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..)

My first introduction to Tina Brown came when Googling, surfing the web on a break; Orion were about to release The Vanity Fair Diaries. (Bear in mind this was near the end of last year.) It appealed to me instantly; the personal diaries of an editor, glossy figures, and the challenges of turning around a failing brand? Check.

I think it should be noted that this book is a thick volume; at over a decade, these diaries have been edited before being printed. It also makes me wonder; what has been left out?

Content and plot.

The introduction instantly sets the scene, with the first few entries elaborating further; Brown is barely thirty when arriving in New York as a consultant for Vanity Fair. The sense of frustration is also palpable from the beginning, in the sense of actually getting the editorship. Then: just how to save a magazine? 

Journalistically, the content is also interesting. There’s a lot about the editorship, the daily choices, moving in what seems to be a man’s world.As one publication put it in their headline, it was a supreme balancing act.  However, I’m not sure it would necessarily appeal to a wider audience; in this respect, the book is very ‘niche’.

In terms of style, I think Brown has a novelists pen coupled with a journalistic sensibility; she makes people instantly memorable.

I also like how the book has a wider sense of the time; there’s a sense of being on the edge, technology speeding things up, going at a quicker pace.

A note on the characters.

I think this memoir was timely in one sense, given today’s politics. For instance, Boris Johnson appears in the book, albeit briefly. (With my interest in politics, I was smiling at this particular entry.) There’s also Donald Trump-the domineering, overbearing character who appears at various times in the book. It’s slightly eerie in a way.

Should you read it?

If you remember the eighties, this is a book for you. (I don’t-being born well after-so at times I was left wondering “Who is x, y, z?”) If you also enjoy magazines, then this is also the book for you-it recalls what could be coined as a ‘golden age’ for journalism. I enjoyed it, although I had to plod through a little bit; I would have loved to have worked for Brown at this time.

Buy The Vanity Fair Diaries on Amazon. 

Hi there! My name is Kate, I’m a Blogger, and I’m back with a second guest post on Lydia’s blog. (You can read my first here.) (You can read Kate’s interview here.)

Getting a journalism job is a complex thing. The great thing is that no particular qualifications are necessary for obtaining a journalism role — although newspapers often ask for an NCTJ qualification whilst recruiting. However, journalism is a fiercely-competitive industry. Being able to land even an entry-level journalist position requires dedication, determination and a lot of hard work.

Having said that, the rewards for landing a job in media are incredible. The opportunity to put your interests to use in a career, the chance to see new places, the privilege of being able to tell people’s stories — the list goes on. If the sector is right for you, it’s something that you will get so much out of.

Dump the myths about jobs.

The first thing to do is dump the myths. Although you have to have some resilience and some thickness of skin, you don’t have to act like some hardened hack to be able to progress in journalism. A lot of people have the misconception that journalists are like some sort of ruthless type of superhuman with no heart, who will stop at nothing to get ahead and get a story and will do nothing to support and nurture industry rookies, but that really isn’t the case. I haven’t got much media experience comparatively, but the dealings I’ve had with journalism thus far have left me with the conviction that journalists are just people who love to be creative and who want to make a career out of their interest by telling others about the world.

Start early. Literally.

I was lucky that I was bitten by the journalism bug early, but the preparation for my first paid journalism role started years before I actually got it. I got my first published articles, in one of my local newspapers at the time, at the age of 15. I don’t say that to be precocious: I say that to indicate how much slog is required to be able to get a paid journalism role. Six years later, at the age of 21, I got said role — after gaining a number of different forms of journalistic work experience to add to my CV.
To be able to get to the stage where I got articles published at 15 (by getting a week’s unpaid work experience placement at the newspaper) I had to know how to write. I had been crafting this skill for quite a long time: I grew up reading fiction as a child, and at secondary school, I started reading sources of news and magazines (plus non-fiction books) a lot more. Through reading, I learnt how to write journalistically.

Reading is key.

If you want to be a journalist, you need to read, read, read. Read fiction and non-fiction books. Read magazine features. Read articles in everything from national newspapers to local newsletters. Read signs. Read websites. Read food packaging. Read TV programme synopses. Read the small print on adverts. By reading more, you learn how to write for different styles. And by reading more articles, writing them will come a lot more naturally to you — and you’ll likely improve your proofreading skills, something that really contributes to having that full journalistic package that I think makes it a lot easier to get a journalism job. For me, writing articles is like an innate process — and that has to come from having read a lot of different articles previously.


So you’ve got the ability to write. Now you need to combine that with hard work. No matter what your long-term journalism goals may be, a great place to start is work experience at a local newspaper, as it gives you a well-rounded insight into journalism and the process of bringing out a newspaper. Email your local paper(s) asking if they offer work experience — though better still, ring them, as it shows confidence and interest. Be sure to use great spelling and grammar if you use written communication.
Building up the work experience placements is a good thing to do. It indicates your dedication to a career in journalism, and just having two weeks’ worth of experience at a publication will probably not be enough when applying for journalism roles. I did another week of work experience at another publication when I was 17, before going on to do seven weeks of unpaid work experience at a slightly larger setup in the summer after my first year of university.

Take opportunities that come your way.

This leads me nicely on to another important thing when it comes to getting a journalism role. Sometimes, a lucky break or opportunity makes all the difference when applying for a journalism role. However, fear not! I am a big believer that you can make your own luck. You can make it more likely for good things to happen to you career-wise if you seize opportunities. I was only supposed to be doing work experience at that local publication after my first university year for a single week. However, the weekend before I was due to start at the title, the editor of the publication had an accident at home, rendering him out of action at work for several weeks.
Now, I want to make it clear that of course, I don’t wish pain or suffering at all on anyone. What I have to admit, however, is that if it hadn’t been for that accident, I might be in a very different position today than the one I am in now, with my first journalism role. Though the publication was a bigger setup in that it was linked to two other titles for my county, the specific title I had applied for work experience on only had one other person working full-time on its editorial. I think this person probably saw early on that I was capable of stringing the sentences together, as I was offered the opportunity to continue doing work experience if I wished. Though unpaid, I took it, and thus ended up being there for the amount of weeks noted above.
Throughout my long work experience placement, I got published in both the other titles and got to do some work experience at one of them, and also got a networking opportunity. I also gained a much bigger insight into journalism and article-writing than I would have done if I’d only been at the publication a week. What’s more, being at the publication for the amount of time I was there meant that the editor, having returned to work during the placement and having got to know me, subsequently gave me a reference for my first paid journalism job — result! The morals of the story? Seize opportunities to prove yourself, and try and do longer work experience placements it’s viable and you don’t feel you’re being taken advantage of.
There are other fantastic opportunities out there to cut your teeth in journalism. One is entering article-writing competitions, which indicate a flair for journalistic writing if you even just get shortlisted. Trust me: doing well in them is possible. In my second year at university, I was shortlisted for The Clothes Show’s Young Journalist of the Year Award for 2015. Try going for niche competitions that may not attract such a large amount of participants — any journalism award recognition is good journalism award recognition! Don’t get knocked back by rejections, as your next competition entry might catch the judges’ eyes.
Another great opportunity to gain journalistic experience is on voluntary publications or media setups. If you go to university, get involved in the student newspaper, magazines or radio station — student journalism is quite a big thing and there are a number of opportunities available to those who do stuff with student media. It can be competitive — I was knocked back three times before I got a section editor role on my university’s paper — but any student media experience really is great for the CV and, especially in this Internet age, there’s lots of ways to make your mark in some form. If you’re not at university, volunteering on a community newsletter or radio station is another great way of gaining experience. Alternatively, perhaps you could make your own blog, newsletter, podcast or YouTube channel? These forms of media are great places to showcase what you can do journalistically as well.



Networking is also a great way of making it more likely to get your foot in the journalism door. Add people in the journalism industry on LinkedIn and follow them on social media. Also, try to attend networking events if the opportunity arises, as you never know what a chance meeting might bring.
With all this experience under your belt, your chances of getting shortlisted for journalism jobs will be exponentially increased. When applying for journalism jobs, be confident — but not arrogant — and just be yourself. As I indicated previously, journalism is a place full of creative people who want to use that creativity for a living – and if you fit that bill, that coveted first journalism job will likely be yours one day.

Hello, readers of Lydia’s blog!

Lydia has very kindly asked me to guest post on her site, and this month, I’m going to be talking about my experiences broadcasting on volunteer-run radio stations, first on student radio while I was at university and now on community radio.
I have always been interested in radio as a form of media. When I was a child, I used to use a kid’s battery-powered cassette player, complete with a small mic, to record my own radio show about my local area (a show that featured my younger sister as a contributor numerous times and often consisted of me going to my own news reports — BBC News should have hired me there and then for that journalistic determination! 😉 ).

I was also familiar with different radio stations growing up and would often listen to the radio when I went to bed (and still do!). When I was 15 (I think), I did try and get involved with an initiative for young people with the community radio station that at the time existed near where I live, but I think I was slightly too young to participate and whatever the reason, it didn’t come off.

C/O: Kate Jones.

When I moved to Exeter to do my English degree at the university there, the campus radio station, Xpression FM, was something that I was interested in. At the start of the second year of my three-year course, I took the plunge and got a membership that made me part of the station. The society regularly runs training for those wishing to learn how to present on air, and near the end of that first term of my second year, not long before Christmas, I started the “course”. A few months later, just before the Easter break, I took the test that the station requires you to pass in order to be allowed to present your own show, and I succeeded. The test involved me having to do things, in a mock show set-up, such as playing a station ident over the intro to a song, putting a CD out through the presenter desk, playing a vinyl record out over the system and putting a caller on air.

Once I had passed my presenter test and the Easter holidays had passed, I got started presenting for real quickly, managing to get a two-hour daytime slot which I presented live on a weekday each week. I remember that the first time I went live with my own show and it was coming close to the time to start, I thought: “What am I doing?!”. Thankfully, student and community radio stations are great places to cut your teeth in the world of radio. You have to be realistic in knowing that you’re very likely not going on air as the next Nick Grimshaw and that unless you or the station are known to a significant amount of people, the chances are that your listener-count will be very low. In your early broadcasting life, this is a good thing, because it is highly likely that you will make mistakes with all the different things presenting a show might involve — playing the right track at the right time, playing idents, putting callers on air, etc. A low-listenership was reassuring for me — at Xpression, we had a program on the live studio desk that offered an estimation of sorts of the amount of people tuned in to the station at any one time, and when I saw that my debut show-listeners were numbering somewhere around 10, I was a lot less nervous!
I presented in different weekday, daytime slots while I was at university. My student radio shows took the form of lifestyle and music shows that featured topics relevant to students — often to students at Exeter. I always tried to have a guest on my regular show to keep the conversation flowing. I also presented some one-off shows — one night, I did an 80s music show and another time, one Saturday when my younger sister was visiting, we did a show together. My friend and I also once did a one-off show based around the theme of sass — featuring things like sassy music and quotes!

I’ve talked about this in my interview with Lydia available on this blog, but after I had left university, one of the things I really missed was having a radio show — I missed being able to play the songs I wanted to on air and broadcast what I wanted. I liked the feeling of people being able to hear me broadcast live! I considered getting involved with a hospital radio station near me, but given that I don’t yet have a full driving licence, it wouldn’t have been the easiest place to get to. Thankfully, my Mum saw an email designated for my sister that was looking for college students to get involved with a community radio station in Gloucestershire, Corinium Radio.

The station, which broadcasts online 24/7 and is run by a network of volunteers, offers programming of various genres for listeners to enjoy. I investigated further as I was sure the station would be happy to take new volunteers of all ages, and I think the website confirmed this. I emailed the station and the station manager replied, suggesting we met to chat about the station. I actually ended up having the meeting with my Mum present (at 21!), because she had driven me over to the town where I was going to be meeting the station manager and it was a freezing-cold evening! Thankfully, the station manager was happy to have me on board, and we quickly discussed my intention to have a show on the station. I had a few training sessions with the presenting desk before going live with my show for the first time in January (because I had already been trained to use a presenting desk, I think I was able to start my show quicker, though two volunteers still supervise me and without them, I’d be lost!). I present my music and lifestyle show, Podcast Live With Kate, every fourth Friday of the month from 4 to 6pm, though it is repeated at the same time every week and you can catch up on their website. 

Student and community radio are great places for those interested in the radio industry (and indeed, podcasts) to gain experience. Though there are a few basic rules to abide by (e.g. not swearing on air), there’s a lot of freedom when it comes to these sorts of radio-broadcasting. You often have the opportunity to experiment, with different content, genres and styles of presenting and shows, which you wouldn’t get on a commercial station/station with employed staff. As previously mentioned, student and community radio are also great places to make mistakes. I’ve made a plethora of errors over my time broadcasting so far — mucking up songs while they’re being played and saying “see you next week” instead of the correct “see you next month” are just some examples. One notable time, when my sister and I were doing that one-off show, I accidentally left the mic on temporarily when I put on a request, “Axel F” by Crazy Frog, and all my listeners were treated to my sister making the off-air comment of “Turn it up. I wanna hear it”!

Still, errors like this make for funny anecdotes, and it resonates with what one of the volunteers at Corinium Radio says: it’s about having fun.

Overall, broadcasting on volunteer-run radio stations is a great experience. You meet new people and make fantastic memories. It’s also a great opportunity to gain experience for your CV if you’re interested in working in radio or the media industry. All in all, what’s not to like?

Kate Jones is a journalist, radio show host, and Blogger. You can hear her live on the fourth Friday of every month from 4-6pm. Meanwhile, be sure to check out her blog. 

What was your favourite gift you were given at Christmas?

When starting my journalism course (you can read more about it here) one of my teachers mentioned Harold Evans. A lot. So, I googled him-and asked for his biography My Paperchase, for Christmas. In retrospect, this seemed rather apt, given the trade I’m training for.
After reading it, I came to the conclusion that this book needs to be adapted to a drama, at least a Netflix box set . Stuffed full to the brim with captivating tales of the newspaper trade, if it was on the big screen, it would have a captive audience. With reference to the recent release of The Post (wonderful film!), this seems even more prevalent.
The sections of the book that deal with his career in investigative journalism had me captivated the most. Exposure of a Soviet spy? Check. There’s also the issue of Thalidomide; how can a journalist, who sees such an injustice, help the people at the heart of the story, when their position is legally precarious? You change the law as you go along. (Although more complex than just this simple sentence,  you can find out more  in the brilliant Netflix documentary Attacking The Devil. See the trailer here.)
My favourite chapter is “Death In Cairo”. Parts of this book shocked me-after all, I am only eighteen, and haven’t experienced as much as the author. It was this chapter that shocked me the most of all. A member of The Sunday Times fails to check into his hotel room; what happens next? I think that it also shows what it means to be an investigative journalist . There’s also interesting revelations; the office of the paper has had things stolen from it, for instance.
I was also struck by how kind Harry seems to be throughout the book; he has a real love of journalism, but also people. From helping the people affected by Thalidomide, to travelling down to the Deep South (complete with opposition to the sheer level of racism throughout), it almost appears integral to his success as a journalist. He can be brusque, sometimes blunt, yet people make up the core of the book. (Prior to Christmas, he also send me a tweet, including the line: ‘Without honest, brave reporting, we are blind.”) Moments of hilarity are also sporadically sprinkled throughout the book.
That’s the best sort of journalist and personality traits/
I think that the book could have benefitted from being more chronological; there are jumps forward and back in time. It can be confusing at times, and I found it difficult to keep track of the timeline of events. I would have also have liked to have seen more about Evans’ time in America, like the book The Vanity Fair Diaries, by Tina Brown (his wife.) The book can also occasionally be abrupt; perhaps the connections between chapters could have been more polished.
This book has something for everyone; whether you’re training to be a journalist, or are a journalist, like a good story, etc, I think this is the book for you.

Click here to buy the book.