News agencies come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most famous is Reuters, which covers the world. It competes in the UK with several other major agencies, such as the Press Association (PA), which supplies national and international news.
But there are also many smaller agencies. They include well-resourced regional agencies which supply all categories of news and pictures from a city or other substantial geographic area; specialist agencies which cover a particular field such as sport, health or showbiz; and one-man local outfits that might concentrate on a particular crown court.
News agencies differ from other media organisations in that, by and large, their role is not to publish in their own branded newspapers, TV stations or other outlets. They supply information to other news organisations which either publish it as supplied to them, with or without a credit, or use it as raw material to be added in to its own reporting. Reports in newspapers will often contain agency copy in addition to that created by its bylined reporter. Increasingly, major news agencies supply electronic material for websites, tablets and mobile phones that often retains the agency’s branding.
The major agencies often require fluency in a second language and expect a deep interest in and knowledge of current affairs. As a reporter on a small agency, you will find yourself in a very tough environment. Often, when a big story breaks, the Fleet Street pack descends on an area. The local agency only makes money if its reporter gets facts or an angle everyone else has missed. Knowing your patch inside out and having brilliant contacts is the only way to succeed.
On a major agency you will undergo an intense rotation around the key desks, and learn everything from financial reporting to sport and back to politics. On a small agency you’ll be learning how to survive in the most competitive newsgathering environment imaginable.
It will improve your chances of getting a job if you are able to demonstrate you have a real interest in news, and you have taken every opportunity to gain work experience on newspapers, magazines or at press agencies. Editing or contributing to school or university magazines is a good start. Having work experience placements is another.
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