Whether they work for a major news outlet or as freelancers, reporters are responsible for gathering stories and reporting them to the public. A "roving reporter" may be a general assignment reporter for a newspaper or TV station, or a freelance journalist who gathers stories and reports them through various public outlets. If you see this career in your future, set yourself up for success by taking some important career steps.
Enroll in a college or university program and major in journalism, public relations, communications, journalism media, English or some other discipline that fosters communication skills. These courses will help you learn how to locate sources, investigate stories and find the people who will provide you with the information you need to tell informative stories. As you go through your educational program, decide whether you want to focus on print, broadcast or digital media -- or whether you'll pursue a career across platforms. In the world of digital media, you'll do well to have skills in as many disciplines as possible -- and have skills in photography, videography and Web design.
Pick a niche. While you may be interested in being a general assignment reporter, it's a good idea to gain an expertise in a few key subjects about which you can speak intelligently. If you have specific interests, such as politics, geography, culture, fashion or fitness, these could be good places to start. Along with your communications courses, take courses in subjects in which you're interested. Dig deeper into the subject by reading books and trade magazines, attending lectures, following online forums and joining networking associations in your desired subject areas.
Offer to do freelance writing for your school newspaper, school magazine or school TV station. Often, part of college is on-the-job training, and on-site media outlets are a great way to get some real experience. In some cases, school newspapers and magazines even have paid positions open to students.
Seek internships at news outlets that have roving reporters or general assignment reporters. If you want to become one, you need to know as much as possible about what these people do. Talk to your academic adviser about helping you identify possible internships. Even if you don't land an internship directly as the roving reporter at a news outlet, being an intern at the same company means you may have an opportunity to get to know other reporters and ask questions about how to proceed in your desired career path.
Come up with story ideas in your chosen fields of expertise, and approach news outlets with "pitches." Use resources such as "Writers Market" or online searches to find websites, newspapers, magazines and digital media outlets that focus on your subject areas, and then write query letters to the editors, asking them to publish your stories. In the 21st century world of media, you may find that editors want to see the entire article before agreeing to publish it. If you find success and start getting regularly published, you may find that you can become a roving reporter by being a freelance writer in your area of expertise. The other option is to find a news outlet that is hiring reporters.
Apply for entry-level, general assignment reporter positions at various media outlets. In some news outlets, the "roving reporter" is something of a lighthearted position, in which the reporter finds fun, general interest stories -- though you may have to work your way up the ranks from an entry-level writer position to get that job. In other news outlets, "roving reporter" is another name for a "GA" or general assignment reporter, who covers stories on a number of topics as news stories come up. When you apply for these jobs, your education, internships and work samples will help show that you're qualified for the position.
About the Author
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.
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Entry-level reporter, Rawlins Daily Times, Rawlins, Wyoming
Five-days-a-week newspaper seeks ambitious reporter
The Rawlins Daily Times is seeking a general assignment reporter to join our news team.
The ideal candidate will have a strong writing background and have a willingness to cover a wide range of stories throughout Carbon County. The ideal candidate will also have a hunger to tell large-scale stories that include visual and digital components, as well as personal stories.
Located in south-central Wyoming along the I-80 corridor in Carbon County, we offer a wide range of outdoor activities without the hustle and bustle found in larger cities. The few traffic jams you may encounter are typically caused by a pronghorn wandering through town. Excellent fishing, hiking, snowmobiling and hunting are just minutes away.
Recommended skills and requirements:
- Bachelors degree or higher in journalism.
- Experience with community journalism.
- Comfortable writing quickly and consistently in AP style.
- Strong eye for details.
Additional skills and experience:
- Experience writing enterprise and long-form content, as well as telling personal stories.
- Experience covering news on social media platforms.
- Some experience with photography, video and/or design preferred, but not required.
This position is full-time and offers competitive salary and benefits. Please submit a cover letter, résumé and writing clips (2-3) to Publisher Jeff Robertson at email@example.com for consideration.