10 tips for budding journalists

1. Never read the comments.
You’ve just had your first piece published online by a major publication – massive congrats! The first thing you’ll probably do is send it to your mum, tweet it and then print it out and frame it.

But whatever you do – don’t read the comments. In my experience commenters can be mean, racist and sexist, and actually, I’ve just been published by a major news organisation so I don’t need to read your comment, I need to go and buy an ice cream.

2. Don’t tell the reader everything in the headline.
Confession time, I once wrote a blog post that NO ONE READ, literally to this day not a single person has read this post.

I often go back over my blog posts and see what did well and what didn’t at the end of a month – and I saw that literally no one had even seen it – and then it hit me: I’d told everyone everything they needed to know in the headline.

3. Follow people you aspire to be like.
First of all figure out what kind of journalist you want to be, and then follow five of them on Twitter. So, for example, if I wanted to work at BBC 1xtra I’d follow @mistajam, @karlenepinnock, @SpartanSpooky, @helloyasser and @AustinDarbo.

If you’re not on Twitter, you needed to be — about 4 years ago. The people who are doing the jobs you want are on Twitter giving you free insight into their role, and looking for their replacements. I was never very good at networking, but you should do that too.

4. Change your radio station.
Listen to BBC Radio 4 every morning for a week and tell me how it changes your conversations. You will go into work knowing things before other people do, having heard interviews before others have and having stories before others do.


5. Consume content to make yours better.
Do you want to write for a fashion magazine? You should have Vogues on Vogues on Vogues in your room, I literally shouldn’t even be able to get in the door for all the Vogues you have. 

I should see your nose in Grazia on the tube, InStyle on your lunch break and Elle on the walk home.

6. Intern.
I think it’s pretty much illegal to have people intern for you for free now, so go forth and get paid to spend a few weeks at some of the publications you’d like to work for. You might realise some of them are not all they’re cracked up to be, or that one type of publication just isn’t for you. I interned at some amazing places; my favourites were Pride Magazine and The Daily Telegraph.

P.S. I worked for free as a copy editor, columnist and blogger for about three years, and was widely mocked for doing so. I still did it.

7. Start a blog.
“They want me to show them examples of my published work, but all these magazines keep rejecting my submissions, it’s a catch 22.”

No boo, it’s not. First of all get a copy of the magazine you pitched to, and then print out the piece you submitted to them. Literally insert the piece you pitched into the magazine where you think it should go and compare it to the other pieces in that section – that should help you see why they didn’t accept your submission. You can also always email the editor and ask for feedback. 

Then tweak your piece so it fits their house style, length and tone and either re-submit it or set up a blog, and post it there.

I’ve always loved the idea of having a blog solely made up of pieces rejected by publications called something kooky like; “The rejected manuscripts” or “The pieces they don’t want you to read.”


8. Keep a portfolio. 
Do you think I remember the headline on the first article I had published in a major publication? I definitely don’t, and I don’t need to because it’s in my portfolio (BTW it was ‘Alice Oswald wins 2013 Warwick Prize for Memorial’ in the Telegraph.)

Get into the habit of adding pieces to your portfolio as soon as they’re published so you don’t forget anything, and you don’t have to have every single piece in there – I’ve removed lots of the beauty or celebrity gossip posts I wrote when I was 21 because they don’t really add anything to my story as a journalist now.

9. Be truthful about where you’re at.
There’s nothing worse than seeing ‘journalist’ in someone’s bio only to find out that they’re actually studying to become one and have never even published a blog post.

It’s totally OK to be an “Editorial intern/aspiring journalist/journalist in training/blogger. 

10. Dress better than the person interviewing you.
In other industries they say ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ but chances are if you’re applying to work in a newsroom, your interviewer usually wears jeans and trainers to work.

That’s totally OK, but it’s not OK for you to do it at interview or while you’re interning somewhere. In my experience the older generation really do respect well-turned-out people in their office. And it’s a possibility they will expect you as a younger person to turn up all disheveled with last night’s make-up on, prove them wrong. 

For more work outfit inspiration, take a look at this Pinterest board.

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