There are many kinds of journalists

Some of us are quiet people: good listeners who ask good questions.

Others are brash: count on us to speak up in a scrum or appear on TV.

Some of us are organized: our desktops are neat, with things filed perfectly.

Others are so busy rushing out to the next story, we never file anything. Piles of paper overflow our desks and documents overwhelm our computers.

Some of us are great writers: our copy sings, and rarely needs much editing.

Others are great reporters who have trouble with writing; we count on editors to fix it up.

Some of us are born editors: we combine two rare and opposite talents: spotting tiny details (AP style errors, details that need checking, potential libel or copyright issues), and seeing the big picture (what stories need to be written, which reporters should be sent where, who will do the best job on this story, and whether a story needs to be done at all).

Some of us are real street reporters: send us out there and we will come back with a story, every time.

Some of us are feature writers: we see the details that give stories color, and we know how to weave those details together with facts to bring a story, literally, to life.

Some of us are beat reporters: we care only about sports, or politics, or music, or movies, and we really don’t want to write about anything else. We live our beats — nothing happens without our being aware of it, and we’ve got the nitty-gritty background info to tell readers why it matters.

Some of us are investigative reporters: a special breed who can work for months on a single story, running down every detail, verifying every claim, finding every source, listening and reading and watching with a detective’s obsession.

Some of us are visual: we excel at photography, videography, film and graphic arts. Without us, our publishers would be lost and our readers — well, there might not be any readers.

Some of us are audiophiles: we do radio, music, sound effects and “actuality” — sounds that bring stories to life, even if most people don’t notice them the way we do.

Some of us are tactile: we want to touch things, like the original court record or document that proves something true. We like to meet our sources face-to-face, go to the places where stories are happening, and see every detail for ourselves.

Some of us work for mainstream media: we have the audience, the editors, the resources to do a great job — and the paycheck to support us while we do it. At this point in time, we seem to be a dying breed.

Some of us are citizen journalists: we write blogs, use Twitter, send Instagrams or whatever works to get the word out about things we’re passionate about. The world needs us, and our passions, just as much as it needs those well-paid mainstream media folks.

Some of us are veterans: we have seen a lot, but know there are many important stories we haven’t managed to cover.

Some of us are new, and have a whole world waiting for us to see, describe and share with others from our perspective.

Every one of us is a journalist. And there are more … I sincerely hope there are more! Because we need you now, more than ever.

Addendum: I’m thinking there are many more types of journalists, and I’d love to hear from readers with their ideas and phrasings. Think of this as a work in progress. …


About Carrie Buchanan

Journalism and communication professor, Canadian, now living and teaching in the United States. Longtime journalist in Canada, primarily for the Ottawa Citizen.
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