A reporter is one engaged in the work of gathering information about significant events, writing, editing, publishing, or broadcasting them through a medium. Most of the attributes of a successful or good reporter are acquired not inherited. Most reporters hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Those that cover particular subject-matter, stories such as finance or political science may have an educational background in related fields. The best qualifications for a reporter apart from the desire and ability to write are insatiable curiosity, a flexible and social personality, a nature that relishes variety of experience, a temperament to work under the pressure of deadlines (time-bound pressures), and a tolerance that permits objective observations of people and events.
A good reporter also needs ambition, drive, determination and very importantly, self-discipline. One who lacks a strong love for, and a broad knowledge of the English Language is foolhardy to consider a career as a reporter. A reporter must have the desire to express himself in words; and urge to put words on paper as this is part of his nature. Beyond this desire, the successful reporter must have an aggressive inquiring mind lest he will be of little benefit to his medium. In view of the demands occasioned by the changing trends in technology, politics, science, foreign (international) relations, economics, and other fields, education is very important for a reporter. He needs to have deep-rooted knowledge on these issues through formal and journalistic training.
The functions of a reporter cover so many areas of people’s lives. Part of his functions is to report on local news events such as municipal board meetings, business news, and newsworthy happenings that affect the community. Other duties include gathering information and writing articles in a timely fashion for semi-weekly newspapers. Equipped with instincts, experience, a good memory, a sharp eye, careful attention to surrounding details, a skeptical sense of the way things work, and a great regard for the public, a reporter in displaying his skills, exercises his senses of sight, sound, touch, feel and smell, at the spur of the moment.
In any court, there is always a person who is most unobtrusive but in real life for the functioning of the court is the court reporter, who generally does the routine outdoor work of the judge. There will be a few people unable to attend the court for recording their statements. The court reporter is assigned the job of visiting such people and records their statements. Traveling is routine in a reporter’s work. When a reporter visits a site on the court’s orders, he takes the responsibility of documenting the happenings there and presents them to the court for whatever action that may be necessary. The court reporter is expected to do all the tasks which are normally done by a personal aid. This includes filtering of all communications within the court and outside it.
In sports, a reporter is also needed. Since there is intense public interest in sports, it is important for a reporter to know something about sports as part of his job. He is to know the basic facts and the important people in the popular games and sports in his area and the world in general. This is because reporters are needed in recording sporting events, interview players and coaches, and gather statistical data on local, national, and international sporting events. This information is used to prepare stories for television, radio, newspapers, and other sources. Most sports reporters cover specific team, event or geographic area.
Reporters, in general, cover news stories that help to inform the public. Political stories, natural disasters, community events, business transactions, and international events are typical of the type of stories covered by reporters. Reporters obtain information in variety of ways. They track down leads, research documents, observe events as they happen, and interview people. In addition to taking down notes, reporters also document events through photographs and video.
There are so many challenges that confront the reporter on daily basis in the course of doing his job. Apart from interpreting situations based on his depth of experience and exposure to varying situations which may occur and re-occur in the course of routine assignments, a reporter is required to be adequately familiar with the structural language of his beat, that is, the place of his (regular) assignment. Most reporters start their careers at small, local news organizations where they gain experience. With experience, a reporter can be given assignments that are more difficult and glamorous.
Gathering information for a story can be quite difficult for a reporter. For example, a reporter can be confronted with people that are unwilling to disclose information related to a story. When called to the location of a story, a reporter may experience distractions related to weather and crowds. Back in the office, a reporter must deal with the pressure of meeting deadlines. This aspect of his work is often carried out in a busy and noisy newsroom. He may also work for longer hours in order to maintain irregular schedules.
It is however, the duty of a reporter to always present information that is accurate and reliable. This information may be statistical in nature. For example, a reporter gathers statistics that are related to sporting events, economic events, and public opinion. The accuracy of this information often relies upon mathematical calculations. Sports reporter can be expected to master analysis of the statistics related to the sporting event that he is covering.
However, the responsibility of a reporter is usually defined in terms of the country’s political and social aspirations. In addition to being set by social and ethical norms, the responsibility of a reporter is determined by professional autonomy and independence.
As a general rule, the reporter’s freedom is restricted by his responsibility vis-à-vis public order, moral standards, safety of the state and its institutions. Restrictions are often formulated in terms of national ideology. The constitution of a country usually provides the broad framework within which principles guiding professional journalistic activity are defined.
Civil laws usually prescribe rules the reporter must follow in relation to his audience, for example, privacy, slander, and so on. In some countries, reporters (journalists) themselves have adopted professional codes of conduct. Many of these codes of conduct have certain ethical principles in common. These include the right of secrecy (the respect for the private lives of all citizens), accuracy, impartiality, balance, good taste, etc.
Also self-censorship describes the action of the reporter in staying clear of incurring institutional retribution or punishment. While much of this fear is rooted in political and social sensitivity, it is also true that a great deal of it is imagined. It is therefore incumbent on the reporter to know his national parameters, the various civil laws, and social norms which may restrict his profession in the public service.
In conclusion, given the fact that the reporter is exposed to danger in the course of doing his work, and no law will excuse him when he crosses his limits, it is very important to know that if he is free and responsible, and believed to be both, he will forever enjoy the respect and confidence of people, and earn credibility in their eyes. When a reporter is accurate, balanced, and clear in his message, the audience will believe it. And so, apart from the challenges that confront him on daily basis, a reporter who does what suits his work by learning to write well, facing the crowd with confidence, speaking well, and dominating in every situation of public interest where he is assigned, to enhance his performance is bound to win public interest, respect and promotion at work.
As the link, between and the Newspaper, Radio, and Television stations, a reporter is responsible to the News editor, who on daily basis at the editorial conference, briefs other senior editors about stories received or expected from the reporters. A reporter is also the heart of any media organization; he is the most important person in all media organizations such that it is what he brings from the field that the media house publishes to the public, in other words, a reporter is a trained and qualified person, whose work is engaged in the act of information gathering. As his duty suggests, the reporter is under obligation to appear modest and well dressed at any given time or function. Though, there is no hard rule as to the type of dress a reporter can put on to an assignment, yet his mode of dressing must be something to be proud of.
In most cases, it is acceptable for a reporter to dress in the manner of his beat, for instance, it is acceptable for a sports reporter to dress sportsmanly when carrying sporting assignments. More importantly, it is not advisable that a reporter should dress like a soldier while reporting from a war front, so as to avoid being killed.
The work of a reporter is such an important one such that without him, there would be no news, since no occurrence is yet news until it has been given account of, by a reporter.