Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What’s it like to be a….News Reporter?

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
I go to work at 7:00 a.m, write stories, conduct interviews (over the phone in the morning), help with designing pages (i.e. organizing stories on page using inDesign, write headlines and place photos), and proof printouts before 10:45 a.m. deadline. Then plan for future stories, and interviews in the afternoon and cover meetings at night. So basically writing in the morning and reporting in the afternoon.

But it’s not very consistent because if a story comes up, I have to write it not matter when it is. So if a story comes up before I’m planning on going home, I have to stay.

With more experience has come more responsibility. Started with a county beat and then had a city beat added; started with 20 stories a month and now average 30.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?
During my senior year in college, I started writing for the campus newspaper. Though I always liked English, but I thought that was just because I had boog teachers I thought that sort of major was just for teachers. But, to quote Gary Schmidt, “You are a writer.”

After graduation, I freelanced for the Grand Rapids Press which used 50 of my articles. Clips from these were then used in my application for a newspaper out of state, the Dispatch—a job which took me 6 months to find. Jobs in the newsroom are hard to find but that’s the best way to learn journalism. After a year, I left that job to move back to Michigan to my current job. ……

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?
My training was all experiential—student newspaper and then freelancing. I had no formal training. I would suggest taking journalism courses with an internship as the next best thing.

To do well as a reporter, a person must possess a curious and inquisitive mind and not be afraid to ask tough questions, even if you have to confront someone. To meet constant deadlines, you have to know AP style and write quickly, which they always inquire about in an interview. Add to that enterprising, approachable, personable and basically ready for anything and you pretty much have it.

What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?
In addition to getting cool stuff for free—like riding the roller coaster at Michigan Adventure, reporters get to tell stories and meet a lot of interesting people along the way. Besides benefiting people by providing them with the news, it’s not all bad to be able to see your name in print.

But there are a lot of challenges, like being overworked. Lots of work for very little pay, which causes a lot of people to move on to other things. The resources are limited and digging up the information needed for a complete story, especially if it involves reluctant interviewees, can be a challenge. 

What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?

More emphasis on online news. There will always be a need for journalists but the jobs will look different.

How could a person find out more about your field?

Start with reading the newspaper and thinking about what it took to create it. Shadow a journalist. Go to journalismjobs.com.

When you were growing up, did you have any interests that you have built into your work?
I liked reading, sports, working on puzzles, which is similar to page design.

What obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are today?
I overcame the lack of a journalism or communication degree. And being a bad speller!

What was your first job like after college?
I freelanced—very frustrating at $50.00 a story and lots of driving. I had to work full time as a
painter to make ends meet.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/29 at 10:22 AM

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