Reporting is Tough Business
by Deborah Owen
Do you want to be a reporter? It’s a great way to break into print, and jobs aren’t that hard to find.
Writers seem to think finding a job as a reporter is hard. Granted, that may be true in some parts of the country, but such jobs are more abundant than you realize. If you live in the city or suburbs, chances are good that there is an opportunity less than 20 miles from home.
Getting work as a reporter is all about understanding the kinds of stories local newspapers print. When people hear the word “reporter”, they picture someone trotting in and out of a major news conglomerate, spilling the beans on an adulterous President, unveiling “Watergate”, or changing into Superman in a phone booth. Unfortunately, reporting is not always a glorious job. A reporter is defined as “a person who investigates and reports or edits news stories”, and more often than not, this is very hard work.
Fortunately, almost every local newspaper is hard up to find a sports reporter, and/or someone to cover PTA or political meetings, as they pertain to local government. If, by chance, there are no openings in these areas, there is also the possibility of covering traffic accidents or reporting odd news.
For example, I once saw a man skiing in the middle of a western town. What made this a newsworthy event was that his skis had wheels on them – and he was skiing on dry pavement. On another occasion I saw a broken fence, bulldozer tracks across a yard, and road equipment sitting in front of someone’s bedroom window. It turned out to be a theft of the government’s road equipment. On a third occasion, I watched a sheriff’s car flip upside down as it tried to round a corner too fast. Stories are all around you.
Apart from odd news, another great source for local newspaper articles is unusual hobbies and crafts. While on vacation in the Rocky Mountains, I saw awesome statues that were made out of iron and wood. I was fascinated by the idea of a sculptor living in the boonies selling intricate merchandise to tourists in his spare time. I knew readers would be interested, too.
Always Be Prepared
As these examples show, one important point to keep in mind is that most reporting opportunities are unexpected. Always keep a notepad, pen, camera, and tape recorder with you in case you encounter a great story. Many stories are time sensitive and you will be required to write and submit your article by early the next morning.
If you are looking to have your stories printed on the front page, increase your chances by submitting a picture with your article. Call the newspaper ahead of time and ask them how they want pictures submitted. Digital pictures taken on a 35 mm camera are usually acceptable and the newspaper should pay you at least $5 per picture. An article usually pays about $10. No, you won’t get rich, but it’s a good way to break into print.
While finding a reporter’s job isn’t that hard, remember that the key to success lies in good research and timely reporting.
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