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Stereotypes of Newspaper Reporters

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As a journalist-turned-media critic, it is time for me to come clean about something: the average citizen’s stereotype of reporters is no longer accurate.

When you think of a newspaper reporter, what comes to mind? Well, I have bad news: most of the usual stereotypes have to be replaced, I’m afraid. Or at least that is the case with me.

Let’s look at some of the stereotypes.

Reporters wear fedora hats, like in the movie The Front Page.
Reality: I have a fedora, but only wear it for Halloween. The only hats I have seen in newsrooms in recent years are baseball hats, and that’s on casual Fridays.

Stereotype: Reporters have a flask filled with alcohol in a desk drawer.
Reality: In place of alcohol at work, I had water bottles constantly on or near my desk as I tried to do my body a favor and drink six bottles of water daily. I had granola bars and fruits for snacks. I bet you never saw Lou Grant drinking water and eating a banana for breakfast, but that’s my common fare in the morning. And Mr. Grant would definitely not be happy to see other reporters eating salad for lunch.

Stereotype: They have a coffee cup constantly in hand.
Reality: When I needed a jolt of caffeine, I chose chocolate or Dr. Pepper. Many reporters drink hot or iced tea, which is not exactly something you would expect after watching a good movie like The Paper. There are still some reporters and editors drinking coffee, but they are part of a dying breed.

Sterereotype: The reporters use an old typewriter with which all rules about ergonomics are violated.
Reality: Many are on Macs and laptops these days. Makes one wonder what a journalist of yore would think of a blue computer with an apple on it. Ed Murrow would probably respond by tossing it into a trashcan.

Stereotype: Reporters and editors smoke pipes and cigarettes.
Reality: Most reporters I know just say no to nicotine. A few still smoke but they have to go to designated smoking areas to do so.

Stereotype: Reporters and editors shout “rewrite!” when they get a big story.
Reality: Now when someone wants a reporter to rewrite a story, there is no shouting. No, the editor uses the mouse to send a story back to the reporter. Exciting, no?

Sorry to break the stereotypes. If it helps, we remain as cynical as ever.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • Guy Fletcher


    How about the stereotype that most journalists have zero fashion sense? Sadly, that one is dead-on.

  • Scott Butki

    Jim: Oh, I thought it was spelled beta. I’ll go fix that. Thanks for the fish, um, catch.

    Rodney, that’s true – it is quite a joy to see the operation, especially when it’s working on all cylinders.

  • Scott:

    In your bio it says that you have two pet “beta” fish. Did you mean “betta,” or are they some sort of bio-prototypes?

  • I used to be a journalist, and to this day I don’t know how to type. I use one-finger, which is what I’m doing now. I think part of the reason I stuck around as long as I did was that I was just plain fun to watch.

  • You often hear that things get sensationalized to sell newspapers. Speaking as a former reporter, I think it’s not so much to sell newspapers as to *fill* them.

    Newspapers have to come out every day, whether something newsworthy happened or not.

  • Scott Butki

    Caricature – To represent or imitate in an exaggerated, distorted manner.

    stereotype – A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image.

    I think either word works. But thanks for the feedback.
    Matthew, I never heard back from you on whether you liked my list at your curling article.

  • Scott Butki

    As recently as five years ago I had to take a typing test on a typewriter. And one without a correction key. I type fast but with errors which I go back and fix.
    So I didn’t get the job because I failed the typing test.

    Nope, “stop the presses!” – like “rewrite!” – is replaced with electronic messages at many newsrooms.

    Why is coffee needed? Can’t I just vent while drinking chai?

  • Nancy

    Scott, I wish a lot more of you WERE more cynical, but unfortunately, far too many seem intent on crawling into bed with those same parties who should actually be the constant targets of their cynicism (Judith Miller, Bob Woodward, etc. etc.). As I mentioned once in an earlier thread, you’re not supposed to play with your food.

  • I hope you’re still yelling out “Stop the Presses!”–you are, aren’t you? By the way, no true cynic goes through life without coffee, at the very least.

  • Um, wow.

    I think you’re confusing stereotype with caricature.

    I mean, Typewriters???