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News Reporter and Correspondent Job Description, Career as a News Reporter and Correspondent, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$31,320 per year

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

News reporters and correspondents, also known as journalists, gather news and keep the public informed about important events. They may obtain the information they need from a number of sources, including personal interviews, news briefings—question-and-answer periods during which journalists meet with government officials—and reports from wire services such as the Associated Press or United Press International. Reporters and correspondents compile this information and then relay it as news. Newspapers, magazines, television, and radio depend on reporters and correspondents to keep readers, viewers, and listeners informed.

Reporters play an active part in getting information on current events. They spend a large part of the day investigating news before sending in their story. Some reporters specialize in covering the news in a certain field such as science, politics, or crime. Others are given a general assignment, covering all the news events in a certain town or county. A few reporters work as correspondents in bureaus located far from the home office. Correspondents are sent to places where important events are likely to happen. There they cover news outside the reach of the local office.

Generally, newspaper reporters work for two kinds of papers—dailies and weeklies. Reporters for daily newspapers generally have less time to find and report their news. Reporters for weeklies or for news magazines have more time for research. Large papers and magazines usually assign reporters to certain subjects, called beats, which fit each reporter's talents. In contrast, reporters for smaller papers, such as weeklies, typically have to cover several beats at a time. They may take photographs and do general office work in addition to their regular duties.

Some reporters work for wire services, which are large organizations that hire many journalists to gather news from all over the world. These services send their information to newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations.

A news reporter or correspondent may rely on the telephone to track down information while researching an article. (© Earl Dotter. Reproduced by permission.)

They are called wire services because they transmit news stories and photographs via satellite dishes that feed the information directly into computers.

Television and radio reporters usually have less time to write and edit than newspaper reporters; the news is often broadcast immediately after or even during an event. Reporters in both television and radio learn very quickly to convert the information they receive into short news clips suitable for broadcasting.

Education and Training Requirements

Prospective news reporters and correspondents should take English, journalism, history, computer, and typing courses in high school. Some community and junior colleges offer courses in journalism; however, graduates of these programs find it difficult to compete with those who have a bachelor's degree in journalism or liberal arts. Four-year programs in journalism combine liberal arts education with required journalism courses.

Early journalistic training can begin in middle school on a school magazine or paper. High school and college papers and yearbooks offer further experience. Working on community or church newsletters is also helpful. Newspapers, news magazines, and wire services sometimes hire talented high school or college students as "stringers," or part-time reporters. The Newspaper Fund and individual newspapers and magazines offer summer internships to provide college students with experience in reporting. There are also many journalism scholarships available to qualified college students.

Once hired, news reporters and correspondents do most of their training on the job. Beginning journalists often move from one department to another to get different kinds of experience. They may write obituaries or report on local police news before being assigned to more important events. Large news magazines often have their new workers begin as proofreaders or clerks in the file room.

Getting the Job

Graduates of a college or school of journalism should ask about jobs at the school's placement office. Newspapers and broadcasting networks often hold job interviews at these schools to look for new reporters. Interested individuals can also inquire about starting positions at local newspapers and radio and television stations. Jobs with large city newspapers and national magazines usually require several years of experience. Job openings for reporters are listed in the classified section of local newspapers, on Internet job banks, and at state employment offices.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Salary and advancement depend largely on talent and length of service. Advancement can be faster on suburban or rural papers than on large city papers or with television networks. News reporters and correspondents with graduate degrees become executives more quickly. Geographic location and the size of the publication also influence opportunities for high salaries and more challenging positions.

Since journalism is such a broad field, there are many opportunities to change jobs. An experienced reporter for a weekly paper may go to work for an urban daily as an editor or a columnist. Experienced television and radio reporters may become foreign correspondents or editors. In general, advancement depends on the individual's career goals. Some may set their sights on a certain job, such as that of Washington correspondent, whereas others may enjoy getting better and better at their present job.

News reporters and correspondents can also enter related fields such as advertising and public relations. Other possibilities include careers in the sales and managerial fields.

Employment in journalism is expected to grow slower than average through the year 2014. As technology improves, news reporters and correspondents are able to do their jobs more and more efficiently, cutting down on the demand for new hires. In addition, the consolidation and convergence in the publishing and broadcasting industries will limit growth.

There will be some opportunities for reporters working in suburban or rural areas because of an anticipated increase in the number of small-town papers. Also, there will be job growth in the area of online newspapers and magazines. News reporters with specialized knowledge and technical skill also have better job prospects, as do those who have earned a degree in news-editorial journalism or completed an internship while in school. Competition remains stiff for jobs on big daily papers, news magazines, and the major cable, television, and radio networks. These employers typically select experienced individuals to fill the posts of news reporters and correspondents.

Working Conditions

The work of news reporters and correspondents is often hectic; they must be able to work under pressure and meet deadlines. Day-old news is no longer news—especially after another paper has covered the story. Many jobs in journalism offer travel and independence. News often breaks quickly so reporters must be able to meet the physical demands of long hours and irregular schedules. Executive positions may require long hours at a desk and the ability to work under constant pressure.

Reporters on large daily papers may work from late afternoon until midnight and must be ready to gather news whenever it occurs. Foreign correspondents must meet U.S. deadlines, even though they work in different time zones. They often work late at night to send news to morning and evening papers and broadcasts.

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries depend on the education and experience of the news reporter or correspondent. Earnings also depend on where they work and whether they work for newspapers, magazines, or radio or television stations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for news reporters and correspondents is $31,320. The highest 10 percent earn more than $68,250 per year. Newspaper journalists earn a median yearly income of $30,070, while radio and television journalists earn a median yearly income of $34,050. The best-known names in the field of journalism earn far more.

Where to Go for More Information

International Center for Journalists
1616 H St. NW, 3rd Fl.
Washington, DC, 20006
(202) 737-3700

National Society of Newspaper Columnists
P.O. Box 156885
San Francisco, CA 94115-6885
(415) 563-5403

The Newspaper Guild
501 Third St. NW, Ste. 250
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 434-7177

The Society of Professional Journalists
3909 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 927-8000

Benefits differ for each job and also may depend on the length of the worker's service, the size of the news organization, and its geographic location. Journalists receive extra pay for overtime work. They may also receive sick leave, paid holidays, and vacations. Health insurance and retirement plans are usually provided.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts