How to get into Journalism – a former student’s guide

Newspapers are dying – fact. Newsrooms are getting ever so smaller – see BBC & The Times cuts. When you are competing with experienced journalists, an ever increasing number of citizen journalists and hyper-local reporters – how can you stand out? Now I’m afraid this article won’t give you an answer to this, as I myself am still searching and constantly reflecting over what can make me stand out. Instead, I hope to give you a few tips and something to think about.

1. Understand the industry, where it is heading and move along with it. If you happen to have a vision of the future that others don’t, use it to your advantage. You may not be Arianna Huffington, but online we’re all users, so don’t be afraid to play big. All your trivial day to day problems will disappear instantly once you start playing big.

Also, get on with the usual stuff – a neat Twitter account, a Facebook page, an up-to-date Linked In account with some references, a journalised presence, etc.

Writes Teodora Beleaga – Ex-CU Today Editor

2. Read, read and keep on reading! Any hack will tell you that all good writers are avid readers first. From my experience I would add: Listen, listen and keep on listening! Not just the news – Today programme is handy for quick updates, you can get the podcast if waking up at 7 am is not your thing – but the conversations started by established online hacks too -@acarvin and @fieldproducer are  really good but I would suggest you find the ones that you’re interested in and take it from there. The twittersphere is now filled with great hacks and hackademics that it would be a shame not to make good use of it.

3. Get the story! Portfolio, portfolio, portfolio – is not for nothing that you keep hearing this. Another known fact is that opinion leaders who inspire their readers are rare, so, as much as your opinions matter, as a young hack your ability to focus on the facts and follow your stories is more important. You can still get creative, follow the money and follow the power as Heather Brooke would suggest, write your stories and pitch them to editors. All the rejection emails will fade away when you get that one positive reply and it will make an immense difference to your portfolio. You can start with the Coventry Conversations. Do your research in advance and ask those hard questions. You can get good stories out of the conversations and there’s already an audience interested in them, which is always handy.

3*. Bonus tip: Getting that crucial work experience will make you stand out and provide great contacts, so get over the student media hype because all young wannabe hacks have it. Remember who you are competing with and allow yourself to think really big. Your professional experience module shouldn’t be your only experience. Make good use of holidays and remember that getting work experience gets you the job, not your degree. I know lecturers might disagree with this for obvious reasons, but it is very much what you do and have done that makes a difference. So, don’t let opportunities slide away because you have a class – I did that once and still regret it.

Finally remember that you can always have too few cuttings and not too many. Good luck and let me know how you get on – I am still exploring,which is why I’m really interested to hear from you.

And whatever you do, enjoy it. Journalism is one of the most exciting of industries, so have some fun along the way – it certainly won’t hurt if you do.


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