Thursday, 8 March 2012

23. 99% of national newspaper showbiz journos start by doing news and learning the trade basics - including this ex one.

One of the most depressing things I picked up from returning to local papers were the number of journalism students who claimed they wanted to cover showbusiness - without having the foggiest idea of what it actually entails.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the first part of this. I know and admire many brilliant reporters who cover this area of the news agenda.

And whatever Hugh Mungo Grant (a man who was quite willing to pay an impoverished mother desperate to cover her utility bills to perform a sex act on him - a fact that appears to be forgotten in politicians' haste to laud him as some latter day crusader against newspaper ethics) may say it is important to cover a wide spectrum of heavy (hard) news and light (soft) news.

It is easy to dismiss showbusiness as frivolous - because it largely is. But the skills in being a good showbusiness reporter should not be dismissed.

I know not least because I did it myself - albeit incredibly unsuccessfully and under duress.

I could not muster the day to day enthusiasm required to be a good showbusiness reporter - I did have my moments but they were, I admit, few and far between.

It is telling that now I don't have to show an interest in the subject The Spectator and The Economist are my usual reads rather than Heat or Hello. (I'm not even sure about the Radio Times, if I'm honest).

You may think when you dash off 300 words of your thoughts about the latest goings-on in the Big Brother house on your blog that this is "showbusiness journalism".

Let me break this to you's not, it's shit. Gentle enough for you?

No one - and I will repeat this later on in the blog - gives a stuff what you think about Big Brother or Justin Bieber or Madonna's music or the films of Quentin Tarantino.

Because it is just your opinion. And what's your opinion worth? Well, I think at the last count naff all. (I'm using so many alternatives to swear words I may do an 18+ journalismtips - what do you think?)

So before you start writing your blog all about your views on what piece of crap you've been watching - think this. Why would it impress a showbiz editor? And does it stand out from the million other navel gazing vomit spewed onto the Internet?

And if the answer is: Haven't a clue. Wonder why you are starting it. And wonder too what you can do to change this situation.

Finally learn the basics, they are all applicable to showbusiness reporting and without them you are just another airhead wannabe.

(Unless, of course, you happen to have access to celebrities that no one else haven't? Oh, then you ARE an airhead wannabe.)

But let me be helpful. What to do that would make a difference and help you achieve your ultimate goal?

If you are reading this from college get to know the Ents Secretary and the editor of the college newspaper or website. Find out what are bands/acts are coming up. Get ahead of the curve. You've got your first "showbiz story" (look, you're starting from the bottom here).

Get in contact with the act's management and ask for interviews - you will get a lot of knock backs and disappointment (yes, welcome to the world of showbiz).

Ask about music and their personal lives. What's it like going on tour? Have they been to your town before? Read, read, read...the big interviews in the red tops - see what they are doing.

When they arrive on campus - get pix (they may be the biggest band in the world next year...ok, probably not. But why risk it?)

You'll notice that so far your opinions don't come into it - there's a reason for this.

Get to know the staff at the local arts centre - it doesn't have to be the big one with 3,000 seater events. Meet with the Ents editor of the local paper...and ask if you can do reviews - of everything - in exchange for free tickets. Yes, even the local am dram (showbusiness isn't just music, or fim or TV).

(Just remember never rundown a local am dram - it really should have been my first journalismtip - they can be such hateful people.)

Find out who the local celebs are try and make contact - plead for interviews with their agents for your college mag (you're building contacts all the time and learning to network...the bloke who manages the 1980s micro-celeb may well be best mates with this year's big teen boyband).

These are the skills you need. Sitting in a darkened room, lit only by the glow of the laptop pouring out your views to all and sundry is a sad and worthless activity which

And certainly don't go to a local newspaper and expect anyone to be impressed by you revealing your ambition - just expect to be laughed at (not always to your face).

More importantly when you get - even small stories - get in touch with the showbusiness team of the paper you want to work for...even more so if you have photos.

NOTE: As always if you find @journalismtips useful or even mildly amusing please RT. Thanks.

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