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How to Become a Reporter

Written by: Wilson College   •  Jan 12, 2024
A reporter holds a microphone on the street.

How to Become a Reporter

People want to be informed on current events, whether it’s local news, international stories, interviews with government figures, or the latest in sports. But the way people receive the news is changing. A 2023 study from the Pew Research Center found 86% of people seek their news from digital sources, as opposed to traditional media like television or radio. These changes in where Americans look for their news may shift the landscape for reporters in the coming decade. This gives those who desire to learn how to become a reporter an opportunity to find a satisfying career fit by adapting to the increasingly important digital landscape. By developing key skills and earning a foundational education, prospective reporters can take their first step toward an exciting career.

What Does a Reporter Do?

Reporters act as the general public’s window into the news, whether it be local, national, or international. These media professionals inform the public about current events through various mediums, for example:

  • Audio - radio and podcasts
  • Video - television broadcasts and online streaming
  • Print - newspapers, magazines, and journals.

A reporter’s duties can vary depending on the industry and the size of the employer, but typical responsibilities include brainstorming story ideas, researching news sources, following up on leads, and investigating claims or rumors so they can bring the truth to their audience.

There is an overlap between journalists, who typically work in print mediums, and reporters. However, not every reporter fulfills the same role as journalists do in researching stories. For example, some reporters, such as television news anchors, may only present the news gathered and organized by others, while journalists and other reporters are responsible for nearly all aspects of the creation of their report. This includes researching a story, confirming its accuracy, and organizing it for presentation to the general public.

Reporters may frequently rely on the efforts of their production team to assist in researching and creating additional components for the broadcasts. For example, reporters may enlist the help of researchers to confirm the facts of a story. Also, desktop publishing professionals may be called on to create multimedia and graphics to help inform the audience.

Reporter Work Environments

Reporters can work in various settings depending on how they deliver their news reports. For example, reporters who work in video or audio mediums may create and present their stories from a newsroom or studio environment. They may also record reports to be broadcast at a later time or date, or via a downloadable podcast. In print, reporters may work remotely or in an office setting. Regardless of their reporting medium, many reporters travel to locations to present their stories in person, confirm the facts of a report, capture relevant footage, and interview individuals who can add testimony to their reporting.

Steps to Become a Reporter

Reporters have a variety of career paths they can take, as there are many types of reporters at different levels of the profession. Those wishing to learn how to become a reporter will note similarities in the early steps of their career path, as one of the best ways to begin is by building a foundational education, developing the necessary skills, and gaining experience in the field.

Step 1: Pursue an Education

Most news outlets look for job candidates who bring a minimum level of reporting knowledge, typically holding a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in journalism, strategic communications, or related fields can provide education on the techniques and history of media use; the ethics of journalism and reporting; and how to develop a digital network to find, research, and confirm potential news reports. Courses covering media studies and oral and written communications can help establish foundational knowledge used by most reporters, regardless of what industry they pursue.

Step 2: Develop Key Skills

Here are a few skills that can be beneficial to a reporter’s career path.

  • Communication: Reporters relay their stories to the public to give them a better understanding of what’s going on in the world, making their ability to communicate effectively one of the most important skills. Reporters must communicate well during interviews to gather relevant and insightful information. Communicating effectively through proper grammar and syntax is also key for reporters in print. Communication with their team, such as camera operators or editors, is important to ensure everyone remains on the same page to present the story.

  • Computer literacy: Reporters who perform their research will need to understand computers and digital media to gather the right information and organize it properly. Additionally, many news broadcasts are transitioning to web services, and may necessitate a more in-depth familiarity with the technical aspects of relaying the news.

  • Social media savvy: News moves fast in the modern day, and one of the key locations to gather information on breaking events is online through social media. A keen understanding of social media is crucial; not only its technical nature, but its ability to help gather interviews and research information. This is critical to finding and breaking a new story before the competition.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Many reporters develop a portfolio (or “reel” if utilizing a video or audio medium) that is a collection of their best stories and presentations. This is an excellent way to showcase job readiness to potential employers, similar to a resume listing previous jobs. Internships and independent reporting can be a way to gather experience and samples for a portfolio, in addition to entry-level positions. As reporters gain more experience, they are more likely to climb to higher reporting positions.

Reporter Salary and Job Outlook

Reporters earned a median annual salary of $55,960 as of May 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Factors such as job location, experience, and the position’s industry can affect actual salary. For example, reporters on streaming and social networks earned a median annual salary of $79,000, according to the BLS. ​​The BLS projects 3% growth in job openings for reporters between 2022 and 2023, which is equal to the projected growth for the U.S. job market as a whole. This projection is based on a few key factors. The communication landscape that news broadcasts rely on continues to shift toward digital and new media. Additionally, many news organizations are merging or rightsizing, which may result in a shrinking of reporter positions. However, the increasing demand for online news services will likely help sustain and grow the changing reporter industry.

Take The Next Step Toward a Reporter Career

Regardless of communicating through online streaming, television, or radio, reporters are a key component of relaying important news stories to the public. Reporting can be an exciting career that appeals to those with a curious mindset and a desire to deliver the truth in an engaging way. If you are interested in pursuing this dynamic career, consider how the Wilson College Online Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications program can help you gain the skills to become a reporter.

The program helps you adapt to whatever reporting industry suits your goals by delivering a curriculum that fosters a well-rounded skill set. Coursework covers subjects such as oral communication styles, media theory, and different methods of media delivery. With flexible asynchronous courses, you can work at your own pace, while the online environment gives you the freedom to learn where it’s most convenient for you.

Break the news—on your next career move—with Wilson College Online.

Sources:

Chron, “What Duties Do News Reporters Have?”

Indeed, “How To Become a News Reporter: Steps, Skills and Job Duties”

Indeed, “Journalist vs. Reporter Career: What Is the Difference?”

Pew Research Center, “News Platform Fact Sheet”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists

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