If you are about to start a journalism course, here are 10 things you should know to give you the best chance of succeeding and getting a job in journalism.
Yes, you may only have had A-level results in your hand for a matter of hours, but you’re not going to make it as a journalist if you simply rely on attending classes and getting good grades.
Some of the tips we’ve come up with, most are from other journalists after we asked those who follow @journalismnews on Twitter for advice.
The suggestions are in no particular order and all are of equal importance.
1. You need to do much more than just attend classes. Start a blog, podcast and tweet get yourself known by building up a presence online (more on each of these below).
@journalismnews My advice? Do journalism now. Get a blog. Chase stories. Curate on Storify. Pitch. Don’t do minimum to get by. Do more.
— Karl Hodge (@karlhodge) August 18, 2011
2. Get as much work experience as you can. Sometimes this will turn into paid work, often it won’t. Checkout internship opportunities listed on Journalism.co.uk and other sites.
@journalismnews I’d say make sure they supplement it with lots of quality work experience. It’s more important in the long term.
— Laurence Green (@LaurenceTGreen) August 18, 2011
And if you’re reading this and wondering whether or not to take a course, here’s a thought.
@journalismnews Don’t. Spend three years building an audience online and work free for a local paper then do NCTJ. Less debt, more skill
— Jonathan Millar (@JonnyAtSea) August 18, 2011
3. Contacts, contacts, contacts. And that doesn’t mean just having a contact book. Connect with people via Twitter, engage online and get your name known within the subject area you’re interested in. It’s never been easier to do this so take advantage of social networking.
@journalismnews contacts contacts contacts. Without them you have no stories. That’s my advice as final year undergrad
— Jake Harvey (@Jake__Harvey) August 18, 2011
4. Question everything. Develop an analytical brain. Learn how to spot a hoax press release, question figures and consider all the angles.
@journalismnews Keep independent thought, – remember very few financial journos warned when the credit party was swinging
— Martin Dawes (@Martin_Dawes) August 18, 2011
5. Be versatile. Learn to shoot video, be able to turn your hand to editing audio, get to grips with data journalism, make sure you get 100wpm shorthand, know your way round Photoshop. Journalism is not just about a notebook and pen but tools such as apps and your smartphone, Dipity, Storify and Audioboo, to name but a few.
@journalismnews Be versatile, these days knowing CMS, basic html, Photoshop etc is as often as important as writing skill.
— Lou Thomas (@London_Lou) August 18, 2011
@journalismnews Postgrad – don’t limit yourself to one format. Print studs should develop broadcast skills, mag studs develop web writing
— Karam Filfilan (@karamfilfilan) August 18, 2011
6. Write, write, blog. If you’re an aspiring broadcast journalist learn how to podcast but anyone starting out should create a blog. If you don’t have a particular area of journalism you want to go into, pick a subject you are interested in and write about that. Follow others writing about that subject (see next point).
7. Hone your research skills and build up sources. Work on creating a network of contacts in Delicious, set up RSS feeds to follow subject areas that interest you, keep an eye on LinkedIn company pages. For example, if you are interested in fashion journalism, keep an eye on who is leaving and joining fashion houses listed on LinkedIn. Set up alerts to receive the accounts of these firms from Companies House. Publish the stories on your blog and pitch them to newsdesks.
@journalismnews try & be proactive & source your own stories right from the start. Even if they’re shot down, they’ll appreciate the willing
— Gemma Haddow (@GemmaHaddow) August 18, 2011
8. Get published. When you find a really strong, original story pitch it to a newsdesk ask get a byline and negotiate a fee.
@journalismnews Journalism isn’t about writing, it’s about finding stories. Find a story, call a news desk & demand you get a byline for it.
— Sophy Ridge (@SophyRidgeSky) August 18, 2011
@journalismnews Don’t be afraid to do something different. Original stories, ideas and treatments are worth their weight in gold!
— James Armstrong (@BlasphemousFish) August 18, 2011
9. Build your brand. Your name is your brand so consider a Facebook page and create an online portfolio. If you’re thinking “I’m not the kind of person who says look at me”, get over that. You have to get your name out there.
@journalismnews Get savvy about social media. Know and use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, etc. Have a blog in your area of expertise.
— Terri (@terri_to) August 18, 2011
10. Don’t give up at the first hurdle. You’re not going to have a great voice for broadcast or get your first pitch accepted by a magazine or national newspaper. When someone knocks you down, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep trying.
@journalismnews – learn shorthand and don’t give up. If you can’t handle rejection, find a new career
— Fong Chau (@fongchau) August 18, 2011
@journalismnews Persistence is essential for getting work exp, jobs, securing stories. A smile and a bit of charm also goes a long way 😉
— Catriona MacPhee (@catmacphee) August 18, 2011
Here are five tips for aspiring journalists from Rob Mansfield.
Find out how some journalists got their big break in Journalism.co.uk’s Industy Insight video series.
- Wannabe Hacks, a blogging collective of aspiring journalists which is essential reading for any student journalist. Last years wannabes are now fully fledged journalists with great jobs and they’re about to hand over the reins to this year’s cohort;
- Paul Bradshaw, head of online journalism at Birmingham City University, has a must-read Online Journalism Blog.
- Got other tips for aspiring hacks? Leave a comment below.