The first newspaper, the Acta Diurna in Rome, dates back to 59 B.C., according to the World Association of Newspapers. In 1690, Publick Occurences was published in Boston, making it the first newspaper in the United States. Throughout the centuries, and especially the last 50 years with the advent of television broadcasts and the Internet, the status of newspapers has seen many changes.
The role of a newspaper reporter has also been altered. Gone are the days where such journalists had to chase down leads “on the street”. The advance of telecommunications has allowed newspaper reporters to research, interview and report often without leaving their desks. These same technological advances are threatening the status of print newspapers. However, some readers still continue to enjoy the thrill of picking up the morning paper at the local newsstand or enjoying a print copy over a morning cup of coffee.
Newspapers are not yet dead and the entry to a successful newspaper reporting career can still be fulfilling. To deal with the potential threats against print dailies and weeklies, newspaper reporters can work for online media or freelance for various publications.
Newspaper Reporter Job Description
Newspaper reporters may work for one print or online publication or work as a freelancer for various newspapers. Generally what they are responsible for covering is assigned to them by an editor, but they should also be able to pitch their own story ideas as well. Newspaper reporter jobs do not have consistent work hours; in some cases one might have to cover a story late at night or early in the morning depending on the deadline or when a news item breaks. Newspaper reporting involves researching background and interviewing sources before writing newspaper articles. A newspaper reporter has to be open to feedback from his or her editors and edit/modify their work. In many cases, a newspaper reporter will be working on more than one assignment at a time and will have to learn to multitask. Writers for newspapers may have to arrange for photographs or take them themselves. For online newspapers, reporters may have to assist with website maintenance and social media promotions.
Education and Training
To become a newspaper reporter, start by getting a journalism degree. Sometimes there is competition for acceptance into such an educational program, so the more experience you gain before applying, such as volunteering for a high school or community newspaper, the better. As you pursue your journalism degree, constantly seek out experience as much as you can through completing internships and placements, writing for your university or college newspaper, developing a blog or writing for a local newsletter. If you are able to find a mentor, someone who has been working in the newspaper industry for some time, take advantage of this valuable opportunity.
The Future of Newspapers
A study conducted by the University of California’s Annenburg School for Communication and Journalism (“Is America at a Digital Turning Point?”), predicted that by 2016, only four of the major newspapers will still be in print: New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. However, the same study predicted that small, local dailies will also survive. The Nieman Reports’ performed three studies on the future of newspaper reporting. Their findings suggested that in addition to online media being a threat to print publications, younger generations (teens and young adults in their 20s) are also less interested in newspapers compared to older generations.
With the future of print newspapers looking dim, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that those who wish to become a newspaper reporter should focus their efforts on writing for online newspapers/media as well as local print newspapers. In fact, working as a freelance newspaper reporter, for various print and online media, may be the most successful route to take. In 2008, the median salary for newspaper reporters was around $33,000. A freelancer who writes for newspapers, magazines and other media, both print and online, has the potential to make significantly more.