How to Become a Newspaper Reporter

Jan 16, 2020

Research the requirements to become a newspaper reporter. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in newspaper reporting.

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  • 0:03 Should I Become a…
  • 0:50 Step 1: Earn a…
  • 1:53 Step 2: Complete an Internship
  • 2:13 Step 3: Compile a Portfolio
  • 2:31 Obtain Employment
  • 2:52 Continue Training and…

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Should I Become a Newspaper Reporter?

Degree Level Bachelor's degree (minimum)
Degree Field Journalism, communications, English, political science or related field
Experience Internship experience usually preferred; professional portfolio of work
Key Skills Strong written communication skills, objectivity, people skills, persistence, strong work ethic, ability to meet deadlines, basic computer software knowledge, typing skills
Median Salary (2018) $41,260 per year (for reporters and correspondents)
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 12% decline (for reporters and correspondents)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Newspaper reporters, also known as journalists, write stories based on information and facts they have gathered. They collect this information by interviewing people, reviewing documents, taking notes and observing important events. Reporters cover many topics, including politics, sports, cultural events, accidents and natural disasters. They might be employed full-time by newspapers or work as self-employed, freelance reporters. The work can be very competitive, and freelancers constantly need to find new avenues of publication. Aspiring newspaper reporters typically must earn a bachelor's degree, and they might seek internship opportunities to help build a portfolio of writing samples.

The following steps will help aspiring reporters achieve their dreams.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Employers typically hire newspaper reporters who have earned a bachelor's degree. Some look for candidates with a degree in journalism or communications. Other employers may prefer to hire a reporter who has a degree in a particular field of study related to their reporting, such as business, economics or political science.

The following are tips for aspiring reporter's success:

  • Write for student publications. Aspiring newspaper reporters can gain experience and hone their skills by writing for a student-run publication, such as a college newspaper.
  • Volunteer with community journalism groups. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) recommends that aspiring journalists gain experience by volunteering with community journalism interest groups. Volunteering can help a journalist stand out on job applications after graduation.
  • Choose relevant electives. The SPJ also recommends that aspiring journalists pursue elective subjects that can maximize their skills. Sample electives that could benefit aspiring newspaper reporters include ethics, foreign language studies, accounting and business.

Step 2: Complete an Internship

Though it's not required, completing an internship can help an aspiring reporter gain practical experience. Internships also can help aspiring reporters obtain future employment through networking. Reporting and editing internships, which can be obtained through various news organizations, might be offered full-time during the summer or part-time during the school year.

Step 3: Compile a Portfolio

Along with his or her resume, an aspiring journalist should compile a portfolio that showcases his or her best work. Due to advances in technology, portfolios are typically digital-based rather than printed. Journalists might even consider creating a professional website to publish their work on.

Step 4: Obtain Employment

Newspaper reporters might start their careers by gaining employment at smaller news organizations in an entry-level position, such as general assignment reporter. Newly hired reporters often cover various types of news stories in several broad fields. After gaining initial experience, reporters may be able to specialize in a specific area and/or work for a larger publication.

Step 5: Continue Training and Education

Newspaper reporters can use continuing education to improve skills, learn about technological innovations, stay current in the field and expand employment opportunities. A variety of continuing education options are available to reporters, including classes, seminars, conferences and workshops. Professional organizations such as SPJ offer on-site and online classes, covering topics on social media tools, smartphone journalism, personal branding and freedom of information.

Aspiring reporters must earn a bachelor's degree, preferably in journalism or communication, and will best achieve their goals by writing for student publications, completing internships, and obtaining employment at smaller news organizations.

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