Some reporters think it's acceptable to merge several people of a similar type into a single character. This use of a "composite character" in a feature story is the same thing as making up a person.
Look at it this way: There are real people who say real things, and there are fictional characters who do not exist. There is no honest ground between the two.
As a journalist, you are expected always to write always about real people, to quote their real words, and to describe only real events that you witnessed.