Monday, 31 January 2011

Climbing the rocky road of journalism.

Soo, now I have finished my stint at Top Sante, I am thinking what next? What is next around the corner? 

The good, but kinda sad, thing is that now I am getting more experienced in the field I am being offered internships frequently more. The only downer is I simply cannot afford to several internships after one another. Consquently meaning I have to turn down at least one placement. 

Ahh and this is where the gap lies, between upaid work placements-and the paid. As a graduate, I have plenty of free time- yet little money. A paid internship would solve all my troubles and believe me they do exist. However, they are few and far between, the competition I imagine enormous, gigantic. Soo for now, my dear blogger friends I will be climbing the ladder the hard way. Living the student life a little longer, evading Top Shop a little longer-  however enjoying some extra curricular perks along the way :)

These being, freebies, networking events, plus having the experience that you simply would not get if you stayed in your hometown. 

For instance, whilst at Top Sante I got to attend not one, but two networking events. First off, was the first Glow! Awards which Top Sante hosted at The Century Club, Shaftesbury avenue. 

A plush venue, a gorgeous (and of course healthy) breakfast of Museli, fruit, crossiants, fresh organge juice, champagne (daarling) and a room full of beauty & lifestyle PR's- what more could an aspiring journo ask for? 

It was a great way to meet and greet others in the field, even though they were based in  a different field that I ideally want to go into, it is still really good to make contacts and get yourself out there. A lovely young woman gave me her business card, which is, note to self, the next thing on my list to tick off. (*Must get business cards*). 

After the awards, a lovely colleague of mine gave me one of the goodie bags from the event, as a thank- you for helping out. (Packing sixty odd of those bags and carrying huuge boxes has it's rewards ;)

Needless to say, the Liz Earle cleanser pack  soon was snapped up by my label- loving grandma and the healthy food treats quickly snuffled from sight. 

As well as the freebies, you get to go cool places like the glamourous covent garden hotel, where I attended the Warburtons press event. (more offical info on that later).  Networking with other journalists, PRs and editors I really think that meeting people in the flesh is the way forward. 

A friendly face, a pleasant conversation may stand out against the bog- standard "work experience" email editorial assisants receive every day. The importance of "it's who you know, not what you know" is really starting to play true. Whilst I think a university education is important for aspiring journo's, journalism is a very sociable career where connections matter and employing a face that you remember as reliable and enthusiatic is easier than employing an unknown one. 

The debate between education and experience is a biggun. But I must say, I am leaning towards the side of experience. I have learnt so much from my internships, from the way magazines work day- to day to even how to make a good coffee (I hope!) It is more pratical know- how, experiencing the daily routine of a magazine environment, the fast pace, the stress of impending deadlines, the laughs, the freebies and most of all the people you meet- that a course simply cannot teach. 

Granted, I don't have the skills of short- hand, media law and snubbing. And maybe this will hinder me in the future, but for now i'm going with the internships. I have thought about post- grad courses, but for the time being this isn't an option, (money issue again). A short NTCJ course to give me these skills, a fashion MA in journalism at LCF to specialise in my interests, a general masters in magazine journalism...are all options. 

A comment that has been recently made is that Journalism is now only a career choice of the middle classes and the rich. I am certainly fortunate that my parents can afford to support me at home, whilst I jump to one unpaid internship after another. For others, this would simply not be an option. The Press Gazette, among many others have featured interesting articles and advice on the subject. 

The editor Dominic Ponsford notes that in the past this was not (as much) of an issue but due to the rise of the un-paid internship and the fact that people will work unpaid for months on end, means that employers are less likely to want pay someone for their time, if they can get someone to do the same job for virtually nothing. 

"The really sad thing for me is that the ability to work for free for months on end seems to have become a prerequisite to getting a foot on the ladder at many national newspapers and high profile glossy magazines.

Interestingly enough, he comments that the academic malarky of journalism MA's are hardly used in the newsroom, whereas the practical skills of journalism taught by short courses NTCJ are not only more cost- effective (courses can cost as little as £900, in comparsion to whopper MA charges of up to £7,000!) but are essentially more useful in your career. 

"Many prospective journalists seem to think they need to take an expensive post-graduate academic qualification....But practical journalism is not an academic skill – and much of the stuff MA students will learn will be useless in the newsroom

Soo there you have it, my little comments on the journey to becoming a journo. Would love to hear your thoughts, are you currently studying for an MA in journalism? Or perhaps a degree? What do you think of the unpaid internship, exploitation or a necessary route to success? Let me know. Also have a gander at the Press Gazette's article on why they think  journalism is becoming a middle class profession here:   

Devil Wears Prada- the internship you would dread, but secretly love at the same time.


  1. I have definitely noticed this trend .... am studying for a BA in Journalism at the moment and am so glad I have got my NCTJ's (although 100wpm shorthand still eludes me!) as part of my course! I do think it will put me in good stead to compete for jobs but I am definitely hindered in that I simply cannot afford to work unpaid and therefore if it really is a case of experience and working for free all the time then I am well and truly screwed! Sarah x

  2. It definitely is hard, but these days with so many people with a degree employers are looking for experience and a degree. It's pretty tough, but I manage to do internships by either working in between, or alongside them. Plus most do pay travel expenses, so not to burn a massive hole in your pocket! I am thinking about the NTCJ to gain the skills I need, but if I can get somewhere without paying even more for a course I won't do it! There is so much controversy surrounding internships at the moment, perhaps when you finish they will be illegal..but then it could be even harder to get a job in the industry as there will be no way of getting an "in".

    Thanks for the comment Sarah, I'm sure you'll be fine, you are doing well already :) X


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