A stringer is a person who writes for a publication on a freelance basis. Though a stringer earns money for his writing, he is not considered an employee and does not receive a regular salary. Instead, a stringer is considered an independent contractor and receives payment for each piece of published work. Often, stringers are used by news outlets, tackling projects for the television and print news industry.
The term "stringer: can be traced back to a time when freelance news reporters were paid by the column inch. Instead of receiving set compensation for each story written, a stringer would use a piece of string to measure the amount of newspaper space occupied by his writing. He would then provide the newspaper with his string, cut to the appropriate length. The newspaper would make a payment to the stringer based on the length of his string.
Today, newspaper stringers are still used for a variety of reasons. One reason an editor might use a stringer is to fill extra space in the newspaper. For example, if a regular reporter fails to deliver an article on time, the newspaper is stuck with empty space to fill. Likewise, ad buyers may cancel at the last minute, leaving newspaper editors to find something else to fill their spots. A stringer comes in handy in such situations, providing editors with copy for filling in the newspaper before the deadline.
An editor may also hire a stringer to cover stories that staff reporters are unable to write. Time constraints and news coverage priorities often make it difficult for staff writers to cover all the interesting or worthy stories. In such a case, an editor may call on a stringer to cover a particular story while leaving staff writers free to deal with other assignments. Furthermore, stringers are often used to fill voids left by newspaper reports who move on to other opportunities, as many newspapers experience a high turnover rate.
Often, editors are willing to hire less experienced writers as stringers. As such, a new writer may be able to get her foot in the door of the writing industry as a stringer. Besides the personal satisfaction of seeing her work in print, the writer can acquire clips that may be useful in securing other writing opportunities. With time, persistence, and hard work, a stringer may even parlay her freelance gig into a full-time position as a staff writer.