I landed a role as a music journalist after a whirlwind ten weeks at Brighton Journalist Works. Though the course was more orientated towards news reporting – real journalism, story-hunting, local reportage on important issues – I learned everything I needed to know about dedication, hard work, interview skills and more in those ten weeks.
I got offered a position at Q Magazine after doing a couple of weeks on work experience placement there. I now spend my days bleating on about bands, putting questions to pop stars and making endless cups of coffee. BJW asked if I had any advice to pass on to prospective students, so here’s a few pointers, albeit from someone on the very bottom rung of the ladder.
Take a leap of faith
I was working in a Blockbuster video store at the beginning of the year – not a bad occupation by any means, but there’s only so many times you can shoo errant children away from the pick ‘n’ mix stand before wanting to sellotape together a makeshift weapon out of Nicolas Cage DVDs. I decided to give journalism a go, writing stories in newspapers instead of potentially appearing in them (“DVD STORE EMPLOYEE CLOBBERS SWEET-TOOTHED CHILD”).
My point is, I really wasn’t sure about doing the Journalist Works course initially. Three months is a long time to commit to a course, and it’s a lot of money to spend on something that you might end up deciding isn’t for you. But if you have a serious interest in writing, reporting or if you’re a grammar pedant, give it a go. You won’t regret it.
“You learn by doing” and “you only get out what you put in” are the sort of clichés that news writing tutor Louisa Hannah would balk at if you put them in an article, but they ring true. Get involved with local magazines, hound the Argus news desk with stories, start blogging, get going. I wrote for several music websites unpaid just to hone my writing style, and continue to write for them now, just for fun.
Twitter is also great, not only for updating the world on what you put on your toast that morning. So much in news and feature writing is about being succinct and to the point, so if you tend to rattle on like I do, getting into the habit of conveying a point in 140 characters is oddly beneficial – even if it is only about toast.
Sharpen your coffee-making prowess
On work experience, you can be a budding Jon Ronson, the next Caitlin Moran or even George Orwell reincarnate – it doesn’t matter, you’re still going to end up on tea and coffee-making duties. It’s actually a really good way of meeting people and getting your face about the office. You’ll see fellow journalists in the kitchen, you’ll get chatting and maybe they will remember you when it comes to freelance commissions and work opportunities.
If any future BJW students end up in Q on work experience and, you know, if you’re offering, I take mine with milk and two sugars, thanks… just kidding. Seriously though, don’t dismiss the persuasive power of a half-decent Americano.