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How to Be a Reporter

Did you ever tell somebody about something that happened at work or school? If so, you were reporting that event. Being a reporter is simply getting one's facts straight and then telling them in a way that will appeal to a wide audience.


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    Improve your communication skills. To be a good reporter, you will need to read, write, speak and listen. You will need to be able to ask good questions.
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    Read, watch and follow the news. Notice how events are depicted. Notice what makes a good story and what doesn't. What would you like to see done better? What seems to be empty sensationalism?
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    Keep a notebook and/or a journal. Practice noting and writing about what happens around you.
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    Strive for accuracy and neutrality in any story you report. Be sure to cover both sides of any contentious issue.
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    Record the facts. Don't make assumptions (they can often be wrong), and don't make things up. Reporters are supposed to seek and report facts. Lying, making up stories or quotes, or even accidentally misquoting someone can only damage your credibility (an absolutely essential quality in a reporter).
    • When someone tells you something that you find important to the story, whether it's allegedly factual or simply an opinion, go ahead and quote that person. Then if what they told you turns out to be wrong or inaccurate, it will be their credibility--not yours--that suffers.
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    Avoid displaying your own personal opinions. As a reporter, your job is to report the facts so others can form their own opinions. Make sure you are recording the factual details of any news story and tell those facts without including your personal viewpoint. Once you start giving your opinion, it becomes editorializing, not news reporting.
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    Decide which media you'd like to work with. You could focus on print journalism, broadcast news, or even online news coverage. You can focus at first on one medium and then branch out as you become more experienced. The print news industry is an excellent place to start. That's where many successful reporters began their careers.
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    Begin a news story with a quick summary of what happened, who was involved, and when, where, why and how it happened. Build details from there, beginning with the most important information and working toward the least important. By including the most important information first, you will allow your editor to trim the end of the story if it runs too long.
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    Seek out stories you find interesting. Chances are good that others will find them interesting, too. You can report on "hard" news stories which involve current events of interest to a wide audience, or you can report on softer "feature" stories which might involve more light-hearted events and be of more casual interest.
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    Hard news stories can include:
    • Information that is time-sensitive. If it is relevant today but won't be as interesting next week, next month or next year, you should report it as news.
    • Recent changes in government policy or personnel
    • A plane crash or other tragedy
    • Any other topic that is dramatic or alarming
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    Feature ("human-interest") stories will include:
    • Personal occurrences involving local figures
    • References to local, historical events
    • Accounts that are not time-sensitive . A feature story may be as interesting weeks or months from now as it is today
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    Think locally. Often, local news is not accorded the professional reportage that national or regional stories receive, even though local news may be of huge interest to the audience. The city council makes decisions every day that affect everyone in town!
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    Attend events. Did a new city park just open? Is a local club kicking off its summer fundraiser? Be there and publish an account of the event for those who didn't attend.
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    Writing "free-lance" articles can be a good way to kick-start your career. Go to events, conduct your own research, then write the stories and forward them to local media outlets. If an article is well written, and the story isn't already covered, you may get published.
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    It may be possible to merge your article with that of another author. If you have good information, and the other writer does,too, your stories might be combined under a shared "byline" (authorship).
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    Producing an interesting feature article is a great way to get published. If you submit a human-interest piece to a media outlet, they may decide to save your work and use it later to fill space on a "slow" news day.
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    Go to work for your school newspaper or a small, local news outlet. These media will usually be happy to hire a good reporter. Even if they don't pay well, or if you have to start as a volunteer, it's a good way to get your foot in the door.
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    Join a broadcast or other media club at school. That's a good way to learn to report news and feature stories.
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    Use your affiliation with a news outlet to obtain a press pass. This might give you access to news events and venues that the public doesn't have.
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    Get in the habit of carrying a camera and a voice recorder with you so that you have them when you unexpectedly need them. Then be prepared to turn them over to your employer if he/she wants to fact-check your information before publishing it.


  • Don't be afraid of "small" stories, especially at first. They may not be earth-shaking, but they will give you good practice in reporting and help you establish your reputation.
  • If you're serious about a career in journalism, consider starting as a "citizen-journalist." That's someone who does it out of love for the craft rather than for money. Have a blog or a podcast. Write for Wiki news or another wiki.
  • Attend a school of journalism or broadcasting where you can learn professional writing or speaking techniques. Public speaking is a skill best learned with professional help. A conversational style (in speaking or in writing) can go a long way toward establishing the reputation of a new reporter.
  • Interview skills are also essential to a reporter's success. There are various good interview techniques. Experiment and find the style that works best for you. You should seek to put at ease the person you're interviewing. You'll get a much more interesting and revealing conversation that way.


  • Ask permission to photograph or record individuals. Some have protection orders or cannot have their pictures published because of professional constraints. Again, this is a matter of common courtesy.
  • Let people know if they will be quoted, photographed, or recorded. It is simply common courtesy.
  • Always check your facts.

Things You'll Need

  • A notebook
  • a pen
  • a video camera
  • a still camera
  • a voice recorder
  • and a deep voice {for men}

Article Info

Categories: Visual & Written Media