Journalist vs. Reporter: What’s the Difference?

A reporter broadcasts from the city.

Journalists and reporters are essential to the news cycle. They help people understand and come to terms with recent happenings. Current events shape the way individuals see the world, making news a vital vehicle for offering context. Newspeople don’t just cover current events, as news in a vacuum is not useful to anyone. Instead, journalists and reporters present it in the frame of reality so viewers can ascertain an event’s importance and impact on the world.

A reporter broadcasts from the city.

Reporters and journalists present the news to people in different ways. Even though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts these professions under the same umbrella, reporting and journalism are distinct disciplines. When looking at journalist vs. reporter, it’s crucial to remember that each is independent of the other, though they both constitute critical parts of the news industry.

Describing the Journalist’s Work

Journalists collect information or investigate happenings and then craft stories based on their findings. They can use words, video, or audio to tell a story and are usually good at finding information that others may not know exists. Journalists can specialize in several fields, including finance, sports, celebrity, and popular culture, and politics. Their stories may be published in print or made available on websites or streaming services. Journalists must be able to spot newsworthy topics and perform the legwork to create an engaging and informative story. To that end, they should hone the following skills:

  • Interviewing: Asking the right questions in the right way is an essential competency for a journalist. Journalists use carefully crafted questions to chip away at the walls that separate them from a story. They must be concise and sharp enough to engage the interviewee, as well as those who may read or watch the interview. Interviews also require journalists to know when subjects aren’t directly answering a question or don’t understand it and find ways to get them back on track.
  • Research: News stories should be based on factual evidence. Journalists need to have access to facts to present the reality of a situation. Factual evidence might be available, but finding it requires research skills. Logically compiling information that journalists can later use to make a case in their work is crucial to a story’s success. Additionally, factual information maintains the journalist’s reputation and, in turn, the public’s trust.
  • Writing: Journalists must have an impeccable grasp of spelling, grammar, and style. This skill doesn’t apply to written articles only, as good writing is a hallmark of any media presentation, from video to audio reports. The writing should captivate the reader while concisely presenting the story.

Career Outlook for Journalists

Journalism is changing. Instead of being contracted to a news agency or a magazine, journalists find themselves in entirely different surroundings and sometimes filling unique job descriptions. Because of the overlap of skills that journalists have with other professions and the media’s tendency to look at the internet as the new frontier of reporting, they may find work as “content writers” or “online public relations specialists.” Journalists’ skills and training will serve them well in these similar roles. According to PayScale, the median journalist salary is around $41,000 per year. Most online news outlets require journalists who are skilled in combining the real world with the digital one to develop and deliver stories relevant to people’s interests.

Describing the Reporter’s Work

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a reporter as an individual who informs the public about regional and international events. Reporters are a subset of journalists. Many journalists work as reporters, but not all reporters are journalists. In some forms of media, such as radio or TV, producers or research teams, rather than reporters, are responsible for fact-checking.

Reporters play a specific role in the news industry. They are usually tasked with delivering a story through a medium but may not be the person who conducted the research. To perform this function, a reporter needs to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Reading and Reporting: Many reporters deliver their stories through video or audio media and usually receive a script to ensure they know what they need to speak on. Reporters must be able to read the story to engage the observer, which means they must also insert some personality into the copy that they present.
  • Interviewing: As with the journalist, the reporter may need to interview a subject to get a unique point of view. Interviewing skills allow the reporter to keep the discussion on track while still asking poignant questions that may elicit telling answers from the subject.
  • Time Management: News is always happening. Reporters need to be able to manage their schedules exceptionally well to perform their duties and reach out to the people they may need to speak with to inform their stories.

Career Outlook for Reporters

Reporters have a wide range of career options to choose from. Their abilities enable them to pursue work across all areas of mass media. With the increased production of podcasts from agencies and small studios, these shows may hire reporters to present or interview guests. Pay rates for reporters are likely to vary throughout the industry because of how wide-ranging the profession has become. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), television news reporters earn a median salary of $48,200 per year. Reporters working for newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers earn a median salary of $35,860, and those working for other information services earn a median salary of $59,720. These earnings also depend on where the reporter works and the employer’s income.

Journalist vs. Reporter: Differences

In exploring journalists vs. reporters, it’s critical to remember they are both parts of the news industry. The difference between the two seems to lie in the amount of research that the individual does as part of his or her job. Reporters who craft stories supported by their own research may be considered journalists. However, not every reporter is a journalist. For example, a local television news reporter may take information that is gathered by a research staff – including material that was written by other journalists –  and relay that information to their audience.

Finding a Place in the Field

News reporting and research require dedication and integrity — inherent traits that both journalists and reporters should demonstrate. The Maryville University online Bachelor of Arts in English offers students a chance to learn the required competencies through the following courses, among others:

  • Writing Across Disciplines
  • Creative Writing
  • Fable to Film
  • Literature Appreciation

Each course helps students to develop and hone the skills that are necessary to stand out as a journalist or reporter. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the news industry, the Maryville University online Bachelor of Arts in English is an ideal complement to your ambitions.

Recommended Reading:
How Technological Advancements Will Shape the Future of Journalism

American Press Institute, “What Is the Purpose of Journalism?”

Houston Chronicle, “What Is the Difference Between a Journalist and a Reporter?”

PayScale, Average Journalist Salary

Statista, “Journalism – Statistics and Facts”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts

Vox, “Chart: How the Definition of ‘Journalist’ Is Changing”

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