News desk (© eldarnurkovic / Fotolia.com)
News desk (© eldarnurkovic / Fotolia.com)

The news desk is an interesting term, because it can refer to several things within a news organization. However, no matter what specific duties a news desk performs, they are usually only present in medium or large news organizations. In this article, we will explore all of the different facets of the news desk and the things that they do within an organization.

The Traditional News Desk

The traditional news desk within an organization used to be an actual desk where an editor would assign stories or tasks to the journalists working under them. This editor was responsible for the operations of the publication and sought out and collected news stories. Today’s news desk is usually digital; although the person running the operation may still be sitting as a desk, reporters get assignments, incoming news is filed and basically all operations of a publication are done with a software program.

What a News Desk Does

There are a number of things that usually happen at the news desk. The exact duties of a particular news desk are going to vary with the organization, but we’ll cover a few of the things that a news desk in a large media organization might be responsible for.

  1. Procuring Stories: Someone at a news desk might comb wire services and the web for news stories that their organization can use. Usually, they are looking for a new angle rather than a story to report on that someone else already broke.
  2. Sorting News: Big media organizations are inundated with press releases, tips and news stories from everywhere constantly. Someone has to separate those stories and determine where they go. Going through press releases to find out if any have news of substance might be something a news desk would do.
  3. Manage Reporters: A news desk might be the transfer point between a reporter and an editor. The news desk may assign journalists to stories, or simply ensure that they are delivered quickly. 

People at the News Desk

The person that works at a news desk within a media company must be organized and detail oriented. They must be able to separate good stories from bad, and know which journalist would be best with which story. The job is usually performed by someone in charge of operations within the company, such as an editor, but in large organizations, they might have reporters on various types of news desks (e.g. foreign news desk).


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