How to Become a Reporter
By Eric Hammer
So you want to become a reporter, huh? Well you're in good
company. Reporters, or journalists as they are more popularly
known work in a variety of media, including newspapers, magazines,
television, radio and the Internet. Each kind of work has its
own little quirks that you'll need to learn in order to become
In all cases however, you'll need an inquisitive mind. That
means that you love learning new things all the time. Reporters
don't just get to interview the President or write about the
latest serial killer. Instead, you'll be working on a variety
of stories covering almost any subject imaginable. If there's
a toxic spill somewhere, you'll need to become an expert on toxic
spills in a hurry. Reporting on an exploding volcano? You need
to know something about geology.
Reporters also need to know how to think on their feet as
you'll be interviewing important people who are pressed for time
and can't spare a great deal of time to talk with you. You can't
expect a source to allow you to get back to them later with additional
questions (though many will let you do so). Instead, each time
you do an interview, work from the assumption that this will
be your only shot to talk to this person about this issue and
be prepared to ask the questions you need to ask on the spot.
Did we mention by the way that a very big part of a reporter's
job is interviewing and asking questions? If your source says
something interesting, you need to be able to pick up on that
and move away from your scripted list of questions to pursue
a new track. This is a skill you'll pick up in journalism school.
A final word about how to become a reporter: be tenacious.
The world of journalism is one of the most competitive in the
world and it's hard to get a decent job in this field. The only
way you'll succeed is to be determined to do the best job you
How Much Can You Make?
According to the bureau of labor statistics, the average starting
salary for a reporter is $35,328 and the average for all reporters
is $44,030. In other words, this is a lower middle class job
as far as salary. Of course, if you work at a top newspaper like
the New York Times or if you work in a large market television
station, you can expect to make significantly more money. In
general however, reporters do what they do because they can't
imagine doing anything else; not because they expect to make
a great living at it.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
In addition to the basic job of being a reporter, there are
other levels in both newspapers and magazines as well as in television
and radio. In the newspaper and magazine world, reporters often
move up to become editors, who are paid more money. There are
also photo journalists who take pictures and copy editors who
check reporter's writing. Copy boys/girls are also a part of
a newspaper's news room and often act as gophers for the reporters,
though you do pick up some knowledge as a copy person.
Remember that the most important thing a reporter needs is
tenacity. You need to be willing to dig and keep digging to find
out everything there is to know about a story. Without that,
you'll simply end up with something that sounds like a reworded
wire story (wires such as Associated Press and Reuters syndicate
their stories all over the world to hundreds of newspapers and
television stations. When an editor doesn't have a reporter on
site, they may run a wire story or reword the wire story and
run it under their own byline).
Speaking of wire services, don't forget to consider working
for wire services. While you don't get your own byline (i.e.
an article you write will say "By: Associated Press"
rather than by "John Smith") the experience can be
invaluable and you can literally be placed all over the world
with wire services.
Many reporters, especially when they become successful also
write books or novels and some maintain blogs as well. Speaking
of blogs, many reporters today also freelance for blogs as a
way to make ends meet since the world of journalism has been
shrinking with the move to the digital sphere.
Qualifications / Requirements
Generally, to become a reporter, you'll need a degree in journalism
from a journalism school. It helps if you've written for the
school newspaper and if you've interned for a professional newspaper.
You also need to know the English language well and know how
to write. Even television reporters need to have a firm command
of the English language and how to craft a story since you will
often be explaining things live on television.
Start by going to journalism school. Then, look for smaller
newspapers that may take you on as a cub reporter (starting reporter)
or as an intern. Be ready to move to another city or even another
country if need be as reporting jobs tend to be somewhat hard
to come by.
Check out these helpful resources to find out more about how
to become a reporter:
to Become a TV News Reporter - This blog is exactly what
it sounds like. A guide to becoming a reporter for television
Writing World: How to Become an International Reporter
- Writing World generally is a great resource for anyone who
writes for a living. This particular article is quite useful
as well, giving you the basic information you'll need to become
About.Com: Journalist Profile - A good basic
guide to what it takes to become a reporter.
Bureau of Labor
Statistics - Use the their search box to locate information
on what it takes to become a reporter and what the wages currently