Newspaper journalist
Literary & Communicators

Newspaper journalists are reporters who gather, write and present news and other articles of interest to the public. They work on local, regional or national newspapers. New entrants usually start on local newspapers.

Work Activities

Newspaper journalists work as reporters on local, regional or national newspapers. They gather information, investigate stories and events and write news articles.

Nearly all newspaper journalists start work on local newspapers and report on regular events such as council meetings, court sessions, football matches and local shows. These 'on diary' events are assigned to reporters by the editor or chief reporter.

For some assignments, the reporter has to collect background information by using personal contacts, published articles and reports, and internet searches. They gain insight into events by interviewing commentators or participants. They might need to take shorthand notes to do this, or record the interview by using audio equipment.

Once the journalist has written the article, it needs to be checked for accuracy and suitability before being printed. A sub-editor will usually do this, although on smaller publications this might be the journalist's responsibility. Tasks include checking for spelling or grammatical mistakes, adapting the article to the house style and writing headlines.

Newspaper journalists might have to write a story within a matter of days, hours or minutes, depending on whether the newspaper is a daily, evening or weekly.

As well as covering planned events, newspaper journalists seek out their own news items by, for example, relating national news to local affairs; making regular contact with hospitals, the fire service and police; and using their own contacts.

Newspaper journalists might also work with a press photographer who provides pictures to go with the news item or feature. Those who work for the national press might need to travel long distances, sometimes at short notice.

Increasingly, newspaper journalists need to be able to write for online versions of their newspaper. This means they need an understanding of the differences between print and online writing. They use content management systems and might need to upload photos and videos. Newspaper journalists might also need to be familiar with blogging, podcasting and web building.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills

  • Enthusiasm
  • Stamina
  • Determination
  • Confidence
  • Perseverance
  • Excellent oral or written skills
  • Interpersonal skills

Pay And Opportunities

Employers are local, regional and national newspapers, local and national government departments and large commercial and industrial companies, in which a journalist may be employed to work on in-house publications.

Experienced journalists can work as self-employed freelancers, often specialising in a particular area such as science, finance or education.

Qualifications

Entry routes and training

Although there are routes into journalism for both university graduates and school leavers, some organisations and newspapers now ask for a degree. While any subject is acceptable, English or journalism are preferred. Specialist subjects such as economics, languages or sciences can be a great advantage.

Most jobs require a qualification accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). Relevant work experience is also essential and can be gained through published articles, freelance work, writing competitions or voluntary work.

A full, clean driving licence is often a requirement.

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