What Does A Reporter Do? A Comprehensive Guide (With Duties)
Updated 26 January 2023
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A reporter is a journalist who uses investigation and research to gather the details of a story or event, and deliver the facts to the public through a medium or platform. The topics reporters could research include local and global events and often involve field investigation. If you want to become a reporter, knowing more about their duties may benefit you. In this article, we examine what a reporter does, the different types of reporters and how to become one.
What Does A Reporter Do?
To better understand the answer to the question, "What does a reporter do?", it's beneficial to review their job duties. Reporters gather news and information through multiple sources, verify the source for reliability and the information for accuracy, create a report and submit it to an editor or producer. They obtain information from their contacts, through personal interviews, press conferences and from other news agencies. They travel to relevant locations and verify information about events from official sources like police, public relations officials and government agents.
Apart from covering the scheduled events that an editor assigns them, a reporter can also cover important events or incidents independently, as and when they happen. Reporters travel extensively within the areas under their purview, looking for coverage-worthy incidents or events. The editors and the news desk rely heavily on reporters to identify newsworthy events that they can telecast as breaking news or published in print media on the following day. The duties of a reporter may vary based on the medium they work in, typically print or digital.
Related: 12 Types Of Journalism Jobs (With Salaries And Tips)
What Are The Responsibilities Of A Reporter?
A media house can hold a reporter accountable for the information and reports they deliver. A media house may issue a corrigendum or retraction if they publish or broadcast false reports. Apart from sending accurate reports, reporters also have other responsibilities, including:
Taking responsibility for the information they share
When a reporter submits an article to their editor or anchor, the responsibility is on the reporter to verify background information. If they report a crime, they talk to police officials and witnesses before writing a story. A reporter also has to fit the report within the word count and finish preparation within a timeframe that an editor or producer may stipulate. If a reporter's story could be sensitive, they may talk to an in-house legal team to check if they can publish it.
Performing investigative reporting
Editors assign important issues that concern the public, like corruption, to one or more reporters depending on the magnitude of the issue. The primary responsibility of investigating all facets of the issue lies with the reporter. Reporters talk to many people who may help them in recording evidence to support their stories. Media companies may not publish stories if reporters cannot support them with adequate evidence. Some reporters may also work with people or organisations as undercover reporters to get crucial evidence for their stories.
Complying with legal and regulatory parameters
Organisations train and instruct reporters to follow legitimate procedures to obtain information for a story. If they are recording an interview, doing it without a person's consent could be illegal. It's essential for reporters to remember the privacy and the rights of individuals and institutions of which they write.
Addressing ethical responsibilities
Reporters constantly travel and investigate newsworthy items. They typically perform unbiased reporting, presenting the perspectives of all concerned parties. Obtaining information through ethical practices is very important to a reporter's work. Reporters usually avoid obtaining information through coercion, blackmail or bribery.
What Are The Duties Of Different Types Of Reporters?
Reporters are integral to journalistic practices. Reporters can work for print media, visual media and online media platforms. Each of these domains may have several reporters specialising in specific fields like politics, crime, finance, trade, commerce, international events, foreign affairs, sports, weather and entertainment. Some prominent types of reporters and their duties are:
Assignment reporters or media correspondents
Editors of news channels, newspapers or online portals assign reporters to specific locations to identify newsworthy stories or to cover scheduled events. They share details of scheduled events with the reporters in advance. These could be government events, court activities, campaigns, news conferences, community events, celebrity events or any significant event in the geographic area.
Assignment reporters note the dates in their calendars, cover the events and create reports to send to the editorial staff. They may also cover accidents, theft or crime-related news in their designated area. The decision of publishing or not publishing a reporter's story lies with the editorial team.
A sports reporter may cover sports-related news in their assigned location or cover prominent games and sports events across the country. Media companies may have exclusive reporters for each sport who can describe the game in detail. Sports reporters may also interview sports personalities and share behind-the-scenes details of important games.
Beat reporters are specialised reporters who cover news in specific fields. Media outlets may have beat reporters who exclusively cover news related to entertainment, shopping, education, food, music, art or culture. They keep the public updated about recent developments in their focus domain.
Weather reporters provide information, analysis and updates related to weather forecasts. During extreme climatic conditions like heat waves, cyclones, thunderstorms or heavy rain, they keep the public informed through regular emergency weather updates. They inform the public about what to do and what to avoid, and issue frequent alerts so that the public can protect themselves from any danger.
Visual media reporters
A reporter working for television news channels produces reports that fall under the domain of visual journalism. They may also shoot live videos at sports events, crime scenes and newsworthy engagements. They work with editors in the studio and look for new approaches and topics for creating engaging news stories.
What Are The Skills That Reporters Require?
Reporting requires a variety of skills that assist with interviewing, interpreting and delivering news. Reporters train to record events factually, without any misrepresentation. Meticulous research, documentation and fact-checking require specific skills. Some important skills you can develop to become a reporter include:
Communication skills: While creating a story, reporters communicate with editors, other writers and subjects. Good communication skills aid in delivering stories effectively through any medium, in ways that the general public can engage with.
Investigative skills: Investigative skills aid a reporter in gathering the details related to a story or event. The ability to find trustworthy sources and to locate the origin of a story before other reporters, is important to being a valued professional in this field.
Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills are important for contacting sources and interviewing subjects. While interviewing subjects for a story, developing professional relationships with them helps a reporter stay engaged with a story and build a rapport with crucial contributors.
Written communication skills: Reporters may require excellent writing skills to keep notes, set schedules with interviewees and report story details to their editor. Clear and concise writing can assist reporters in accurately describing details.
Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions And Examples
Reporter Work Environment
Reporters typically spend the majority of their working days in the field. Some reporters may work part-time, only working when they receive a story, whereas others may split a full-time work schedule between reporting, pitching ideas and developing stories. A reporter's work environment has the following work characteristics:
Long periods spent standing or moving around
Frequent communication with witnesses, interviewees and other sources
Competition and time sensitivity
Unconventional work schedules
The industry in which a reporter works can also dictate their work environment. A reporter who works solely in the field of business and finance can expect to spend a lot of time in offices, interviewing executive staff and financial analysts. A reporter specialising in weather may spend most of their time following weather-related events and communicating with subjects affected by adverse weather and climate conditions.
How To Become A Reporter
Follow these steps to become a reporter:
1. Pursue a degree in journalism
A bachelor's or a master's degree in journalism or mass communication is the most common requirement for a reporter's role. Some media companies may also employ reporters who have completed a two-year diploma programme in journalism after a degree course. Diplomas are ideal for professionals who want to become a reporter but do not have a related degree.
2. Gain entry-level work experience
You can start gaining reporting experience while attending school or college. Volunteer to work for your school or college newspaper and yearbook. Pursue internships with local newspapers or channels to learn from local industry professionals. You can also earn entry-level experience as a newsroom assistant or coordinator in this industry.
Related: What Are Internships And How Do You Find One?
3. Apply for reporting positions
If you meet the educational and experience-related requirements, start applying for open reporting positions. Use your cover letter and resume to highlight the most important skills for the position. It can also be useful to submit a portfolio of published reports you have worked on, as part of your internship or volunteering experiences.
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