Journalism is an exciting and challenging career. No one day is the same as the next. Journalists know the news before anyone else and they have reports filmed and stories written before most people are even aware of the event.
To be a journalist you need to be very inquisitive and you need to be ready to get the most out of any sort of story, no matter how minor it may seem.
The rise of new technology and new publishing platforms mean that the world of journalism is every changing and you need to keep up with these trends. More people read news reports than ever before, and those reports are sourced, written and broadcast at faster speed than ever before.
Starting out in journalism requires serious hard work and an acceptance that you won’t be starting out at one of the national newspapers. You need to take some stepping stones first before you can land your dream job at a national newspaper or magazine. Here are just some of the first steps you should be considering.
Postgraduate entry is the most common route into this profession. The Broadcast Journalism Training Council and National Council for the Training of Journalists also accredit postgraduate courses that offer both theoretical and practical training. These are the basic courses which all employers will really expect you to have to your name.
Quite simply, you will need work experience in the industry before you are likely to get full-time employment, and it’s best to get it this at university. Student newspapers are an excellent addition to CVs. Plenty of established journalists started out on their student newspaper – Bill Turnbull on BBC Breakfast is just one famous former-editor.
Get involved as much as you can. Working on a student paper will also improve your journalistic skills. If you're making regular contributions it will sharpen your writing tone, increase your vocabulary and give you the confidence to write in any style – from a live blog of a celebrity popping into a local haunt to a detailed commentary on an important moment in world politics.
Start creating an online blog where you can keep all copies and links of your stories. This will form a vital portfolio you can share with prospective employers as time goes on.
Despite the pressures from the digital age, local newspaper journalism still has its place and local newspapers and their websites are often the main source of information in a local community. This area is still tough to get into and tough to survive in once you graduate. Competition is high and pay is relatively low.
It’s not glamorous and you’ll often be reporting on stories you may not have a huge amount of interest in. However, graduates who do make it will gain a wealth of experience quickly and should have the opportunity to work around the office as needed.
Trainee journalists are normally expected to have basic National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) qualifications or a university accredited course completed before they join.
Answering to an editor you will most likely be put to work reporting, writing, editing and anything else in the office that needs taking care of. Interviewing is still a staple of local journalism, but much of your work will involve following up on press releases, collating local event listings and checking updates with local businesses and councils.
Traineeship Schemes and Graduate Programmes
Some well known publications and brands run trainee schemes and graduate programmes. These offer a fantastic area to develop skills and make contacts. The BBC and ITV regional news both run small, sponsored news traineeship schemes and some national newspapers run graduate schemes including The Telegraph, The Times and the Guardian. As expected, competition is extremely fierce and places limited.
As well as applying via recruitment departments, try contacting individual editors or producers directly at local stations. Local press, hospital radio and community media (Community Media Association) are excellent training grounds. Make sure you back up all applications with a strong portfolio which includes demo tapes, student media, cuttings and online stories.