News analysts, reporters, and correspondents gather information, prepare stories, and make broadcasts that inform the public about local, State, national, and international events; present points of view on current issues; and report on the actions of public officials, corporate executives, interest groups, and others who exercise power.
News analysts—also called newscasters or news anchors—examine, interpret, and broadcast news received from various sources. News anchors present news stories and introduce videotaped news or live transmissions from on-the-scene reporters. News correspondents report on news occurring in the large U.S. and foreign cities where they are stationed.
In covering a story, reporters, sometimes referred to as journalists, investigate leads and news tips, look at documents, observe events at the scene, and interview people. Reporters take notes and also may take photographs or shoot videos. At their office, they organize the material, determine the focus or emphasis, write their stories, and edit accompanying video material. Many reporters enter information or write stories on laptop computers and electronically submit the material to their offices from remote locations. Increasingly, reporters are asked to maintain and produce material for a newspaper’s Web site. In some cases, newswriters write a story from information collected and submitted by reporters. Radio and television reporters often compose stories and report “live” from the scene. At times, they later tape an introduction to or commentary on their story in the studio. Some journalists also interpret the news or offer opinions to readers, viewers, or listeners. In this role, they are called commentators or columnists.
Newscasters at large stations and networks usually specialize in a particular type of news, such as sports or weather. Weathercasters, also called weather reporters, report current and forecasted weather conditions. They gather information from national satellite weather services, wire services, and local and regional weather bureaus. Some weathercasters are trained meteorologists and can develop their own weather forecasts. Sportscasters select, write, and deliver sports news, which may include interviews with sports personalities and coverage of games and other sporting events.
General-assignment reporters write about newsworthy occurrences—such as accidents, political rallies, visits of celebrities, or business closings—as assigned. Large newspapers and radio and television stations assign reporters to gather news about specific topics—for example, crime or education. Some reporters specialize in fields such as health, politics, foreign affairs, sports, theater, consumer affairs, social events, science, business, or religion. Investigative reporters cover stories that may take many days or weeks of information gathering.
Some publications use teams of reporters instead of assigning each reporter one specific topic. As a member of a team, a reporter can cover a greater variety of stories. News teams may include reporters, editors, graphic artists, and photographers working together to complete a story.
Reporters on small publications cover all aspects of the news. They take photographs, write headlines, lay out pages, edit wire-service stories, and write editorials. Some also solicit advertisements, sell subscriptions, and perform general office work.
The work of news analysts, reporters, and correspondents is usually hectic. They are under great pressure to meet deadlines. Broadcasts sometimes are aired with little or no time for preparation. Some news analysts, reporters, and correspondents work in comfortable, private offices; others work in large rooms filled with the sound of keyboards and computer printers, as well as the voices of other reporters. Curious onlookers, police, or other emergency workers can distract those reporting from the scene for radio and television. Covering wars, political uprisings, fires, floods, and similar events can be dangerous; however, the rate of injuries for reporters and correspondents is relatively low.
Work hours vary. Reporters on morning papers often work from late afternoon until midnight. Radio and television reporters usually are assigned to a day or evening shift. Magazine reporters usually work during the day.
Reporters sometimes have to change their work hours to meet a deadline or to follow late-breaking developments. Their work may require long hours, irregular schedules, and some travel. Because many stations and networks are on the air 24 hours a day, newscasters can expect to work unusual hours.
Education & Training Required
More than 1,500 institutions offer programs in communications, journalism, and related programs. In 2008, more than 100 of these were accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. Most of the courses in a typical curriculum are in liberal arts; the remaining courses are in journalism. The most important skills for journalism students to learn are writing and communication. Students planning a career in broadcasting take courses in radio and television news and production. Those planning newspaper or magazine careers usually specialize in more specific forms of writing. To create stories for online media, they need to learn to use computer software to combine online story text with audio and video elements and graphics.
Some schools also offer a master's or Ph.D. degree in journalism. Some graduate programs are intended primarily as preparation for news careers, while others prepare journalism teachers, researchers and theorists, and advertising and public-relations workers.
High school courses in English, journalism, and social studies provide a good foundation for college programs. Useful college liberal arts courses include English, with an emphasis on writing; sociology; political science; economics; history; and psychology. Courses in computer science, business, and speech are useful as well. Fluency in a foreign language is necessary in some jobs.
Employers report that practical experience is the most important part of education and training. Upon graduation, many students already have gained much practical experience through part-time or summer jobs or through internships with news organizations. Most newspapers, magazines, and broadcast news organizations offer reporting and editing internships. Work on high school and college newspapers, at broadcasting stations, or on community papers also provides practical training. In addition, journalism scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships awarded to college journalism students by universities, newspapers, foundations, and professional organizations are helpful. Experience as a freelancer or stringer—a part-time reporter who is paid only for stories printed—is advantageous.
Other Skills Required (Other qualifications)
Reporters typically need more than good word-processing skills. Computer graphics and desktop-publishing skills are essential as well. Students should be completely proficient in all forms of multimedia. Computer-assisted reporting involves the use of computers to analyze data in search of a story. This technique and the interpretation of the results require computer skills and familiarity with databases. Knowledge of news photography also is valuable for entry-level positions, which sometimes combine the responsibilities of a reporter with those of a camera operator or photographer.
Reporters should be dedicated to providing accurate and impartial news. Accuracy is important both to serve the public and because untrue or libelous statements can lead to lawsuits. A nose for news, persistence, initiative, poise, resourcefulness, a good memory, and physical stamina are important, as is the emotional stability to deal with pressing deadlines, irregular hours, and dangerous assignments. Broadcast reporters and news analysts must be comfortable on camera. All reporters must be at ease in unfamiliar places and with a variety of people. Positions involving on-air work require a pleasant voice and appearance.
News Analysts, Reporters, and Correspondents - What They Do - Page 2