To sum it up in a word, a journalist’s life is hectic. Most reporters are required to cover at least one story per day, sometimes as many as three or four, while also developing content for the future.
When reporters go to work each morning, they usually have no idea what story/stories they’ll be working on that day. They may have an idea or two to pitch at the morning editorial meeting, or they may get assigned to cover a story they knew nothing about.
Aside from breaking news – big fires, plane crashes, shootings – most stories begin with an idea or event. The first thing a reporter will do is ask herself a series of questions: What is the point of this story? What are the central facts? What sort of emotion does this story evoke and how can I get that across? Who do I need to interview? And, especially important in television news, what can I get for pictures/video? Then, she will set about getting all the elements she needs, always mindful of making deadline.
Print journalists can do quite a bit of their work on the phone, collecting facts and conducting interviews right from their desks (Or from almost anywhere, thanks to cell phones). It’s a little different for broadcast journalists, who need to get their interviews on-camera and shoot enough video to cover the story. That means, they have to go to the story, and travel time becomes a factor.
A good part of a TV journalist’s day is spent driving from one location to another to shoot video and conduct interviews. They have limited time at each location to get the job done. Don’t forget, they have to get back to the station in plenty of time to log the interviews, choose sound bites, and write and edit the story under deadline.
If a reporter is lucky, she gets to work with a photographer. That frees her up to really concentrate on the content of the story, and maybe even write an outline in the news car while the videographer drives them both back to the station. But more and more stations are hiring reporters to be so-called “back-pack journalists” or “one-man-bands”. They have to do it all—set-up, conduct interviews, drive to and from stories, shoot video, write and edit. Sometimes, it feels like riding a unicycle while juggling sharp knives and chewing gum.
A day in the life of a Journalist – how it can help you!
Understanding how harried most reporters are will help you deal with the media in two ways:
(1) You’ll understand how helpful it is for you to do some of the legwork on a story you want covered. Find out ahead of time who would be willing to be interviewed by the reporter. Put together a fact or statistics sheet that will give the reporter a quick and easy reference. Brainstorm ideas for video ahead of time.
(2) You’ll understand why many reporters are “all business” with little time for small talk or niceties. Although most of the reporters I’ve known during my career are gracious with the public, they really don’t have time to sit and talk over tea after coming to your home to interview you.