What Is It Like to Be a Reporter?

Reporter
A television news reporter files a live report. DreamPictures / Stockbyte / Getty Images

A reporter delivers news stories to the public via television, radio, newspapers, and online media. Before broadcasting or publishing them, he or she must do investigative work to determine all the facts. This involves observing events, conducting interviews, and doing extensive research. Then the reporter writes the stories. Other job titles for this occupation include journalist, correspondent, television or tv reporter, and news reporter.

Quick Facts

  • In 2016, reporters earned a median annual salary of $37,820.
  • There were 49,000 working reporters in 2014.
  • One in six reporters were self employed, but most were on the payrolls of newspaper publishers and television and radio broadcast companies.
  • Most jobs in this field were full time with round-the-clock schedules.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a dismal job outlook for this occupation. It is expected to decline by 8% between 2014 to 2024. Competition for available jobs will be intense.

A Day in a Reporter's Life

You may think you may know what it's like to be a reporter after reading, watching, or listening to their reports. If you want to enter this field, you should learn more about their job duties, because most of what they do takes place behind the scenes. Job announcements on Indeed.com provides some clues. Reporters:

  • "Develop feature length stories about the people and issues affecting our community"
  • "Write hard-hitting investigative stories per assignment by the managing editor"
  • "Identify and pitch investigative news stories"
  • "Check reports for balance, clarity, and objectivity to ensure they are free of bias and advocacy"
  • "Accurately share breaking news on digital, mobile and social platforms"
  • "Work with or without a photographer to gather and edit compelling video and captivating sound"

    The Downside of Being a Reporter

    News doesn't know a time of day. It can break at any time, and a reporter must be there to investigate, and ultimately tell the public about it. Before deciding to follow this career path, you should realize that you will have to work long hours that include overnight, weekend, and holiday shifts.

    This occupation is not for the squeamish. The news can, and often is, grizzly. You will be expected to report on murders, accidents, wars, natural and manmade disasters, and politics.

    Requirements and Advancement

    To become a reporter you usually need a bachelor's degree in journalism or mass communications. Some employers are willing to hire job candidates who have other degrees.

    Computer proficiency is essential as you will often be responsible for all aspects of producing a news story including generating graphics. Because you will have to do a lot of research, you must be familiar with using online databases. Reporters in entry-level jobs must also have knowledge of news photography.

    You will most likely begin your career covering court proceedings and meetings, or writing obituaries, before moving on to more difficult assignments. You may set your sights on a large market like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, but be prepared to start out by reporting in a small town.

    Likewise, if your goal is to work for a large publication or a major network, be prepared to put your time in at smaller entities. Eventually, you may specialize in a topic like business or politics.

    What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed in This Career?

    Reporters must bring certain soft skills to the job. These are character traits that you won't learn in a classroom setting, but instead are either born with or attain through life experiences.

    • Communication Skills: It is obvious that you will need superb verbal communication skills to broadcast the news, but you will also need them, as well as excellent listening skills, when interviewing sources, regardless of the medium on which you are reporting your story.
    • Interpersonal Skills: Interviewing sources also requires you to be able to establish rapport with them. Additionally, on-air reporters must be personable.
    • Curiosity: To do your job well, you have to be the kind of person who also wants to know more. Only then will you be able to do the best job possible delivering stories to your readers, listeners, or viewers.
    • Writing Skills: You must be able to effectively convey information through the written word.
    • Physical Stamina: As a reporter, you will spend long hours following leads. Being out in the field reporting under all kinds of conditions and in every type of weather is commonplace. It is not unusual for television news reporters to have to carry heavy cameras on location. Are you up to the task?

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:

    • "Ideal candidate should handle breaking news and live shots with ease, while also being able to dig deep into a variety of topics for compelling, promotable reports with high production value"
    • "Proficient with internet, database and computer assisted reporting techniques"
    • "Ability to operate mobile transmission devices and use latest technology"
    • "Proficiency on social media platforms; including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat"
    • "Can deal with the stresses and pressures of time-sensitive newscast production"
    • "Must possess advanced understanding of legal and ethical issues impacting journalism"

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

    Related Occupations

     DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2016)Minimum Required Education/Training
    News AnchorIntroduces reporters live or recorded reports on tv or radio news broadcasts$56,680Bachelor's Degree in Journalism or Communication
    WriterCreates content for print and online media$61,240Bachelor's Degree in English, Journalism, Communication, etc.
    Radio and Television AnnouncerPresents and provides commentary about news, music, or sports; interviews people on the air;$31,400Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Broadcasting, or Communication

    Sources:

    Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited August 13, 2017).
    Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited August 13, 2017).