Journalists read documents, observe meetings and events, and interview
people to gather information that's important to the general public. Then
they figure out how to present it so people can understand and use it in their
Some journalists write articles for printed news sources, like newspapers
and magazines. Television and radio reporters, on the other hand, write news
copy and put it together with pictures and sounds suitable for television
or radio audiences.
Journalists can also specialize in the type of news they cover. General
assignment reporters cover almost any type of news. Beat reporters focus on
certain topical areas -- education, entertainment, politics or crime.
Reporters work in small towns or large cities. They spend much of their
time out of the office gathering information. They return to the office to
put together the article or news package.
The work can be fast-paced, stressful and exciting all at once. Journalists
are constantly racing the clock -- they have stringent deadlines to meet.
They must also be able to deal with the ups and downs of gathering news.
"Journalism isn't for sissies," says Anne Saker, a newspaper reporter in
Raleigh, North Carolina. "It can be crushingly disappointing and incredibly
exhilarating, often within an hour."
Aside from the pressure of meeting deadlines, journalists spend long hours
gathering information and writing. Those covering wars or political uprisings
must also worry about their own physical safety. Irregular schedules are common,
as are travel and missed meals. So it's important that journalists be as physically
fit as possible.
News can occur at any time, so journalists can work over 40 hours a week
and 9-to-5 days are rare. Weekend and holiday work is common.
Most journalists are staff members at newspapers or television and radio
stations. But some are freelancers -- self-employed professionals who gather
and package news for many different organizations.