Your Essential Guide to Success in a News Reporter Job
If you’ve always dreamed of landing a news reporter job after graduating college or working in a related field to build up work experience, you’ll need this guide to tell you how to become a reporter. While there might be some conflicting information on the internet about how to get a job as a news reporter or what would be the ideal qualifications for someone interested in this line of work, there are some things about becoming a reporter that are not negotiable. Anyone who wants to become a reporter should follow our guidelines below for what it takes to become a reporter in the news.
Do You Need to Go to College to Become a News Reporter?
If you’re family or mentors are encouraging you to go back to school to land a news reporter job, you may wonder if it’s necessary to have a college degree to work as a reporter in the news industry. While different jobs may have different requirements, you’ll probably find that most reporter job postings require or prefer candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field like communications, news reporting, journalism, marketing, or English. Of course, if you don’t have a degree, it doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically get disqualified from jobs that you’re interested in. It may just mean that you’ll have to find a way to explain your experience so that not having a degree doesn’t get in the way of you landing your dream job.
If you lack a degree but do have experience working in journalism or a related field, you might find it easier to leverage connections and previous experience to transition into the field of news reporting. Although some employers will be sticklers about their reporters having a degree, others may be more comfortable hiring an employee who has a lot of work experience without a degree compared to an employee who has a degree but lacks any meaningful experience in the field. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a field unrelated to news reporting, you may either be able to list relevant coursework to explain your qualifications in the field or you could get a secondary bachelor’s or master’s degree in journalism to bolster your current qualifications.
No matter how you decide to go through the education system to become a journalist, you should know that your path is valid. People change careers all the time, so news reporting agencies are used to taking on candidates from other fields into the reporting space. If your degree and background focus on a specialty like finance or political science, you may be able to get a job reporting on those topics as an expert instead of working as a general news reporter. This can be a rewarding way to leverage previous experience without hitting the books or paying high tuition fees to return to college after completing your initial degree.
Make Records Requests
One of the key aspects of any news reporter job will be making requests for records. In certain states, journalists may be able to publicly access certain records through the courts that are not available to the general public. If you do have public access to the courts and records as a journalist or reporter, you should still make sure that you have access to the records you need to obtain. Some laws will prohibit devices like a camera from going into certain places, so you should consult with an attorney or journalistic professional who can navigate all of the relevant laws if you’re worried that your attempts to obtain records are not legal.
One of the most important parts of a news reporter job is staying transparent and demonstrating integrity. In a world where people can say almost anything online or in the media without backing it up with facts, you’ll want to ensure that you’re sticking with the truth as a news reporter. After all, it’s all too easy to get swept up in rage or frenzy with an infuriating clickbait article and run with that article to create a secondary source that backs it up unintentionally.
As with anything in life, if something sounds too good or too bad to be true, you may want to pause and see if you can find reputable sources to back up a claim. As a journalist, people are looking to your work to know what the truth is about a situation. Once you write an article or put out a news report that contains inaccurate facts, it could ruin your reputation as a professional and even land you time in the criminal justice system if the lies are too egregious to the point where they could be considered fraudulent or slanderous.
Before you make any journalistic piece, you should start by investigating different sources. While it can be easy to bring our biases into the journalistic space, it’s important to remain objective as a journalist. You’re allowed to have your own opinions or thoughts on a subject, but you should make a clear distinction between opinion in pieces and objective facts that have been proven through research to avoid becoming a journalist that isn’t taken seriously in the field or by the public.
Take Lots of Photos
As anyone who’s ever worked a news reporter job will know, news reporters wear plenty of hats regularly. On top of speaking on camera and relaying the news in writing, you may have to snap photos for your job of unusual items like a grave marker. While you can pick up basic photography skills these days using most of the smartphones that are on the market, you should invest in a high-quality professional camera if you plan to use it often for serious photography in news reporting. When you’re reporting on something, it can also help to have photos to review later so you can ensure that you’re getting all of the facts right.
One of the most important things you can do as a reporter is record your interviews. While you don’t have to snap photos of your subjects and you shouldn’t do it unless you have the express consent of someone, it can help to have a photograph of the person you’re interviewing so that when you sit down to write an article or create another piece of journalism, you have it in front of you to accurately describe the individual. For those who are reporting for a blog, photos can also make it easier for folks to connect with the piece and put a literal face to a name when they read an interview or a piece about someone.
Visit Places in Person
While you can find a remote news reporter job, you should get out of the house and visit places where you’re reporting in person if you can. If you’re writing a story about international news, it may not be possible to go to the country that you’re writing about. Still, if you’re reporting on the local food scene or a custom sign business nearby, you should take this opportunity to go to that place and get a sense of it before you report on it.
Sometimes, getting out of the writing office and into the world can help you come up with new story ideas. It can be hard to be a writer or a journalism professional if you don’t have an idea of what’s going on in the world. When you visit places, you may see stories everywhere that could make for interesting journalism. As a reporter who needs to attend pitch meetings and pitch your story ideas, it’s even more vital that you get outside of your comfort zone and go to places where you may find interesting things to report.
Ask the Right Questions
Another important part of the news reporter job is asking the proper questions to get to the heart of the matter and let your audience know about a specific subject. In an interview, basic questions like “How are you?” won’t cut it. You’ll need to dig deep to ask questions that are relevant to the subject of what you’re interviewing someone about and you’ll want to ask open-ended questions that lead to interesting answers. Asking closed-ended questions that end with “yes” or “no” as an answer won’t lead you to a productive discussion and may make it so that when you sit down to write an article you don’t have the information you need to successfully address the topic.
You should ask questions related to the topic at hand and steer clear of irrelevant questions that will waste air time. For example, if you’re speaking with the CEO of a company that produces a natural gas generator, you won’t want to ask questions about what that CEO’s favorite dog is or what flavor of ice cream he or she likes unless it seems relevant to the topic. Staying on topic with your questions can help you have a conversation that leads to a productive workday.
Remain a Skeptic
Before you take on a news reporter job, you should consider how invested you are in maintaining the status quo and holding your biases close. Since news reporters are focused on reporting the truth in the news, it can be tough to differentiate the things you naturally think and the true things. If you used to visit a specific dentist and had a good experience, it can be hard to objectively report on a malpractice lawsuit that this dentist has received. Still, remaining skeptical and objective in this situation can be wise to avoid writing a biased article or speaking about it with clear bias on a news segment on TV.
Read Competing News Media
When you take on a news reporter job, you may feel inclined to ignore other news media outlets so you can focus on yours. While this might seem like a good idea, it’s a better idea to expose yourself to competing outlets so you know what the competition is. If you write about real estate listings in a local paper, it can pay to see how other papers write about theirs to inspire you to improve your craft.
Listen to the Police Scanner
If you work in a news reporter job that requires you to write about local crime, there’s no better source of information than a police scanner. While it won’t give you information about what folks have taken on bailbonds in your area, it will point you to potential crime scenes and other issues. Before you head to a crime scene, you should make sure that it’s legal to be there as a reporter and take your crew with you if you plan to report on it in breaking news.
Form Connections With Important People
As with any job, you’ll want to focus on networking when you want to land a news reporter job. From Jarritos distributors to CEOs of major companies, you never know who knows someone who could help you get a job in this field. Even if they don’t get you the job, they may be a useful contact later if you want to write a piece about their area of expertise.
Journalists are not above the law. For this reason, you should have a criminal attorney on your side if you’ve been charged with a crime related to your industry. While you have rights as a reporter, you also have responsibilities that you need to uphold and professional ethical considerations.
When you’re thinking about becoming a reporter, you should consider what makes you interested in this line of work over other fields or career paths that you could choose. Some of us may come from a long line of reporters and therefore feel like we must become a reporter so we’re like everyone in our family who has come before us. Others of us may find that it seems exciting to become a reporter even though we don’t know anyone in our social circle who has chosen this path. No matter why you want to become a reporter, you should know what’s driving you to rekindle that passion inside your heart for this industry if it cools.