Pros and Cons of Becoming a Media Reporter
Media reporters research and write news stories about events and issues for newspapers, television, radio and Internet websites. Read on for more of the pros and cons of the field to see if becoming a media reporter is the right career fit for you.
|PROS of a Media Reporter Career|
|Not stuck in an office (many hours in the field)*|
|Your work is published or broadcast for an audience*|
|Plenty of variety (different stories every day)*|
|Meet many different people*|
|CONS of a Media Reporter Career|
|Declining number of jobs*|
|Sometimes long and erratic hours*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description, Salary and Career Info
The job duties of a media reporter are essentially the same whether you work for newspapers, radio, television or an Internet site. Reporters conduct interviews and gather information in order to write and report stories about current events. Stories are both assigned by editors and generated by the reporters themselves. At larger news organizations, reporters usually specialize in a certain area, such as government, sports, courts or police and fire, while smaller companies often expect their reporters to cover the full gamut of news stories that arise each day or week. Reporters are sometimes called upon to shoot their own photographs or videos, as well. Some media reporters are freelancers, meaning they are self-employed reporters who write for numerous publications and/or organizations.
Career opportunities for aspiring media reporters have been on the decline for a number of years. Over the last several decades, larger media corporations have bought up most of the independent media outlets in the country, resulting in a massive consolidation of resources and, subsequently, fewer jobs. The Internet has also delivered a heavy blow to traditional news outlets - especially newspapers. More Americans are turning to their computers to get their news, and advertisers, who are the main source of income for newspapers, television and radio, have followed consumers to the Internet. With profits declining, news organizations have been forced to downsize and streamline to survive.
Competition for available media reporter jobs is extremely high, as the number of journalists seeking positions far outweighs the number of available jobs. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for media reporters is expected to decline 13% between 2012 and 2022.
The trend toward downsizing, along with decreasing revenues, means that salaries for media reporters have remained stagnant. The median salary for media reporters in May 2014 was $36,000, according to the BLS, with the lowest salaries around $21,090 and the highest at more than $81,490. Your salary can depend greatly on your experience, the size of the media organization you work for and the market in which it is located.
What Are the Requirements?
A bachelor's degree in journalism is usually a requirement for pursuing a career as a media reporter. However, people can begin as a freelancer for news outlets and, after gaining experience, apply for salaried media reporter positions. In the current market, media outlets often seek candidates with Internet and other technological knowledge. Because competition is so fierce in this industry, an internship during college can help young reporters gain the experience necessary to find a job.
The most important requirement can often be experience. Because competition is highest at larger media companies in metropolitan areas, inexperienced reporters will likely start their careers at a small newspaper or television or radio station. Prospective employers also look closely at candidates' skills and personality traits, including their ability to work under deadline pressure, juggle numerous duties at once and to be team players. Among the skills you will need in this field are:
- Ability to communicate effectively
- Efficient at multi-tasking
- Ability to meet deadlines
- People skills
- Willingness to often work long hours
Job Postings from Real Employers
In addition to a degree in journalism, prospective employers usually seek candidates with at least some professional experience. They often also seek reporters with Internet and multimedia experience. To give you an idea of the types of skills and experience employers are seeking, the following are a few media reporter job listings from Internet job websites from March 2012:
- A daily newspaper in McHenry County, Illinois, was searching for a business reporter to cover breaking local business news, write about regional and national stories from a local perspective, produce feature-length articles and cover stories outside of the business arena. At least one year of experience was preferred, as was experience working with multimedia and the Internet.
- A television station in Los Angeles sought a journalist to write news stories, cover breaking news in front of the camera, work with photographers to videotape and edit stories, generate story ideas and represent the station at public events. Ideal candidates needed excellent writing and communication skills and 3-5 years reporting experience.
- A National Public Radio station in Charlotte, North Carolina, was seeking a morning host who was a dynamic writer, storyteller and interviewer not afraid to ask challenging questions. Essential skills included the ability to write and produce news on the air, digital editing and a willingness to manage fundraising events on the radio. At least three years of experience were required and candidates were expected to submit audio, writing samples and links.
- A government and medicine reporter position was sought by a medical news publication in Washington, D.C. Duties included covering national health system reforms, the federal budget, Medicaid, state health reforms and other subjects. A bachelor's degree and three years experience were required.
How to Stand out
The best way to get noticed in the media reporting arena is through experience. Aspiring journalists can gain experience early by completing internships while in college or pursuing freelance work. A graduate degree in a specialized area of reporting can also be helpful. Since reporters are often called upon these days to write for newspapers, websites and television or radio stations at the same time, experience with technology can be a big advantage.
Another good way to increase your chances for success as a media reporter is to join a professional media society. Organizations exist for journalists working in all types of media, including print, electronic and broadcast. There are also specialized societies such as the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, the National Conference of Editorial Writers and the Association of Young Journalists. Membership in one of these organizations allows you to network with working professionals and have access to continuing education opportunities, and many organizations operate their own job banks for members.
Participants in specialized journalism education programs learn to master often complex information and report on it effectively. Specific knowledge of certain subjects can be especially helpful for future media reporters hoping to work at larger news organizations. Specialized journalism students can focus on a variety of areas such as education, multimedia, fine arts, politics or sports. A master's degree program can also help journalists fine tune their skills in a specific area and increase their chances for long-term success in the field. Some of these programs also help working media reporters increase their knowledge of interactive media tools such as blogs, RSS feeds and podcasts.
Other Career Paths
Editors work with media reporters and other writers to polish their stories for publication or broadcast. Duties include correcting errors in punctuation and grammar, verifying facts, re-writing stories, generating story ideas and planning which stories will be published. Like media reporters, editors must often work long hours under stressful conditions.
Job prospects for editors are slightly better than for media reporters, but competition remains high for the same reasons. Employment for editors is expected to grow by 1% (which means little or no change) between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. Because of the boom in Internet media sites, job prospects are best for those seeking jobs as website content editors. The BLS reported that the median wage for editors in May 2011 was $52,000, with the lowest 10% earning less than $29,000 and the highest taking home about $98,000.
Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists serve as a conduit of information between businesses, organizations or government and the general public. Through the use of press releases, public appearances or other mediums, public relations specialists promote their clients. A bachelor's degree is required for most positions, and the combination of a public relations degree with another focus such as journalism or marketing is advisable.
The job outlook for public relations specialists is good, with employment expected to grow by 23% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. The median annual salary for public relations specialists was $53,000 in May 2011.
Author or Writer
Writers compile material for publication in books, magazines, Internet sites, trade journals and advertisements. The majority of writers are freelancers, who own their own business and write for a number of different publications and mediums. Skill in electronic publishing and multimedia are becoming increasingly important with the growth of Internet publications. Authors and writers, especially freelancers, must be self-motivated, able to juggle multiple assignments at once and, above all, be effective communicators and researchers.
The job outlook for authors and writers is slower than average, according to the BLS, with the employment rate expected to increase only by about 6% from 2010-2020. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for authors and writers was about $56,000 in May 2011, with the lowest 10% earning less than $28,000 and the highest bringing home more than $116,000.