What does a newspaper journalist do? (With salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 7 October 2022

Published 6 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A journalist is a media professional who writes for news, television, magazines or online publications. The role of a journalist is to research and investigate news, write articles, reports and stories, or broadcast content as a presenter. Knowing exactly what they do and who they collaborate with on a daily basis can help you to decide if it's a good career choice. In this article, we answer 'What does a newspaper journalist do?' and discuss their skills, specialisms and average salary.

What does a newspaper journalist do?

A newspaper journalist reports on news stories across a variety of industries including social issues, lifestyle, entertainment, sport, politics and more. Journalists typically work either in an office setting or in the field depending on their role and employer. They can write for a physical medium, such as a newspaper, or in a digital capacity for websites or online publications. Increasingly, newspaper journalists are specialising in either digital or print, choosing from the off-set the medium they're looking to write for. A newspaper journalist's duties include:

  • researching and following-up on local, national or international news stories

  • creating content designed to inform, educate or engage a target audience

  • building relationships with sources from across different industries

  • maintaining the anonymity of sources while ensuring proper fact-checking across stories

  • attending events, accidents or incidents to report on what is happening

  • live blog-style reporting

  • pitching story ideas to senior leadership that can help a business meet ongoing objectives

Related: A guide on how to write a journalist CV (with example)

What skills does a newspaper journalist use?

Depending on the role or employer that the newspaper journalist is working for, they may require a number of different skills to achieve their goals. These include:

Time management

Time management is vital for a journalist as they usually work to short deadlines. The nature of reporting on the news means that journalists work quickly to present well-written content that delivers sourced facts and clear information while keeping it interesting for readers. They prioritise their time effectively, managing multiple stories at once that may be in different stages of the writing process. Journalists also benefit from being punctual, whether they're meeting with sources, attending events or attending meetings with senior leadership.

Related: Time-management skills: definitions, examples and tips for improvement

Copywriting skills

Copywriting is the primary skill for journalists writing for news, magazines or online publications. The content that a journalist creates is engaging, informative or educational and explores a variety of unbiased viewpoints to deliver an overview. It's important for the writing to not just be well-written but to also follow the right tone of voice to maintain the brand or tone of the employer. They generally prioritise telling the truth over sensationalising content or adapting to political or corporate agendas.

Organisational skills

Organisation is important for journalists. They build and maintain a list of contacts, including contact and employer details, potentially ensuring they remain anonymous when using them in stories. Journalists look at stories from multiple perspectives, making sure they're all covered in the content. This requires a strong organisational approach to both writing and building news stories, ensuring that they're factually correct and as up-to-date as possible.

Related: What are organisational skills? (Types and examples)

Niche knowledge

Depending on the role you're writing for, a journalist can benefit from having niche knowledge. Sports journalists and political journalists, for example, might have niche knowledge about different sports teams, concepts or relevant terms that can help them create more specialised content. This is desirable as it helps the journalist keep the audience as engaged as possible. A deep understanding of a topic can help a journalist when applying for niche roles.

Collaboration

Newspaper journalists typically work closely with an editor and other journalists to contribute to a larger publication or story. It's important that journalists collaborate where possible, sharing ideas, writing examples and leads that help create better content. Newspaper journalists also collaborate with their editor to make sure the writing is factually and grammatically correct while suiting the tone of the publication. They understand that stories can change quickly, which may require working with new sources or other third parties.

Researching skills

Researching is a primary responsibility for a journalist, especially as what they're writing is required to be factually correct. Research is the first step of creating a news story or report. The journalist may identify key players in the story, corroborate facts or dig deeper into the story to find new angles they can report on. Research is typically performed online or through speaking to contacts and experts.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail is important for a newspaper journalist as it helps them spot errors in their writing, perform more effective research or dig deeper into a story. Having excellent attention to detail can help a journalist discover new angles that other journalists might not have found or spot an issue before a publication goes to print. Journalists can improve their attention to detail through experience in the field, such as reading other journalistic writing or observing how editors proofread their writing.

What newspaper specialisms are there?

Journalists can work across a variety of different sectors, industries or fields depending on their natural interests or aptitudes. When a journalist has experience in writing general news pieces, they may want to specialise in another topic. These can include:

News journalism

News journalism is the traditional sector that journalists work in. News journalism typically involves writing short-form or medium-form articles around topics of local, national or international interest. News journalism tends to focus on topics that are in the wider public interest and not specific niches. Pieces of news journalism may include press releases, recaps of specific events, features, reviews or longer investigative journalism stories. News journalists typically interview people related to their story, asking questions related to the current issues and finding new angles to report on.

Related: How to become a journalist

Sports journalism

Sports journalism is a specific type of journalism that focuses on team news, specific sportspeople, event recaps and major tournaments or competitions. Sports journalists may cover transfers in football, medallists in Olympic or Commonwealth events or even dig deeper into scandals that affect a specific sport. The nature of sports journalism means many journalists create both written and video content, which also includes presenters and broadcasters. Sports journalism is a key example of niche knowledge helping a journalist create engaging and informative content for a target audience.

Column journalism

Column journalists, often shortened to columnists, write regular opinion pieces for newspapers or online news publications. The column may focus on a single area of interest such as fashion or tech or it may be a recurring role for a popular spokesperson in the industry. Many column journalists are freelancers that collaborate with the same media partners, regularly contributing to a single newspaper or publication. To succeed as a column journalist, you usually require the same skills as a traditional journalist, while also building your reputation as an expert in your desired field.

Magazine journalism

Magazine journalists write medium or long-form content on a variety of topics for a single publication or type of publication. Common types of publications that journalists work for include travel, cuisine, lifestyle and gaming, all of which are fields that still typically maintain a variety of printed publications. Magazine journalists usually have more niche knowledge than traditional journalists and spend more time writing longer articles or feature pieces. As more publications move online, magazine journalists may find themselves writing for multiple publications within their niche.

Web journalism

Web journalists are typically a hybrid of both magazine and newspaper journalists. The only difference is that they create content that's optimised for the Internet, rather than creating content for print publications. Depending on their role or employer, a web journalist may provide their work to multiple destinations or media outlets, which is not common in print journalism. Web journalists are likely to write shorter pieces for digital publications and typically need more experience in using social media platforms to amplify their work.

Investigative journalism

Investigative journalism is a very specific type of journalism that typically takes the longest to write. The content this specialist creates is long, detailed and written over a longer period than any other type. Investigative journalism requires exceptional researching skills and excellent attention to detail to find new angles to report on.

How much does a journalist make?

The national average salary for a journalist is £25,596 per year, though this can differ depending on your location and employer. Salaries vary from city to city, with the higher paying companies typically located in Liverpool and London. Salaries are usually the highest in larger companies for senior employees.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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