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Welcome to the Circus

February 14, 2010

Tim Harrower, author of Inside Reporting, describes reporters as “a professional wordsmith” (82).  Although interviewees and press releases have already provided reporters with the words, the reporters must chose which phrases remain intact and which undergo much change at the hands of the reporters. After reading this specific responsibility of the reporter, I now consider the reporter more of a director and than a writer.

Yes, the term “wordsmith” implies one who can manipulate words into clear and refined ideas, but a reporter must acknowledge that the entire story was not derived from the reporter’s own brain. Instead, someone, in this case the interviewee, writes the script, and the reporter rearranges the lines to tell a story, being careful to still convey the screenwriters intended message. Therefore, following this definition, a reporter is not a writer, but rather a storyteller. The reporter cuts and pieces together various scenes until the desired story is complete. While the reporter takes the words of the subjects, she is not condemned for plagiarism; attributions serve as credits. In fact, attributions are not only necessary to notify the audience of the source of information, but the attributions make the reporter credible.

In order to tell the story properly, the reporter must solicit credible sources. This can be compared to casting a performance. Without telling quotes and accurate sources, the news piece amounts to nothing, except possibly a work of fiction.   Although the job of the reporter is to sift through quotes to determine which are accurate and worthy of print, she relies on such quotes to tell the story.

I had previously considered a reporter independent, but I now view a final news story as a collaborative effort with the reporter as the ringleader.

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