Political Reporters


Exploring this Job

You can explore a career as a political reporter in a number of ways. Working on school radio or television stations and newspapers will provide you with experience as a reporter. You can also try to find part-time work or internships with smaller radio and TV stations or newspapers, which will allow you to observe political reporters and other journalism professionals at work. Published since 1869, The Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media is a leading source of information about U.S., Canadian, and international media outlets that is available in most public libraries. Finally, contact a local political reporter and ask to spend a few days shadowing him or her to get a sense of the work involved.

The Job

Political reporters collect information on newsworthy events of a political nature and prepare stories for radio or television broadcast. Typical stories that a political reporter might cover include an election campaign (e.g., candidate debates, rallies, conventions, and speeches); a debate between Democratic and Republican state legislators over a controversial gun control bill; a ghost payroll scandal at top levels of government; the controversial closing of state-run hospitals by elected officials; an anti-war demonstration on the steps of Capitol Hill; and a president's speech to the United Nations urging sanctions against a country that is purported to be developing weapons of mass destruction.

Political reporters may present stories that simply provide information about local, state, national, or international events, or they may present opposing points of view on issues of current political interest. In this latter capacity, the press plays an important role in monitoring the actions of public officials and others in positions of power.

Political reporters may receive story assignments from an editor, producer, or news director or as the result of a lead, or news tip. Good political reporters are always on the lookout for story ideas.

To cover a story, political reporters gather and verify facts by interviewing people involved in or related to the event, examining documents and public records, observing events as they happen, and researching relevant background information. Political reporters generally take notes, record audio on a mobile device or tape recorder, or shoot footage using a video camera as they collect information. TV reporters may shoot the footage themselves or bring a camera operator to the scene. Radio reporters typically work alone on the news scene, though they may be assisted by engineers. It is important for radio and TV reporters to understand the latest video and audio equipment.

After recording an interview, the political reporter will then review the material and determine which information is most significant to the story, as well as edit the material and incorporate any other information he or she has obtained, according to the time allotted for the report. The TV political reporter looks for the most interesting quotes from the interview subject, and the most relevant visuals and sounds. Often, political reporters go live at the scene of a news event; the reporter will then introduce the news segment during the newscast and answer questions from the anchor about the story. Political reporters who work for radio stations do not have video to help them tell the story. They must rely on audio and their ability to paint a vivid picture of the newsworthy events.

Political reporters may have specific areas, or "beats," to cover, such as a presidential campaign, city hall, or the state legislature. Most reporters only report on that day's news, but, in some cases, a reporter may spend several days with a particular news story, such as on a news magazine program. An investigative report might also be broadcast as a series within a daily newscast.

Political reporters in small radio or television markets may be required to cover other aspects of the news in their communities. They may also take photographs and help with general office work. Television political reporters may have to be photogenic as well as talented and resourceful: they may at times present live reports, filmed by a mobile camera unit at the scene where the news originates, or they may record interviews and narration for later broadcast. 

Many broadcast companies, large newspapers, and magazines have one correspondent who is responsible for covering all the news for the foreign city or country where they are based. These reporters are known as foreign correspondents. They report the news by satellite, pre-recorded videotape, telephone, fax, or computer.