If you’re in journalism, you’ve probably picked up a lot of advice by now. (I’ll never forget when on work experience at a National, and the Editor called me into his office. He told me to do my NCTJ!) Anyway; I thought I would share some of the best advice I have received. It may not be particularly practical, but it has always been helpful to me.
Kick up. Never stamp down.
Your job, in a potentially archaic way, is to be the people who hold those in power to account. (Unless you write for a different purpose-like entertainment, etc. ) In this sense, you need to kick up; do not stamp down on people, such as private citizens. I was listening to a podcast recently, and the editor on it had an excellent maxim: “The story is the means for the people. People are not the means for a story”, to paraphrase.
You don’t ask, you don’t get.
(I’d like to thank my grandparents for this.) If you don’t ask, you’re aren’t going to get what you want. It’s as simple as that, and I’ve applied it to most areas of my life.
I wouldn’t have got to do my NCTJ; I wouldn’t have met Queen Extravaganza; I would not have interviewed half the people without this. In short: persistence pays off. So does being upfront about what you want to do, write, who you want to interview, etc. If you have the idea, the tenacity, the need to write, say it.
Don’t make things up.
Common sense, this one. Making things up, legally, is not a very good idea; similarly, staging a story is also not good. Making things up is the job of someone who writes fiction, like Rowan Coleman; it’s best left to the professionals.
Get a ‘journo’ mate.
If you have a friend who is also in the same industry, it makes it a lot easier for you, as well as more bearable. (Sorry for the terrible use of English!) I can’t emphasise this enough, but this blog post spells it out a lot better.
Network. Like crazy.
Networking is daunting. And when in a room where that’s required, I often have that sinking feeling, denoting anxiety. It’s hard to start up a conversation, least of all make a contact out of it. However, it is your bread and butter, so it’s probably good to know how to network. (And you can even do it on your break!)
Have fun with it.
Hard work counts. But there needs to be a balance to it; we can’t be serious all the time, can we?
Check everything twice.
You can’t check everything enough. And you need to proof read your work-check the fluency, spelling, etc.
Accuracy is key.
Accuracy is key. And this is something so important; you need to get the facts, names, dates, spellings, etc. And it’s why Shorthand is such a wonderful skill to have, as it plays into this retirement.
Be curious. Question everything.
Curiosity counts. Question everything you see; my classmate wrote this blog post about doing exactly that. However, being curious leads to stories. It also makes other journalists fun to talk to. (In my opinion, my ‘colleagues’ are some of the most fascinating people to talk to; I want to know all about their projects, stories, podcasts..)