Monday, 30 July 2012

What do Journalists Do? An Introduction to their Job

What are the tasks of a journalist? No, it does not necessarily include the more enjoyable job of grabbing free soda packs laid out for the Press. A major backache with journalism jobs is this: What they do is varied and (one too) many. Is the workload cut out for a New York Times reporter in NYC bigger than that of a Sidney Daily News suburb chaser? Silly question.   

Wait a minute. What kind of “journalist” are we talking about in the first place – the news-reporting journalist, the camera-shooting journalist, the copy-editing journalist or the layout-designing journalist? So there we are. But that doesn't still explain what they do or what their workload, presumably, may be, right? Keep reading.

To keep things simple, let’s simply generalize the job of “journalists” (any ‘journalist’ – anyone who works in the news or news production team of a news organization (Print, broadcast or digital). We would literally be asking for a duty-index than a work profile if you want to talk about what the Press people do to keep their refrigerators filled with food.

Before we discuss what journalists do, let me explain the basis behind the range of the assignments they are tasked with. There are variables to what journalists do. Work profiles and the tasks their “beat”* fits in. The ‘variables’ generally ride on a number of factors.

(In journalism, a ’beat’ is the sphere of work a journalist specializes in. For instance, if you specialize in reporting mainly on political and government-related happenings, then your ‘beat’ is  ‘political news beat’ or ‘policy beat.’) 

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All in a reporter's day's work? Read here 

Here are some of the ‘factors’ that decide the daily tasks journalists have to tackle:

Organizational factors:

Simple illustration: A newspaper with fewer reporters definitely means they have to cover a bigger chunk of workload than a news organization that employs comparatively-more reporters.

Oh did I mention something called ‘competition’? Yes, competition (It’s a uniquely dirty word for a ‘profession’ that has all the ambitions of purity and goodness of humanity in it). Anyhow, competition between media organizations can also decide the extent of a news employee’s job. 

For example, the heavier the competition, the greater the emphasis and pressure on reporters to find “breaking news” or “exclusive” events and news; multiple events mean more work. That is where the dynamics of an organization and its reach, influences nature and scope of a journalist’s daily work.

‘Special’ circumstances:

Another simple illustration: A New York Times reporter writing about fashion in a NY suburb has a somewhat lazier (and less stressful) day than a reporter working in the explosive corner markets of Kabul. For journalists who report from and in conflict situations, the job is not so much about how many assignments he can complete but how he can actually complete the one he has at hand!

Yet again, comparatively, a sports reporter assigned with the Olympics has ‘more work to handle’ than one that has been assigned with writing a report about a bomb explosion in a downtown market in India. Here again, the dynamics behind what journalists do, changes, influenced by circumstances. 

Vocational profiles:

Do you like New York City? Come let’s check out the newsrooms of NYC. In the great apple, the job profile of a reporter is to fish out a fishy story, write and submit his news reports to his Editor. After that ritual, the reporter happily goes home to play with his kids (or his girlfriend. Cough. Cough).

But in India, you could be given additional assignments to write say 2 stories or more stories till you complete the 8-hours-a-day work stint (thankfully not every newspaper in India commits that atrocity).

Likewise, a copy editor in Brisbane has only to copy edit press releases of stories submitted by reporters. In India, a copy editor (interchangeably called ‘Sub-editor’) goes for stories too, do you know that? He looks for stories, meets with people, does interviews, and / or writes about it. Then as part of news production, he copy-edits his story (and his reporters’ news stories in tandem). What next? Well, he does all that before designing the newspaper page layout and uploading his and the stories his reporters’ filed, himself!

Now the entire subject is not so confusing, or did I just hear a whimper.

So there you are. I hope my explanation about what journalists do have given you an idea about their job and what it demands. Generally, as I have already stated, the work of a journalist varies context-to-context, one location to the next, and from one circumstance to another.

Now that you have an idea about the work of journalists here is their various types (reporters and production personnel), their job profiles and basic tasks. Read Here

©2012 Al Ngullie ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This article contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.

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