Journalist or Reporter?

What is the difference between a journalist and a reporter? Is there? Can a journalist be a reporter, or a reporter be a journalist?

Going into a college I knew I was looking into Journalism. I knew I would do better at Journalism than something like Creative Writing because I never though I would be that kind of writer.

Writer, now there’s a another one.

Writer? Reporter? Journalist?

At IU, for me, there was no doubt I wasn’t getting into the Journalism program. It is one of the higher ranked schools, and provided four years of amazing classes and programs.

I worked on the school newspaper and magazine and started doing my outside writing for, but at school, I always felt like still a “student.” I was still the kid asking people questions, never really taking myself seriously as a real journalist.

When I think about the difference between a journalist and reporter, I figured journalists were of a higher caliber. Journalist. It just sounds better and in my mind, receives more credit than just reporter.

However, I was reading online today about this difference. According to several websites, the difference between the two is slight. A reporter gathers and writes information specifically for something like a newspaper. Reporters speak directly to people to gather the information and that is the only thing written, not including any opinions or editorializing.

A journalist is someone who gathers information and then disseminates it to the audience. A reporter can be a journalist, just like an editor, publisher and opinion writer can be as well.

Reporting is becoming one with social media, and now comes down to getting information, mainly just facts, published as fast as one can. Whereas, journalism is becoming more investigative, and longer in-depth writing made more for magazines and longer newspaper pieces. As one website said, “once “reports” are in a magazine or newspaper, it is usually old news.”

So where am I going with this? When people ask what I do for a living I respond with, “I write for a newspaper.” Yes, I do write, but I realized I do this because I want to hide from choosing between journalist and reporter.

I feel like journalist is too catchy or “big” for me, and reporter sounds too old-school. But, today after rushing out the door toward a potential shooting, I realized I was kind of both.

I enjoy writing the long, in-depth feature pieces on events or people with interesting stories. I enjoy writing about the hometown girl who recently ran a marathon worth Olympic Trials time, and I enjoy walking around talking with people participating in the town’s Cookie Walk event.

But when it comes to reporting, actually listening to the scanner and following the police to a car crash or potential shooting, like today, I am not as big a fan. The journalist in me does not agree with the reporter-focused stories.

During the shooting today, which ended up just being a scam from someone (gotta love those people), I was up and running with my notebook in one hand and my camera in the other. I was ready to report. “Where the hell did that come from?” I asked myself later. That is not me. I usually try to block out the scanner, to be honest.

Today marked something different. I reported, well I was going to report, because that is what newspaper writing is. It can’t all be easy, writing stories. There are facts that need to be reported down as fast as possible so that my readers, (if there are any), can get their information just as fast.

So, maybe after these few months of working, my reporting phobia is slipping away. Though, I still destine to be a writer, in the story, freelance sense, my job as a journalist/reporter is keeping me constantly busy as what a this position is supposed to do: be the watchdog for the public (I learned that in college-go IU).

We are supposed to be both-journalists and reporters. And writers, and readers, and listeners. Writing for a publication is knowing what to write, when and why.

Now when people ask me, I will still respond with I write for a newspaper. But inside, I know that I am a journalist. A reporter. And a needed community member.