Luke’s words of work experience wisdom

14 02 2013

Fresh from completing his studies here at Brighton Journalist Works, we sent Luke Holmes off for some work experience at Esquire magazine and then Men’s Health.

Here’s what he had to say about his time on two of Britain’s most high profile titles:

“I arrived at Esquire magazine on the Monday morning of my work experience not knowing what to expect. I was then taken on a brief walk around the office by the Chief Sub-Editor who introduced me to the reasonably friendly, but also extremely busy staff.

During my two week stay, I worked with the sub-editing team which consisted of two full-time employees (Chief and Deputy Sub-Editor).

One of the first things that struck me was the magazine office environment. Up to this point, I had only worked in newspaper journalism so I was used to the phone ringing every ten seconds and the panic slowly building as deadlines sneak closer. The magazine industry has more of an emphasis on producing top quality copy rather than fast and proficiently written copy.

 Esquire only goes to print once a month so all departments have plenty of time to ensure that the design, photography and the copy are of the highest quality. I got to edit the work of both Giles Coren and Tom Parker Bowles but before I did so I was warned that Giles was a particularly tricky customer. I was directed to read this letter ( before I decided to omit or add any syllables of is work.

If you are to complete your experience at Esquire I would recommend that you get familiar with the magazine’s style of writing as they are very particular about phraseology. All aspects of the magazine seamlessly tie in together, even when it contains work from half a dozen different contributors (Will Self, Max Olesker etc.).

You will be asked to do a lot of fact checking in the articles that you sub. I also cannot emphasis how carefully these articles have to be read and checked. One mistake I missed, which I was particularly annoyed about (and tamely scolded for) was the word ‘brasserie’ (meaning a posh but relaxed French restaurant) which was mistakenly spelt ‘brassiere’ (meaning an item of women’s undergarment) in an article about to go to print. It just goes to show question the placement of every ‘i’ and ‘e’ in the copy you receive.

On a more obvious note, if you are not familiar with Apple systems, this could be a serious hindrance. In my experience, 99% of the magazine industry in London uses the Apple iMac, so not knowing how to use the system would be generally annoying for the sub-editors who are, to be frank, probably too busy to teach you how to use it.

Esquire shares a floor with Elle, Red and Bazaar magazines so there is an array of fashionable London media types throughout the entire office, as well as stylists who frantically scramble through racks and racks of clothes (which sometimes are all over the office floor) seeking the latest fashions to be featured in the various magazines.

It is important to remember that you are in there to learn. They do not expect you to show up as someone that is on the brink of revolutionising the magazine business. They expect a relatively inexperienced NCTJ graduate (which I was and you  probably will be), so be there to learn and not to impress. Trying too hard to make a good impression will probably lead to resentment more than impressing anyone.

After a happy two-week stay, I went to Men’s Health which is located only five minutes down the road from Esquire.

At Men’s Health, I was working with two other journalists who are also proficient at coding and web design. Using basic coding I helped them to transfer articles from the printed publication and convert and upload them on to the website. We used re-wrote articles to be more suited to the online audience.  If you have a background in an unusual mix of healthy living, coding and journalism you will absolutely flourish in your time here.

It’s interesting how the personalities of the staff reflect the publications. The staff in Esquire are very fashionable and enjoy the finer things in life whilst the Men’s Health staff all run down to the gym on their lunch break and return, often sweaty, drinking protein shakes. So it seems if you are wanting to work for one of these publications, it is important to live the lifestyles that they portray in their magazines. This makes sense really. Would you take men’s  health advice from someone who wasn’t healthy themselves?”


Lies, damn lies and statistics!

14 02 2013

This week  Alastair Skeffington and Belinda Kemp visited Brighton Journalist Works to talk to our students about the importance of understanding and reporting scientific and statistical information correctly.

Student Ros Branagan wrote:

New research has shown that 89% of statistics used by journalists are incorrect.

Is a sentence like this over-simplified, misleading, or just plain inaccurate?

These are the kinds of pitfalls that can easily befall journalists, many of whom don’t come from a scientific background.

Thankfully stats experts Alastair and Belinda ran a fascinating, informative and interactive workshop for Brighton Journalist Works students to flag up the essential skills needed to write about scientific data with clarity and accuracy.

For someone like me, who doesn’t have a head figures, this workshop was a must. I had feared flashbacks to GCSE maths, but luckily 100% of this blogger has now learned to fear stats just a fraction less.

BJW students learn of suicide reporting impact

12 02 2013

Reporting of suicide is a tricky area for journalists.

There’s more than 6,000 suicides a year and Brighton and Hove has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. What’s more the rates are going up dramatically.

Our trainee journalists visit courts, councils and inquests as part of their training and so we invited Chris Brown from the local suicide prevention charity Grassroots to come to talk to students about a subject that remains somewhat taboo in the public arena.

She gave us guidelines for how to report suicide and how to look after ourselves while doing so.

“Inappropriate reporting can lead to copycat suicides, particularly among younger more vulnerable audiences,” she said. “But positive outcomes of suicide reporting include helping to de-mystify it and challenging the stigma that surrounds it.”

She told us that studies in Toronto found that voluntary restrictions on newspaper reporting of subway suicides resulted in a 75% decrease in suicides by this method.

Students were shocked to hear that their reporting can make a difference, resulting in an overall increase in suicide and or an increase in uses of particular methods

Ben Paine, student, said: “The impact which a suicide has is catastrophic.. It is apparent that being bereaved by a suicide can lead to an increased chance of suicide for the bereaved themselves. Grief, loneliness, shame, can lead someone bereaved to taking their own life can elevate the chance of suicide by up to 40%.

“ We learned that by publishing helplines and contact details with the article it may aid any person who has suicidal thoughts by getting them to talk to the right person.”

The Grass Roots Suicide Prevention Organisation website is

And the suicide reporting guidelines are here:

Cain is able (the story so far)…

12 02 2013

We always tell our student journalists that time races by on our Fast Track 14-week NCTJ course and this week rookie hack Daniel Cain has taken to his blog to sum up how life at Journalist Works simply shoots by when you are learning new, interesting stuff (and getting addicted to seeing your byline…)

Over to you, Daniel…

After the initial shock of the first couple of weeks on the course things have finally settled down enough for me to get my head around where I’m currently at.

It’s been a whirlwind and I’ve experienced things that I would never have done before I came here (nothing life changing but fun nonetheless). I’ve attended a protest at a university – something I never did in my time there – I’ve helped plant a community garden and I’ve attended magistrates court to take notes on live cases.

From a selfish perspective it’s been great, I’ve had four pieces published (two in the Leader and two in the Argus) but it’s the overall experience that has had the biggest impact and left me feeling like I am actually getting closer to my dream of becoming a paid journalist.

We’ve had some inspiring speakers visit us so far. We got to meet the Fleet Street Fox just a week before she revealed her real identity in the Times, we heard from the Chichester Observer editor Colin Channon and also freelance photographer Andrew Hasson, whose work has been used on everything and everywhere.

Each day brings something entirely new and opens your eyes to writing in a way that you had never thought about before. Take today for example. We had two scientists come in to guest speak about stats and data, on the face of it not everyone’s cup of tea, but I definitely came out of it with a new outlook on how to process information in a way that’s not misleading and now know when the media is pulling the wool over our eyes.

Hopefully my story pool won’t dry up and I definitely need to start putting as much time into PA, production and law as I do shorthand and reporting… but it’s just too addictive seeing your name in print.

Roll on the next few weeks.

A brush with the unmasked Fox

11 02 2013

Anonymous Mirror columnist and Brighton Journalist Works regular speaker Fleet Street Fox finally unmasked herself today in The Times as Susie Boniface with a fascinating piece about life on the tabs.

Our students, however, already had the inside track after meeting her last week in person when she came to give a talk about her career in journalism.

Here’s what two of our trainees, Joe Riddle and Charlotte Ikonen, had to say about Fleet Street Fox’s wise words…


Tabloid journalism, anonymous blogging, and Jagermeister were among the topics discussed when a mystery writer came to Argus House this week.

Fleet Street Fox wasn’t pulling any punches as she spoke frankly about the pros and cons of life as a journalist in the 21st century.

She gave a stark and honest account of her experiences in the business as a roomful of trainee journalists listened on, eager to get a taste of what their future could hold.

One key message was about the importance of striking a balance between being a compassionate human being, and being ruthless enough to succeed.

According to the Fox, being enthusiastic “to the point most people would consider being unwell” will get you a long way, especially when coupled with unrelenting persistence and determination.



Enthusiasm to the point of mental illness is what it takes to be a journalist are the wise words of the great Fleet Street Fox, who gave an inspired speech today – yes, we did see what she looks like.

The best piece of advice was the importance of remembering who you are writing for. Each publication has a different readership, and the skill of a journalist is being able to adapt and change for the reader.

Apparently becoming a good journalist is about a balancing act; balancing the humane against the inhumane impulses. It is about running towards encounters that others run from, but at the same time not going too far (such as the recent hacking scandal).

Contrary to popular belief, journalists will always be needed, and as the next generation of journos, we have the opportunity to change the negative views into positive ones.

Right, now I am off to find a way of charging for news on the internet, to help save the journalist profession…………..