Skipping university is no barrier to a job in journalism

28 08 2012

At 16 some people are ready to commit themselves to a career.

Brighton Journalist Works graduate Caroline Wilson knew she didn’t want to go to university at 16, and shocked her teachers and family when she took up an apprenticeship.

By the age of 16 I’d had enough of feeling pressured by those around me telling me to “study hard” and “think about what you want to do when you grow up”.

So I decided to “rebel” against them all by dropping out and doing an apprenticeship in hairdressing.

This was much to the disgust of my school who even called me into the headteacher’s office to discuss the “shocking” career choice of this grammar school girl.

In her comment piece A degree is not the only way to a goal published in Brighton’s Argus newspaper on August 20, Caroline explains how work experience at her local newspaper confirmed the  feeling  journalism was the right career.

She was surprised to land a place on the Journalist Works fast-track NCTJ course in April this year without an A-level to her name, but now she has a string of gold standard results behind her without a degree.

If I’d stuck it out at school as the teachers had wanted and gone on to university I would have probably picked a completely random subject and after a lot of wasted time and money, still been none the wiser about what I wanted to be when I came out.

It took me until the age of 25 to know for sure what I wanted and though I appreciate everyone is different, I know a lot of people who have gone to university and either come out and not been able to get a job, or, ended up getting a job doing something completely irrelevant to their pricey university course.

Caroline is not an isolated case. Back in April tabloid journalist Fleet Street Fox told BJW students how she camped out at her local newspaper offices from age 14 until they gave her a job at 18. By the time she was 20 Foxy was chief reporter.

Hard work and determination saw her hit Fleet Street in her early 20s after studying for her NCTJ exams while working.

Another example of early drive is Suzy Talbot, who took charge of her first newspaper as news editor when she was 22.

Now aged 27 she is a deputy editor at Trinity Mirror Southern, with responsibility for the Harrow Observer, Buckinghamshire Advertiser and Bucks Examiner.

Both Suzy’s parents worked for the Bucks Examiner, which meant her face was known around the office when she had her first work experience placement at 15.

“I never wanted to do anything else, I knew from primary school I wanted to be a journalist,” he said.

During her school holidays Suzy returned on work experience placements and settled into a long-term stint during her year out from university.

She worked hard and the news editor encouraged her to apply for a trainee position where Suzy impressed the editor-in-chief during her interview.

I learned the job by doing the basics – it was a good way to start. I was lucky my colleague where I was based was a really good mentor and really helpful.

Everyone at the paper was really supportive. People might have viewed me as a burden, but everyone was supportive. Everyone mentored me.

A trainer told me before my NCE I wouldn’t pass because I was too young, now I sit on those editor’s panels and I’m at same level as the editor-in-chief who first interviewed me.

Suzy does not regret going to university as she isn’t saddled with an extensive debt and she has progressed further up the career ladder.

Her advice for future journalists is:

You don’t need a degree, but you do need your NCTJ qualifications.

You certainly don’t need a degree in journalism, do something else if you’re not sure, history, English, science, because if you study journalism and decide it’s not what you want to do, you’re stuck.


Journalist Works students take gold

6 08 2012
Brighton Journalist Works students April 2012

Brighton Journalist Works April 2012 student intake have achieved gold standard success in their NCTJ exams.

As Olympic fever hits new heights with team GB bringing home a stack of medals, Brighton Journalist Works (BJW) students have also struck gold as the latest exam results come in.

Forget about Usain Bolt, for NCTJ students the big sprint is the 100wpm shorthand and 11 of the 12 students who started their course in April 2012 achieved the gold standard speed within 14 weeks.

Students achieved a clean sweep in their Essential Media Law exam with each of the 12 attaining the gold standard pass mark.

There was an equally strong showing in the reporting exam as every student passed, with ten taking gold in this challenging test.

Marathon study for the Crime Reporting and Essential Public Affairs exams also paid off as 11 of the 12 students took home gold, putting BJW at the top end of the medal table for this year’s NCTJ results.

Urbanora's Olympic image

Spirit of taking part – Image by Urbanora on Flickr, some rights reserved.

Still to come are the Production Journalism, Business of Magazines and Portfolio results, but with a long tradition of success in these fields, BJW expects another gold run.

The January 2012 intake swept the board earlier this year with a 100 per cent gold standard in production and magazines with 14 of the 16 students achieving top grades for their portfolios.

Back in September 2011, there were top marks all round in Business of Magazines, with 20 of the 25 students taking gold for production and 18 of the 25 hitting the highest marks for their portfolio.

Just like Team GB athletes taking home gold, great results in the NCTJ exams is all about hard work and dedication, as well as great coaching.

Behind the scenes at Sky TV

12 03 2012

MA in Multimedia Journalism students visit to Sky TV

Ever wanted to present a TV programme? A dozen of our students were able to do just that when the Broadcast Journalism course visited the Sky News studios.

The students experienced what it was like to sit in the presenter’s chair, stick the earpiece on and stare into the camera. They were in good hands. Their guide for the day was a man who certainly knows what he is talking about, Sky presenter Mark Longhurst, who just happens to be one of the course tutors as well.

The students discovered how a rolling news programme works from the ingest desk (that’s the stories and pictures coming in) to the pivotal role of the floor manager, from the editing suite where the film reports are knocked into shape to the director calling the shots in the gallery.

If you think presenting the weather might be a bit of a walk in the park, our students would tell you to think again. They had to point at a blank green-screen, keep one eye on the auto-cue, the other on a weather map, appear relaxed and look as if they knew what they were talking about. And smile.

“Quite simply, it was the best day of my life so far” – said Charlotte Complan who was knocked out by her Sky experience. “It was the perfect background to the course and convinced me that TV is where I want to be.” And, by

the way, the sandwiches in the Sky deli are to die for.  The students are all on the MA Multimedia Journalism course – a partnership between Brighton Journalist Works and Sussex University.

A very social media course

1 03 2012

Facebook is the third highest referer to The Argus website – that’s why trainee journalists learn all about social media in lectures at Brighton Journalist Works, writes Emily Hoquee.

Sarah Booker-Lewis, web editor at The Argus spoke to students about community, interactivity and social media.   She described how she has seen the internet change journalism over the last fifteen years and explained that it was vital readers are engaged and involved with content through new tools such as polls, forums and live blogs.

Facebook and Twitter have both grown fast and journalists can use these sites to promote their content and reach readers on an unprecedented scale. Flickr, Storify, Tumblr and Bambuser have also stepped onto the market and present a new ways for journalists to interact with readers through photos, video and blogging.

Sarah also stressed that Facebook and Twitter are not just great for connecting with readers, but can be useful for networking with other professionals who have similar interests. Image

Esquire magazine: the good, the bad and the pink socks

22 02 2012

“Good subbing should be invisible, excellent subbing you won’t be able to avoid.” The wise words of Jeremy White, Esquire’s Chief Sub will hopefully stay in my mind longer than the teeline outline for Esquire, writes Emily Noszkay.

Jeremy took  time out  to talk to students at Brighton Journalist Works and highlighted the qualities good subs should have and the common pitfalls of interviewees that would have editors ripping up a CV.

The fact we didn’t win the spelling bee three years in a row, is apparently not a problem, and although we should check and double-check everything carefully, nailing the tone of the publication will be the key to  success.

Jeremy said anyone about to embark on work experience/ freelance work or an interview for a job should  take the time to read the publication before turning up. Seems pretty straight forward we thought. Apparently not.

If announcing that you are the “guardian of the tone of the magazine” sent from above (don’t say the second bit) doesn’t secure you the job, be sure to have some praises and constructive criticism up your well- dressed sleeve.

You will always be asked what you like and dislike about the publication, but remember, no editor wants to hear how bad their magazine is. In essence, smile when you say something bad and always say how you will fix the very, very, very minor problem.

The main reason for everyone’s broad smile after Jeremy left was not his pink socks but his declaration that 70-80% of most people working in journalism were “RUBBISH”. This made us feel a little more confident about breaking onto the journalism scene.

So fear not students, if you know who your reader is and you can separate your heads from your sells, you are probably half way there. Just don’t mess up the front page.

Rebecca Cooney writes:

The Chief Sub-editor of Esquire magazine spoke today about the importance of sub-editing in the newspaper, magazine and publishing industries.

He said: “As a sub-editor, you’re not just a walking, talking dictionary; you are the guardian of the tone of the magazine, and the first reader.”

Sub-editors should prove they’ve done their homework by knowing who the reader of the publication is, in a minutely detailed way, before they arrive for work, work experience or interview.

He described writing headlines and sells as being the most important part of the job, and warned the assembled students to avoid using clichés, repetition or stating the obvious.

Referring examples of bad subbing, he said: “It’s boring for the reader. For example, ‘Arsonists set car on fire’- well I wouldn’t expect them to do anything else.”

He offered hope to students looking for jobs both in sub-editing and writing, saying  those prepared to work hard, come up with creative interesting ideas, speak up when they saw room for improvement and had a can-do attitude, would stand out and be remembered by editors.

Emily Hoquee writes:

Students learnt about sub-editors role as the “guardians” of the magazine’s tone, and how important it is for magazines to know their customers intimately. Jeremy gave some great advice about what makes a really good sub: avoid clichés, don’t be a massive pedant and write great heads and sells.

Journalist Works students can spend  two weeks on work experience at Esquire magazine. Tea-making skills are not necessary but plenty of hard work and enthusiasm will be rewarded by a brilliant opportunity to be involved in every step of the magazine’s production.

Sarah Morgan writes: 

Subbing standards these day are often below par, Esquire magazine’s Chief Sub-Editor told Brighton Journalist Works students this lunchtime.

Jeremy White visited the group to talk about his experiences from training as a journalist to the heights of subbing a top men’s magazine.

He showed students that good and bad subbing is everywhere and easy to spot, picking up a copy of today’s newspaper and flicking through spotting errors and clichés.

Students were entertained by a discussion of the devastatingly poor job applications Jeremy had seen in his time as a Chief Sub, and were given advice on the interview process.

Jeremy said British journalists are extremely well-regarded in Australia, possibly overly so, so now I’m dreaming of that beach-front Sydney magazine….

How to do well in a journalism job interview

30 01 2012

Have lots of ideas and make them laugh

Written by Emma Walker who landed a job as a reporter after her first-ever journalism job interview

I hate the thought of work experience..  I can’t lie, I have a hatred of doing anything for nothing.

There aren’t very many trainee reporting roles out there so when I saw the one for the Dorset Echo I quickly applied. It was for a nine month period working on the Sailing Olympics and based in Weymouth, it sounded the perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door.

I  sent my CV and a few lines in an email. I’m not really a fan of cover letters so just kept it short and sweet in an email with the intention to make a few words stand out rather than a load of cringe-worthy babble.

The day I applied  I got a call from the News Editor offering me  an interview four days later. The night before I had a  little look on Twitter and jotted down a few story ideas and prepared my portfolio of published work.

The News Editor and Chief Reporter interviewed me and thirty minutes later I came out and thought I’d babbled my way out of a job –  I’d even forgot to put my posh voice on.

They threw scenarios at me and asked questions concerning , such as who I would approach first, where would I go and how would I deal with different situations. They were common sense answers really but I stressed that persistence was key.

They asked questions about my degree and my NCTJ course at Brighton Journalist Works. They seemed impressed that I’d achieved shorthand 80wpm in 14 weeks and with my grades in other modules. They said they would be in touch within a week, I didn’t expect a call.

A week later they offered me the job.

Everyone has been asking me how I got a job from my first interview and to be honest I don’t really know. Maybe the fact that I hadn’t expected too much and went in quite relaxed  helped. I even made them laugh.  Maybe because it was a good atmosphere so I could chat and be myself easily. Or maybe I was just in the right place at the right time.

All I know now is I’m living in Weymouth, trying not to get sacked and loving my new job. From interviewing the Environment Minister to Olympians I’ve been thrown in at the deep end in just one week. I love seeing my by-line in print everyday and everyone I work is kind, helpful and friendly.

It worked for him – it could work for you

30 12 2011

by David Comeau, Reporter, Crawley NewsImage

Shortly after I graduated from Brighton Journalist Works in April I was lucky enough to land a position with the Crawley News. I had no previous experience other than what I’d learnt on the course but after impressing the editor while on work experience at a sister paper I was handed a trial. Proof that hard work and initiative mean far more to an editor than what’s on your CV.

Since then I have found myself thrown in at the deep end. Fortunately I found I can swim far better in a metaphor than I can in reality.

Being a reporter is an amazing job. In six months I’ve covered a wide range of stories. I’ve found myself challenging a toothless pensioner to a “gurn off” for a feature; I’ve photographed an immigration raid by the UK Border Agency; and I’ve found myself travelling half way across the country to interview with a man who was tortured for more than three days at a house in Crawley.

I think it will be a long time before the thrill of seeing my name on the front page begins to dull.

If you go out on work experience don’t wait to be given something to do. Otherwise you will find yourself sitting there like a lemon. Newspapers are inundated with requests for work experience and the ones who show initiative will be the ones who get recommended when positions become vacant. Search for your own story or feature ideas before you get there. That way you can show you know what you’re doing (even if you feel like you don’t!). I felt out of my depth for the first couple of months but you learn as you go and everything you are taught at the Journalist Works will give you enough to get started. The rest is up to you.