Top journalist visits Brighton Journalist Works

6 03 2011

The ex night editor of the Daily Telegraph visited Brighton Journalist Works. Student Josh Jones was impressed and reflected in his blogs:

“A degree in English is of no use…”

This week my journalist colleagues and I had a lecture by John Jenkins on the best way to earn money when writing feature pieces.

A Jayjay I can only wish to emulate

Everyone was left feeling inspired. One of my class mates even said afterwards that she was “in awe” of the former editor, reporter, millionaire (to name but a few of his previous titles.)

“The difference between an amateur writer and a professional is marketing.”

A great quote to perfectly sum up what he was trying to say. You may not have the best writing talent in the world but if you are persistent, determined and know how to sell yourself – then you will go far.

His mantra will be recited as a quiet murmur from the mouths of future journalists, squinting at a flickering monitor on deadline day –  and I, whenever I write a piece in the future, will do well to remember the journalist’s ABC: Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity.

He has the appearance of a kindly grandfather (maybe helped by being a West Ham fan like mine) but the air of importance emanates from his sweater-vest.

Mr Jenkins (a personal reason why I like him) is also a short story writer, confessing that he once had six bank accounts that were under the names of his various pseudonyms so he could dodge the tax man.

The four main points that will stick with me, should I decide to try my hand at freelancing, are to ask the following questions:

  • How many words would you like me to write?
  • When is the deadline?
  • Which form would you like it in?
  • How much dolla will you be paying me?
  • It pays to be a mercenary, quite literally.

He is very well read and has a passion for intros, which he collects. The three best intro styles to use in news writing, when enticing a reader are: The man who, the superlative and the eternal truth.

According to Mr.Jenkins I should be spending 75% of my time concentrating on the intro and final par of anything I write. If that is taken as read then I will be going to bed very late tonight, I keep getting distracted by the Cricket World Cup highlights.

“Do not choose what you write with a splatter gun, imagine you are a sniper.”

When selling a piece of work you should try to sell it at least three times. Perhaps one of the most inspiring anecdotes Mr Jenkins told the class was about a rookie hack who managed to fund his way around America through being flexible, subtly changing the angle of a story he wrote so that he could sell it on to various publications… meaning more wonga!

Images are important too, never accept anything less than  300 dpi.

In a lesson where I have learnt so much, it is hard to produce a report detailing all the points he covered. He came across as a stern yet forgiving character, always willing to give you the chance you deserve (but maybe for a price of course!)

Finally, from one Jayjay to another, I would like to share his thoughts with regards to getting ahead in journalism:

“A degree in English is of no use. In today’s age it would be great to get a degree in low-cunning and a Masters in duplicity.”

John Jenkins, the man who is proud to have bought Bobby Moore his first brown ale, I thank you.

*Also, a big thank you to Emma Nicklin for subbing this for me. She is sure to be a fantastic journalist herself. (Safe, mate)