Getting into journalism

March 2, 2018, by Laura

How To Become a Journalist: Advice From People Who Have Made It

By Laura Sage, BA Hons English (2017)

The work of a journalist appears both crazy and exciting from an outsider’s perspective. Constantly situating themselves in the middle of the action, they see news unfolding as and when it happens.

Journalists also create the news. They approach the world in a way that draws the interesting and unique details out of any situation, and then they present it to us in a way we can understand and enjoy.

Getting into journalism can seem like a daunting task. However, at university, we are in a privileged position because we have lots of opportunities at our disposal. I attended Spotlight On: Journalism and Editing to find out more about this career path. I got to hear insights from Sam, working at the BBC; Gur, at RealSport; and Paul, a Communications Officer for the NHS.

Here’s some interesting tips they shared on how to become a journalist:

1. Understand the current and future challenges facing the industry

The industry is rapidly changing, so future journalists must be equipped to face these changes. Print media is in decline, therefore employers are looking for candidates with a strong online presence.

How can you respond to this? Create a blog, build up a presence on social media, and get your personality out there. Our generation is at an advantage because we have grown up with the internet and innately have social media skills, but the more you can build your digital skills, such as video editing and Photoshop, the better. They also said that Facebook Live is the future of journalism.

2. Get involved in any experience opportunity you can

Take up a role in a society, get a part-time job through Unitemps, volunteer for the university radio or to write for Impact. Your degree is the ‘baseline’ that employers expect – you need to show you can do more than get good grades.

3. Consume as much news as you can

Be interested in the different ways various news outlets present news. The more news you consume, the better a journalist you will be. Devour the papers, subscribe to them online, compare how different stories are conveyed, and also which stories different publications choose to run with. Not only will this help you develop an ear for a good story, but it will also help you to think about what kind of outlet you might like to write for.

4. Be persistent

It was rightly pointed out:

“No-one’s going to come and knock on your door. Go and knock on their door.”

All three speakers at this event were very forward. They had made many calls and emails to various publications asking for work experience. You may be rejected a hundred times, but the 101st call you make could be the one that leads to an internship.

5. Get a qualification

There are different qualifications available for the different branches of journalism. The NCTJ has information on the qualifications you can gain – some places you work will help you to gain these qualifications during your placement, but you can also seek to achieve them yourself.

After the presentation, I asked the speakers what one piece of advice would they give on how to become a journalist. They said:

“Get as much work experience as you can. Whatever you have, the employer will ask, what else?”– Paul

“You need to be self-starting – create your own experience, contact as many employers as possible. Create your own opportunities.” – Sam

“You can create your own jobs. You can’t be shy – cultivate confidence. Build your own brand.” – Gur

Thinking about a career in journalism? You can read more about this sector our website. Unsure if journalism is for you, but really enjoy writing? There are lots of other ways you can get paid to work with words. Still trying to figure out what career path you want to pursue? Book an appointment to chat about it with a careers adviser. 

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