Journalists are information reporters who write for newspapers, news websites, social media, magazines, and TV news stations. It is not always easy for a writer to find a newsworthy story. In fact, it can be a painstaking process to report relevant and timely facts. Competition between news outlets who strive to be the first to publish breaking news adds another layer of complication.
For some writers, stories come unexpectedly, and for others, the story seems to find them by way of a trusted source. Successful journalists can spot a hot news story and investigate for additional information to provide a complete story or add to a previously written article expanding newly learned facts. The hard part is digging for new leads and resources that can provide additional information with speed to compete with the many news outlets.
Journalists use a variety of sources to compile an article, but leads must be reliable. Building relationships with people in many different categories such as sports, politics, or celebrities take time and require trust.
Providing information on topics that people want or need to know changes quickly from day to day or even hour by hour. The ability to write a newsworthy story requires reporters to determine if the report has value. The information obtained needs to be new or expanded and accurate.
Discovering a large number of relevant facts and presenting them in a way that holds the reader’s attention can be difficult especially if many outlets are reporting the same basic information. Finding the bit of new information that has not been previously disclosed continues to be the goal between the competing news conglomerates who seek to be number one in the industry.
In order to write a story from beginning to end, journalists must be able to dig deep on the particular topic. Credible journalists strive to be sure that the stories they submit to their editors make sense, are interesting, accurate, and give the reader a complete understanding of the story being conveyed. If this criterion is not adequate, the writer is at risk of not having their work published.
Reporters work hard to build their reputation and are judged by the community for reliability. Using “anonymous sources,” “unnamed sources,” or “a person close to” can often be considered bad practice and unreliable because competing news outlets can later reveal the information is false.
For instance, the movie, “Kill The Messenger,” details Gary Webb’s struggle to inform his readers about the CIA’s involvement in supplying African-American communities with drugs. Some contend that his report was not backed up with credible sources or evidence, which caused many of Webb’s critics to question his reporting and may have damaged his reputation.
There are times when “anonymous sources” do provide credible information but insist on remaining unnamed. Reporters must be cautious and work diligently to verify the information before disseminating to the public.
In comparison, when named sources are revealed, readers have access to the information used by the journalist to support their story.
In the era of “fake news” the reputation of the news outlet and reporter is crucial and must remain above scrutiny if they are to succeed as a credible source in the public’s eye.
In summary, the mission of a journalist is to tell real and compelling stories, in a time-sensitive and highly competitive industry, that will hold the reader’s attention and keep them coming back for more.
Written by Kayla Burnett
Edited by Cathy Milne
International Center for Journalists: How to spot a news story
Quora: How do journalists find their stories?
Writing Commons: Journalism: Gathering Information and Writing Your Story
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