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What does a Staff Writer do?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

The exact duties of a staff writer vary depending on the type of industry and location in which he or she works. Staff writers are steady employees paid either a salary or an hourly wage; they are assigned specific responsibilities that must be met in order to keep their jobs. Usually a staff writer has some team as well as individual duties. Advertising agencies, newspapers, magazines and television (TV) studios tend to employ a team of writers on staff.

Creating written scenes and dialog for a weekly or daily show is the main duty of a TV staff writer. In most cases, a head writer, who may be called a show runner, assigns specific episodes or scenes to his or her writing team. A staff writer for a soap opera, or television daytime serial drama, may work from home delivering completed assignments electronically. In most other TV show types, such as dramas or situation comedies (sit-coms), staff writers work together on-site to exchange and develop program content. The show's writing team may discuss each episode and decide on the overall flow of the dialog before individual writers write certain sections of the script.

Magazine and newspaper staff writers often work individually on stories assigned by the editor. Staff writers for publications such as newspapers and magazines complete articles that may require interviewing people involved in a certain event or incident. Newspaper reporters and magazine journalists working as part of the publication's staff may be assigned a certain topic, or beat, such as political news, fashion, sports or education. Columnists have to prepare regular stories that fit in the space allotted, being sure to meet production deadlines. Newspaper and magazine staff writers may be required to travel frequently to research the background of a news story as well as interview persons involved in or affected by the event.

Creating the copy for advertisements (ads) and promotional materials is the main job of advertising staff writers. The work of these ad copywriters must be extremely original and creative with the goal of persuading the target market to buy the agency client's products or services. Copywriting, along with graphic designing, is considered as the creative side of the advertising business. Staff writers at an ad agency may be assigned to create work for specific clients or accounts. They usually report to a creative director who oversees their department.

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Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Feb 06, 2014

Drentel - Sports reporters and sports columnists are considered staff writers. Basically, anyone whose primary primary job is to write copy for a newspaper is a staff writer.

By Drentel — On Feb 06, 2014

Are sports reporters considered staff writers, or is that term only used for news reporters?

By Sporkasia — On Feb 05, 2014

Animandel - The article gives a good explanation of what a newspaper staff writer does. Basically, people in this position are employees of the paper and they carry out their assigned work (reporting, writing columns, covering events). In exchange, they receive a designated salary or hourly wages.

Freelance writers on the other hand are contract employees. They are given a specific assignment and paid a designated fee as worked out by the newspapers and the writers. Freelance work tends to appeal to writers who want to have more control over the types of stories they write. Since these writers are not employed by the newspapers other than when contracted for particular assignments, they do not have to accept all the assignments editors put before them.

A down side to being a freelancer as opposed to a staff writer is that the staff writer has more job security. Staff writers know that if they do their jobs well, they will get their salaries or hourly wages each week. Freelance writers work from assignment to assignment and making a living this way requires careful planning, the ability to make contacts and persistence.

By Animandel — On Feb 04, 2014

Is there anyone out there who can explain to me the differences between being a news staff writer for a newspaper and being a freelance correspondent or contributing freelance writer? These terms and job descriptions confuse me.

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