A reporter, a journalist and a correspondent walk into a bar

There are those terms: a reporter, a journalist, a correspondent, a newspaperman, and others. What are the differences, and which are you? Find out.

Anyone can be a reporter, a journalist has a craft. A reporter has a job, a journalist has a future, that is never clearer than during the great, slow burst of the century-old newspaper bubble. Reporting also involves the basics – a phone book, a call, a knock on a door. All valuable, but as competition grows, the professional – the journalist – understands the power of beatblogging to foster sources, of how audio and video can complement a story. The journalist uses everything in the journalism tool box.

Both are faster than the writer, who is in journalism for ordering words not what the words mean, but the repoter is fastest, the journalist more complete.

The correspondent has a highly specified knowledge base. Where your general assignment reporter can crank out copy on just about anything, the correspondent is limited but on the subject he knows, he knows better than most. Because of that, the correspondent will often be interviewed himself by others in media.

I wrote of the occupational mythology that infects journalism, but, in rereading the post, those descriptors involve more the ancient craft of print. So, it’s clear a newspaperman is another beast altogether. He is self-righteous and idelogically tied to traditional forms of print journalism. You write how he writes, you report how he reports, you interview how he interviews or you’re not doing it correctly. He is fast and versatile like the reporter but cannot live without a newsroom. The entire class of newspaper editors today were newspapermen in decades past.

Now, you don’t have to be in newspapers to be a reporter, a journalist, a correspondent or even a writer. But the newspaperman has his foil: the TV personality and the Radio voice. They are, their critics say, one dimensional. He is not on TV for the reporting as much as it is to be on TV. He is flash. He is not on the radio for the journalism, but because his voice couldn’t be anywhere else. Their specialty isn’t research – they ask a journalist or other expert – they’re job is to look and sound good. This isn’t meant to be a sleight – their craft simply allows them seconds, not minutes to tell their story.

Our two newest additions to journalism are the blogger and the techie. Both have a touch of a Messiah complex. With newspaper circulation declining, the growing digital age is creating another divide in the industry, much in the way Watergate did in the 1970s and these guys are in it because they say they see the future. The blogger is a night-owl, with a frenzy for social networking, sarcasm to spare and enough technology interests to rough an image for his blog. Conducting an interview over instant messenger or through e-mail doesn’t seem strange, nor does having never heard the voice of a source.

The journalism techie see the blogger as another of his tools. He may just be Computer Jesus– knows some combination of Python, Java, C#, or Ruby. Experience using XML, HTML, XHTML, CSS, AJAX, and/or JavaScript and other things of which I have never heard. He begrudgingly is taking journalism on his back because it needs it. He knows he can do what everyone else in the newsroom does but is quick to point out – or at least think – that no one else can do what he does.

Editors? All editors are corrupted forms of one of the above. Copyeditors are hungry, bitter people with grammar obsessions and intellects a million miles wide and an inch thick – I can say this because I know a handful, some aspiring, others on their way to fulfilling my stereotyping of them. (See how reporters and copyeditors see each other in this famed, half-century old poem).

Despite what some may think, news outlets depend on having a mixture of them all because they all serve a purpose. The big fight is that every one of these people think.. nay, know that their vision of journalism is the only way it can survive. Thusly, the curmudgeons can be part of any of these classes, though there are certainly more in some.

I think many younger people in journalism are the Reporter, though they’d like to be elsewhere. I’d say for now I fit in that category.

Take pride: which are you?

Why are you in journalism?

The Journalist: Public service – bringing transparency and truth the best way I can. I will not hesitate in telling you that.

The Reporter: Hey, it’s still a good job that fits a lot of my interests. I like the competition: it may not always be good, but it will be fast.

The Writer: Nobody will buy my novel, but I am working on a screenplay.

The Critic: I am dead inside. I want to be hired by the New York Times. OK, to be fair, I also love art, film, food or something else I couldn’t quite break into but tried enough to know about it. I am a cousin of the Writer.

The Correspondent: Either I just never left and learned everything there was and can’t leave or I am a zealot for whatever it is I am covering.

The Newspaperman: I saw this industry’s height. I have nowhere else to go, so I am going to fight to keep the integrity in journalism. Plus, it was either a buyout or becoming the deputy, assistant, junior news editor of metro local.

The Blogger: This isn’t a real job. I didn’t know I was one until I woke up, ate cold pizza and linked to an Alycia Lane story.

The TV personality: How does my hair look?

The radio voice: Wanna hear me say the alphabet with inflection?

The Techie: I am the only thing standing between civilization and the apocolypse.

The Businessman: I am the Techie, but replace technology knowledge with business sense. I am going to save the industry and get into the history books. Check this post on Businessmen in newspapers.

Are there others? Do any of these terms have any real merit? Do they matter and did any of my descriptions get them right?

3 thoughts on “A reporter, a journalist and a correspondent walk into a bar”

  1. Great stuff, Wink. I like the like “A reporter has a job. A journalist has a future.” And the definitions are great. I thought of a different person in the press corps with each definition I read! 🙂

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