Reporter vs. Correspondent

There are two capacities in which one may write news stories for a paper. He may work on the staff as a regular reporter or he may supply news from a distance as a correspondent. In the one case he works under the personal supervision of a city editor and spends his entire time at the regular occupation of gathering and writing news. As a correspondent he works in a distant city, under the indirect supervision of the city, telegraph, or state editor, and sends in only the occasional stories that seem to be of interest to his paper.

In either case the same rules apply to his news gathering and to his news writing. And in either case the length of his employment depends upon his ability to turn in clean copy in the form in which his paper wishes to print the news. Both the reporter and the correspondent must write their stories in the same form and must look at news and the sources of news from almost the same point of view. Whatever is said of the reporter applies equally to the correspondent.

The correspondent gathers news very much as the reporter does, but he does it without the help of a city editor. He must be his own director and keep his own book of tips, for he has no one to make out his assignments beforehand. He has to watch for what news he can get by himself and send it to his paper of his own accord, except occasionally when his paper instructs him to cover a particularly large story. But he gets his tips and runs down his facts just as a reporter does. Just as much alertness and just as much ability to write are required of him.

The correspondent’s work is made more difficult by what is called news values. Distance affects the importance of the facts that he secures and the length of the stories he writes. He must weigh every event for its interest to readers a hundred or a thousand miles away. What may be of immense importance in his community may have no interest at all for readers outside that community. He must see everything with the eyes of a stranger, and this[12] must influence his whole work of news gathering and news writing. This matter will be taken up at greater length in the next chapter.