PAINTER: Being a journalist takes skill, dedication

So, you think you want to become a newspaper reporter?
Apr 3, 2013

Through the years, I have been asked by some aspiring journalists about what it takes to become a newspaper reporter.

They would tell me that they did very well in high school and college writing classes and thought that would translate in to becoming a good reporter.

Certainly, the ability to write well is important if you want to become a newspaper reporter. But I would also advise them that it takes more than being a good writer to become a good newspaper reporter.

The profession is more difficult than you might think.

Not only must you be a wordsmith, you need to have a well-rounded education, be inquisitive – someone who is not afraid to ask the “tough” question – and write accurately.

I once had an editor tell me that he felt the most important tool a reporter should possess is the ability to be accurate. In fact, he made all of his reporters place a sign on their desk that read: “ACCURACY! ACCURACY! ACCURACY!” I don’t remember what happened to my sign, but I never forgot his message. I always stressed accuracy in the newsrooms where I worked.

Newspapers are also produced under tight deadlines so you’ll need to be able to write fast.

A good reporter also needs to be able to write a story that is understandable to readers. If the reporter doesn’t understand what he or she is writing about, then neither will the reader.

 Many reporters get tripped up on budget stories when they have to work with lots of numbers. I would tell reporters to ask those who are in charge of budgets to explain the process to them.

I always considered myself an inquisitive reporter. I tried to find out things that no other reporters knew. I like to think that I had my fair share of scoops.

But I also had some gaffes along the way.

When I worked in Del Rio, Texas, I interviewed a very attractive woman who was appearing as a dancer at a local night club. I remember her as being an interesting subject and I thought I had written a pretty good story about her.

But when I turned the story in to the news editor, he started laughing. “Do you know who you interviewed?” He didn’t wait for me to answer. “She worked for Jack Ruby,” he informed me.

For those of you who don’t remember, Jack Ruby was the Dallas nightclub owner who shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

My news editor was from Texas so obviously he knew more about Jack Ruby than I did. Still, I felt I had lost a great opportunity to write one of the best stories ever in my career.

Newspaper reporting has also changed through the years. When I began my career, the inverted pyramid style of writing was imperative. The idea was to put all the most important newsworthy information at the beginning of a story. We were taught that the five W’s (who what, where, when and why) and H (how) should be answered early in a story.

No one knows for sure when the inverted pyramid style was adopted, but I remember a college professor telling us that the style of writing became popular with the invention of the telegraph.

While the telegraph was a huge tool for distributing news, it was also expensive for newspaper publishers. So they stressed to editors the importance of putting essential information at the beginning of a story.

Some historians believe that the inverted pyramid style of writing took off following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Reporters, wanting to get the news out as soon as possible, wrote about the shooting of Lincoln by putting all the key information at the beginning.

The inverted pyramid also has been an important tool for newspapers through the years because of space limitations. Editors want the ability to cut stories because of limited space in newspapers. By writing in inverted pyramid style, readers could still get all the information they need without having to read the entire story.

With the advent of the Internet and different approaches to reporting the news, the inverted pyramid style of writing isn’t as critical as it once was. But studies still show that readers don’t care for long, drawn-out stories.

Reporting the news has changed dramatically in the past few years. Reporters are now required to report the news “24/7.”  This means that no matter what time of the day the news breaks, reporters must prepared to write the story so that it can go up on the newspaper’s website.

During the past year, for example, the Tribune has reported on quite a few “fast-breaking” stories.

Newspaper reporting can be fun and rewarding. For example, the Tribune news staff showed that through its outstanding accomplishments in the Associated Press writing competition – winning nine awards. It is one of the Tribune’s best performances in my recollection.

But also remember, above all, that news reporting takes skill and dedication.

Comments

dyankee

"Someone who is not afraid to ask the “tough” question – and write accurately." " “ACCURACY! ACCURACY! ACCURACY!" What planet are you living on? None of these qualities apply to today's journalist.

Let me help you and the young people thinking about this "profession" which when used in this context, is an oxymoron. It's quite simple....you need to have the ability to follow direction given to you by the Democrat party and liberals everywhere, period...regardless of the truth or the cost to your Country.

You need to be able to accuse a small town and it's citizens or school of racism when none exists. You need to character assasinate an individual that hangs chairs in a tree on his own property. You need to preach hatred for the wealthy(ie) the successful, capitalism, hard work, love of your Country, and the Bible. Don't forget about using gay marriage as a beacon of morality and societal decency while throwing everyone else under the bus. You need to be able to spit on our Constitution and twist it's interpretation to promote liberalism, socialism, and every item on the Progressive's agenda.

The demonization of gun owners is a paramount. You must be able to attack the 2nd Amendment and fluently write about guns killing people, instead of people on prescription medications or criminals killing people.

Never, EVER! submit an article to the editor placing guns in a positive light of protecting it's citizenry from murderers, rapist, or everyday thugs and for heaven's sake, keep quiet about the reduction in crime found in EVERY STATE that allows it citizens to carry a concealled firearm. Remember, Accuracy-Anarchy-Accuracy.

When the government begins the purchase of 9 million rounds of hollow point bullets over a 3-5 year window be sure to ask the "TOUGH QUESTIONS"(similarly to the author of this columnist has done) like, why not do it in 1-2 years Mr. President?

Never again may you use the term "car" to describe a vehicle with 4 wheel drive or less than 20 mpg. You must use the universal name of SUV to refer to this satanic form of travel and character assasinate anyone whom owns one.

You must be brainwashed into believing Global Warming is caused by humans and worship Al Gore as a hero. You must defy common sense and promote wind & solar power at any expense while shelving the proven methods of oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy regardless, of their track record over the last 100 years to power the American economy and bring wealth & the pursuit of happiness to its people.

We must no longer use the term illegal immigration as it is too offensive to the criminals being discribed. My suggestion, is to call them what they really are....undocumented Democrat voters. Oops, I meant to say, we should just call them immigrants looking to work, pay taxes, and "contribute" to our health care system.

Think you got what it takes? Well then, climb aboard and bare witness to the next extinction of an American tradition.....the newspaper.

stopblockingmya...

You need to get a life. Here is an idea for you don't read it. Just sit at home on your high horse and stroke your ego. You speak of oxymoron's well what do you call whining about something you choose to read.

bigdeal

LOL

Vladtheimp

Now you've gone and done it, Dyan - inexcusable transgressions:

1. You gave your opinion in a forum intended for . . . .opinions,

2. You provided inconvenient truths contrary to the understandings of the dedicated socialists and the low information voters,

3. You treat alleged journalists no differently than liberal politicians, college professors, and union bosses.

Like the students at the High School, I fear re-eduction camps and liberal applications of sensitivity training are in your future. Good Luck!

Wingmaster

Well that about covers it Dyank. Now back away from the keyboard before you catch it on fire!

rainbowjoe

Easy there, Yank. I am as perplexed and distressed as you at the blatant left-leaning stance of most media, but maybe you shouldn't tee off on the Trib. Most of the staff there, I think, are cub reporters just getting started in the business, and their job is to produce "puff" pieces that please our local chamber of commerce and keep the advertising revenue flowing. Investigative reporting doesn't occur, though there is much to investigate.
Feel free, however, to unload on Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, The View, and all the other anti-American lefties who are spouting off on the airwaves.

Lanivan

Apparently being a journalist these days requires bravery, guts, and the flexibility to dodge rotten tomatoes from both right and left. Not only has dyankee pretty much summed up the anger on the right, now I read that the left is angry as well. It seems that the GOP, now that the previous labels "liberal, lib, lefty, left and democrat" no longer have the traction they once had, have selected "socialist" as the new buzz word, hoping it will resonate with the American public.

But now the Socialist Party of America is mad as heck because they don't think much of anything going on in this country or with Obama (especially ObamaCare) has anything to do with Socialism, and feel it's an erroneous label. What's a journalist to do?

To add insult to injury, I leave you with an interesting bit of trivia - The Pledge of Allegiance was written by an American Socialist.

Dyankee - we're on very different playing fields - big surprise! - but I understand your anger very well (although I prefer the d who comes up with really funny quips like "Ford Lanivan". And no one had d--- well better say you hold back.

Wingmaster

That's what journalism is Lan. Presenting facts regardless of what a political party thinks. Unfortunately unbias journaliam barely exist these days. Apparently the coasting the lame stream media has been doing with their duties has gotten them lost and soft these days

Don't worry the Liberal label still has traction as most run from the label and call themselves centrist when they get cornered in an argument here. (Not mentioning any names of course)

Lanivan

Ah Wing - always flying into the wind. Carry on, scrappy master!

Wingmaster

"Against the wind" Bob Seger

bigdeal

you two really make a great couple...

Wingmaster

Thanks for ruining my day BD.

Lanivan

Oh sure. Your big worry - "You're Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation", Ronnie McDowell

stopblockingmya...

At least these journalists have the gall to print what they say with their name on it........

Lanivan

Good Point. I know of only one regular poster on this forum who had the unmitigated guts to print his name with a post. The rest of us enjoy the journalistic luxury of spouting off incognito.

MaHubah

That's right Lanivan. You and SirHandAlot are the only people in our area who know everything about everything. Look at socialism in Europe and how its failing their economies. Bailouts. Never heard of that term in the prior to 2000's. Hey, it's not so bad to spend your children's and grandchildren's future. Not according to Odrama. (I came up with that, sorry Wingmaster)

Wingmaster

Tip of the hat, it's a good one!

Lanivan

Thanks for the compliment, Mahubah! (Sirhansalot and I might possibly also share a penchant for Monty Python). But I can't take all the credit - there are lots of posters on this forum who are knowledgeable, thinking, curious, and energetic with their thought processes. Some can even exhibit superior intellect and yet be on opposite sides of the political spectrum - say Valdtheimp and Mystic Michael, for example.

And then there is the other category of poster who is, well...not. Your statements seem to propel you into this category. You are apparently fact-challenged and have been a bit lazy in the journalistic integrity department. Let's pull out one of your foggy thoughts: "Bailouts. Never heard of that term in the prior to 2000's."

1970 - Penn Central Railroad
1971 - Lockheed
1974 - Franklin Nat'l Bank
1975 - New York City
1980 - Chrysler
1984 - Continental Ill Nat'l Bank
1989 - Savings & Loan
2001 - Airline Industry

Yep - you guessed right! These were all bailouts by the Federal government, to the tune of $407 Billion (in 2008 $), AND all by Republican presidents with the exception of Chrysler (J. Carter).

I could challenge every one of your statements, but it's not worth my time. (By the way, I found this information in about 3 minutes by Googling "US bailouts").

Noting your pride in morphing names, would you be related to Mahatma Gandhi, by any chance?

Captain Obvious

Hi MaHubah...just want to clear up a misconception on your part. It is not socialism that is the immediate cause of pain in some European economies, it is the knee-jerk belt tightening they undertook in the face of an economic downturn. That being said, many countries in Europe have taken socialism to unsustainable levels and run up huge amounts of debt. Some socialist countries such as Sweden and Germany have not however. Now I am an advocate of a free market economy with some social and environmental safety nets. I am also a Christian and although I am not as far to the socialist side as Jesus, I believe that we have to take care of the Earth and we have to take care of those who absolutely cannot take care of themselves. It is not an either-or choice between Capitalism and Socialism, but a continuum and one that changes back and forth as times and needs change.

MaHubah

Copying Europe's economy. (Outstanding) Letting Kim Jung Un threaten? (Top Notch) Reverend Wright's 20+ year indoctrination of social justice on America's commander in chief? (Priceless)

MaHubah

The original story of pyramid inverted whatever has become tiresome. The press has failed to do due diligence. The Teachers Union, funded by Tax Payers money which goes to the Dems, has corrupted yet another union. No wonder teenagers don't have a clue. It is not because they don't listen to their parents and are young. Its because they have to toe the line of their liberal union teachers in order to get a good grade. Lord help us all.

GHJames

Does anyone have the common sense to think for themselves anymore or has everyone drank the kool-aid of their respective political party and news source. If its on FOXnews it must be true, no wait MSNBC has the real news. People need to step out of the echo chamber and use reason, though reason doesn't seem to have any place in a political discussion these days.

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