Monday, 9 July 2012

Journalism Tips 36. How to get a job as a journalist.

Every year thousands of students graduate from some form of journalism or media course. It makes sense therefore that competition for the few jobs available really must be pretty fierce. Or so you would think.

Actually on the whole it's not particularly competitive because most young trainee reporters cannot be bothered - to rise above the herd really doesn't take very much. These odds are shortened by the growth in traineeships on national newspapers - which Hoover (it's a trademark - hence the cap) up most of the cream of that year's journalism graduates.

That is unfair since I have seen some brilliant - well almost - trainees fail to get one of the coveted places despite having an excellent CV and references...but you see where I am going with this.

Clearly you are the smarter than average trainee/student reporter - how do I know? You are reading this.

So what do you need to do? Well an excellent portfolio helps (more of what I mean by this on a later blog). A devotion to work experience helps also (ditto).

It's often said it is not what you know but who you know that makes a difference. When I started in this industry I didn't know any journalists - but I learned what I needed to know and got to know the people who helped me find work.

Within five years I was talking to former Observer reporter John (There are three rules in journalism. First, find a crocodile. Two, poke it in the eye with a stick. Three, stand back and report what happens next.) Sweeney whose original article on the tabloids - it was written in a fun not pious manner - got me interested in journalism.

A few years on (I was pretty slow) I was working with The Sun's brilliant chief reporter John Kay. It was reading his copy that helped shaped my own (it was never as good).

Each and every opportunity gets developed by experience and your knowledge....unless your parents are execs on a newspaper, in which case forget all I've said.

Some people are naturals most are not...if you're not preparation is the key and this is in part what this blog is all about. Going back to one of the earlier posts you will see that I claim most work experience is a pain in the butt for the majority of news editors. But if a good attitude, decent work ethic and a few stories makes the difference.

It helps also if you can bring new skills to the table but get the old ones first. If you are sent out on a story there's no point getting a first class video if you haven't got the names of the people you're interviewing. You'll note the headline is deliberately geared to SEO - we are all learning new skills, as we shall see in another post that too will prove important as your career progresses.

Given the state of much of the competition you should find a job with two/three months. If you are doing work experience and following this blog (and assuming there is a position available) it shouldn't take even that long. If you are getting lots of stories and the news editor is not rewriting all your copy ask him or her if they know of any jobs around - note not necessarily on their paper. It might even be worth asking for feedback at the end of the week (but be wary news editors put in massively long hours and come the end of the working week are more interested in getting out of the newsroom that sitting talking to the workie).

Again follow up good work experience places with more calls offering stories. Being dynamic and useful are welcome attributes. But make sure you are not the cause of more problems - write the story up so it is ready to go.

Being a pain is more likely to guarantee you won't get an opportunity even if you may have an occasional good idea.

For several months I had one caller who would ask in a vague manner if I'd be interested in certain stories when I asked him to send them over he'd tell me he hadn't written but didn't want to waste his time if I wasn't going to be interested... I took his name and didn't take any more of his calls.

Most of what you do will be a waste of your time. But do enough of it and, not only will you improve as a reporter, it will get you noticed. But, but, but it's got to be to at least to a half-decent standard - again this is something that past and future blogs will cover.

But first and foremost read the'll be surprised how much you can learn.

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