reading (usually we only get to one and half sections before something else comes up we feel we need to attend to). It is just not the same having a newspaper online. It is more difficult to scan stories.

And you scan stories you probably would not scan if you were looking at a newspaper online.

Anyway, for this reason if my future child were to tell me they were going to become a newspaper reporter, I would not worry about their future job prospects if they built up the right newspaper reporter resume, I just believe that what a newspaper reporter does in invaluable.

For example, as some of the comments here discussed, they do tough jobs because it can be boring to sit through alderman meetings, but they do it, and they give us the information we need from it so that we do not need to!

kylee07drg
Post 9

I work at a newspaper, and I often hear about the various comments my boss receives each day on his editorial piece. He is highly opinionated, and he holds nothing back when he writes. This results in many emails and letters from both people who share his opinions and those who strongly oppose them.

Being a newspaper reporter can be a risky job. Once, my boss even got a death threat. The person actually signed his name and address to the letter, so my boss reported him to the cops and he got arrested.

People have also written to him and applauded him for speaking out an a sore subject that most reporters were too cautious to address. These responses inspire him to continue writing exactly what he thinks.

lighth0se33
Post 8

I have a cousin who is a newspaper reporter, and she is assigned to specific topics. She handles stories involving the schools, and she also is in charge of the content in the food section.

With her reports on school activities, she has to go the schools and interview people. She often gets to talk with the children as well, which she enjoys.

For the food section, she is responsible for either picking out good content from the wire or finding interesting recipes from people within the community. She is allowed to assign the recipe of the week article to anyone in the neighborhood with something good to contribute.

wavy58
Post 7

Most newspaper reporters are told to represent only the facts in their articles. They are supposed to avoid giving their opinion. This applies just to news articles and not to opinion pieces, obviously.

My sister is a reporter who writes both kinds of articles, and she says sometimes it’s hard to remember to leave her opinion out of news articles, especially if she has just finished writing an opinion piece. Her editor quickly reminds her if she forgets.

They are also told to write with a vocabulary and language that an eighth grader could understand. They aren’t allowed to write like a college professor would, because they must be appealing to the general public. Excessively wordy articles with fancy language could frustrate lots of readers and cause them to lose interest.

Perdido
Post 6

I have a friend who is a newspaper reporter, and while she loves some aspects of her job, there are a few she hates. Probably the thing she despises most is having to sit through boring aldermen meetings while taking notes on all that is said. She says it’s hard not to fall asleep.

However, she loves getting to interview people of the community. She does a lot of personal interest pieces, so she gets to sit down and talk to interesting people about their lives and what they do. This is her favorite part of being a newspaper reporter.

manykitties2
Post 5

Pursuing a career as a newspaper reporter can be really hard. Most new journalists get stuck with the worst beats, and it can be years before you'll have a chance to find anything interesting, or be allowed to do investigative reporting.

When I was doing an internship at a newspaper all I did was the most boring stuff imaginable. Pretty much most of my work consisted of fact checking and reporting about what was going on during a town hall meeting. Even the most seasoned reporters at my paper were mostly just working with the newsfeed off the wire and writing about people's home renovations. Not exactly the kind of newspaper reporter you'll see in a movie.

letshearit
Post 4

After I finished going to school for three years of journalism I discovered that the newspaper industry is really a dying breed. The days of a bustling newsroom that is teeming with energy and breaking news is a thing of the past. With social networking and online news sources you are constantly competing to stay ahead of the game.

Most newspapers don't have a chance of being on top of the news because they are only published once a day. Twenty-four hours is a lifetime when you think about the Internet and how fast information travels.

As for mutsy's comment, $30,000 is a huge overestimate. Most junior reporters start at about $14,000 a year. Plus, there is the whole idea that you'll do a year-long internship for free before you start even getting paid.

mutsy
Post 3

@Cafe41 -I have a lot of respect for those that work in media news, but I don’t think that I would like to work as a newspaper reporter. The newspaper reporter salary is kind of low. Many start out earning $30,000 a year or less. I realize if you work in the industry for a while and make a name for yourself and become a famous newspaper reporter you might earn ten times that, but that is a big if.

I also think that media news is depressing. I can’t watch more than ten minutes of a newscast and much less read a newspaper because the stories break my heart.

subway11
Post 2

@Cafe41 - I think that a newspaper reporter job allows a person to offer a public service by shedding light on a story that would otherwise be ignored. When a reporter uncovers cases of child abuse or corruption they really remind people of the value that they provide.

I personally love the investigative reporting that is often done with hidden cameras. I think that it is riveting to see how candid some people are about things that they should not even be doing. I saw a show once about an electronics store that was selling second hand equipment but telling its customers that the equipment was new. It really upset me when the customers tried to return the products but were unable to get a refund.

I was glad that this was caught on tape and the owner was eventually confronted later in the program. Reporters really do a public service when they uncover businesses like this.

cafe41
Post 1

I think it would be fun to be a newspaper reporter. You get to research stories that would be of value to your community and get to report them before anyone hears about it. I think that is actually thrilling to uncover a news story which is probably why many newspaper reporters get into the field.

I personally would love to be an editorial reporter for a newspaper because I am very opinionated and would love to frame my arguments for the public to see. The problem is that a lot of newspaper reporter jobs are really on a decline right now because of the decline in newspaper readership and the increase in people reading their news on the internet.

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