Journalism

 If you have an interest in the industry, this changing landscape offers a range of opportunities and choice of different types of organisations to work for/with or you could choose to work independently, creating and distributing your own content.

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Finding your niche with so many choices in journalism can seem daunting, however as a starting point, think about the topics you are interested in eg: education, fashion journalism, sports or financial journalism etc. It’s also helpful to think about the type of journalism you are aiming for:

  • Broadcast journalist
  • Magazine features editor
  • Magazine journalist
  • Newspaper journalist
  • Press sub-editor
  • Freelance writer

A number of Oxford students ask about Broadcast journalism in particular. Broadcasting generally encompasses any audio or visual programming that is disseminated to a large number of radio or television receivers.

Typical employers of journalists:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Newswires
  • Websites
  • Radio stations
  • Television companies
  • Periodicals/journals publishers
  • Social media platforms

Freelance and portfolio careers are becoming the norm (as many organisations are seeking to reduce staff costs), so it’s important to consider whether you are potentially suited to the “freelance” lifestyle – which may include irregular work patterns.

Skills needed

  • First, you will need evidence of your writing ability – if you have published material online or in print this will give you a vital head start when impressing future employers. Develop your online presence through LinkedIn, Twitter, setting up your own website to use as a portfolio or blogging.
  • Resilience – ability to handle criticism and constructively build on it.
  • Ability to deal with intense pressure and very tight deadlines.
  • Self-motivation, drive, determination and a passion for exposing stories and delivering information to the public.
  • Meticulous attention to facts and details, and willingness to do the research.

For all journalism roles you should be able to:

  • Tell stories fairly, accurately, simply and engagingly, in a way that is accessible to a wide variety of audiences across a range of platforms.
  • Be well informed about current events and able to research topics quickly and effectively.
  • Have the ability to develop and nurture a diverse range of contacts and a keen desire to produce original journalism, driven by a strong sense of curiosity.
  • Be able to stay calm while working under pressure and to remain resilient, flexible and adaptable in the face of rapidly changing circumstances, long shifts and setbacks.
  • Have sound editorial judgement and legal awareness.
  • Be able to draw on creative writing and storytelling skills.
  • Ideally have knowledge and awareness of producing cross platform content and developing ideas.

Getting experience

There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer as well as the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship, visit the Government’s webpages on the National Minimum Wage.

If you’re still a student, get involved in student media at Oxford. Student publications, including Cherwell and The Oxford Student, and the student radio station Oxide, provide excellent opportunities to gain relevant experience. There are plenty of other student publications both in print and online (such as The Isis and Bang! science magazine) as well as college websites and department publications where you could contribute and gain writing or editorial experience.

Seek out experience on newspapers and magazines local to your home – read our advice about making speculative approaches – and scan internship opportunities listed on Journo Resources during the vacation. Getting work experience is not easy, and while occasionally opportunities are advertised on CareerConnect, you should also apply speculatively to the media that interests you, whether that be food, cycling stock-picking or trains. Have a look at the Magazine Subscriptions website for more inspiration, but the key is persistence and perseverance so be sure to follow up any speculative applications you send.

Above all, most editors look for evidence of sustained interest in and commitment to journalism. Offering articles to local or free newspapers is one way in which you can build up your printed publications file – any employer is going to want to see what you have already had published. Think of ideas for new stories or new angles on familiar stories. Test them out by submitting copy. Pick a specific theme on a topic that interests you and write a regular blog to demonstrate your written ability for different audiences.

Read, watch and listen to the media – you need to be both generally well-informed in current affairs and specifically knowledgeable about the particulars of the newspaper, magazine or station you are approaching. Contact journalists who are doing the kind of job you want to do. At Oxford, join relevant societies (such as the Oxford Media Society), and attend other student events hosted by organisations such as News Associates and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

You can enter the sector in a number of ways, below are examples of the most popular routes for recent graduates:

  • Taking a postgraduate course in Journalism eg: at City University or the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ)
  • Being recruited into a new entrant training scheme with a newspaper, TV or radio broadcaster e.g. the BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme.
  • Building up work experience (often unpaid) with university papers and submitting articles to magazines, newspapers and online publications.

Regardless of which route you decide to take, it’s essential to gain significant writing experience prior to applying for a course or applying to a job, by writing for university/college newspapers, blogs etc. This experience, not only helps to improve your writing skills, but also to build a portfolio of work that demonstrates your abilities to future employers/course providers

Journo Resources has a complete list of journalism and media graduate schemes in the UK and update their list at least every fortnight. You can sign up to receive the latest grad scheme openings and paid full and part-time opportunities every month via email. They also list awards, freelance rates, salary data, and a fortnightly journalism clinic. .

Print journalism: newspapers

There are multiple routes into print journalism and there isn’t a “set” career path. Some people start with regional or local papers, although there are now less opportunities due to cost cutting that’s a is often a result of  reduced advertising revenue and on-line options. However in the age of the 24 hour news -cycle, sometimes “breaking – news” stories start in a local or regional paper and are then picked by a national paper.

Most journalists get in through graduate schemes, NCTJ qualifications and experience, internships, smaller publications and freelancing. In recent years nationals that have offered trainee positions include the Financial Timesthe Guardian, the Daily Telegraphthe Independent and Evening Standard, The Times, the Trinity Mirror (owners of the Daily Mirror) and the Daily Mail. Some national newspapers do not recruit annually or publicise their schemes, so your investigative skills will be required to track the openings down. Regional newspaper groups have also frequently run trainee schemes (examples include the Express and Star group and Newsquest). A number of journalism trainee schemes require candidates to already hold a pre-entry National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) qualification. Qualifications can be gained via a range of courses available but double check that the course is accredited and, ideally, that it has strong links with employers. News Associates was named the UK’s top fast track and top overall journalism course by the National Council for the Training of Journalists in  2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Print journalism: magazines

Consumer magazines occasionally advertise for trainee journalists, but few such opportunities will  appear on CareerConnect as most publishers advertise in their own publications or on their own websites, as well as in The Guardian and/or Press Gazette, or just recruiting people who have undertaken work experience with them first.

The specialist business and trade press recruit actively. For example Euromoney, The Economist or London Sport, they will have a particular focus but you don’t necessarily need a particular degree or qualification to apply but rather an interest in their area.  Some magazines and journals however do look for writers with specialist knowledge – New Scientist has for example, recruited trainees with a science background for six-month internships.

Broadcasting journalism: TV & radio

Broadcast Journalists may begin their careers working as Researchers or Newsroom Assistants, progressing to become On Screen Reporters, Special Correspondents, News Presenters, and Bulletin or Programme Editors. They may also move into Programme Production or Management roles, or become Journalists, Newspaper Reporters or Writers. Some Broadcast Journalists may also start their careers working as Newspaper or other Print Press Journalists. The BBC, ITV News, CNN and Sky News run trainee schemes, and offer work placements to students genuinely committed to news. Visit their websites for more information on closing dates and read our additional sector pages on Music & Radio and TV & Film for more advice.

Press agencies: journalism openings

Independent press agencies – also known as ‘news wires’ – supply general interest or specialist news, features or pictures to news media. There are several leading press agencies, including Agence France Presse (based in Paris), Associated Press and United Press International (both based in the U.S.), Thomson Reuters and the British-based Press Association. See the National Association of Press Agencies for further details. Each year, Reuters advertises a training scheme for applicants with a demonstrable interest in business and finance, as well as a foreign language. Other Press Agencies usually only recruit experienced journalists or those who have already completed a recognised journalism course.

Postgraduate courses

There is a wide range of postgraduate courses covering many areas of journalism, including newspapers, broadcast journalism, on-line and sport. A number of these courses are vocational and can be just as intense as a full time job. Core subjects of the NCTJ curriculum include news reporting, journalism e-portfolio, Teeline shorthand, media law, court reporting and public affairs. There are also Masters courses available for those that want to take a more academic approach to journalism. Either way, if you are interested in taking a course try to attend an open day or visit before making an application. News Associates run a number of free workshops and tasters in their London and Manchester offices and have also hosted a ‘mock newsroom’ event at Oxford. Before you embark on further study, ask questions about how successful these courses have been in gaining jobs for their past students, possible bursaries available and how the course is structured and assessed.

Check to see that those courses you are considering are recognised by the relevant training bodies. See the Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) website for a list of accredited degrees and postgraduate courses in broadcast journalism. You should check with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements. Some accredited training providers attend our Arts, Advertising & Media Fair in Michaelmas term.

People in the industry have sharply opposing views on the value of further study – while some view it as essential experience, others don’t. It is useful to talk to any contacts you know (or get to know) in the industry and seek their views.

The title ‘journalist’ can cover a huge range of jobs, including music critics, war correspondents, sub-editors, page designers, football reporters, literary reviewers, listings compilers and property specialists. They write for outlets as varied as The Daily Mirror, The Economist, Allergy Magazine, Heat and National Geographic. However, in many cases, newspapers are employing fewer journalists as many local and regional papers have merged or moved from daily to weekly editions, and there is increasing collaboration between journalists working on different publications within the same group. CareerConnect occasionally has some opportunities for those seeking a career in journalism (both work experience and graduate vacancies) but this source of vacancy information is only a very small part of the picture.

So, it is vital that you:

  • approach any contacts you have
  • use LinkedIn, university and college alumni groups to identify journalists and freelance writers
  • join relevant student societies to attend sector presentations, events and make contacts in the industry

and, as suggested above, build your work experience by writing for:

  • student papers/magazines
  • local papers and free magazines
  • online publications
  • blogs (both your own and comment pieces for other blogs)

Nationally-advertised jobs for trainee journalists are often listed in www.journoresources.com and sometimes appear in the Guardian’s media pages on Monday/online. The Press Gazette (for print journalism) is also worth watching. www.gorkana.com is a good place to look for jobs – sign up to their weekly jobs alerts, which also have work experience opportunities. The website www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk contains details of regional and local newspaper vacancies, though it is also essential to make speculative applications to individual newspaper editors and to offer your articles to free and local papers. Another useful website for jobs is www.journalism.co.uk.

It is vital that you monitor advertisements as the time frame for applications is often short. Have your CV, blogs, published work, LinkedIn profile and any cuttings up to date.

Personal branding and your online presence are increasingly important for journalists. The first thing almost any prospective employer will do is Google you; so make sure your Facebook profile is private and your profile picture (which is publicly available) is appropriate. Create a LinkedIn profile; this is a professional profile where you can upload information on your education, work experience and link to your article portfolio. It is a great way to network with other journalists and enquire about potential work opportunities. If you have a Twitter account, be mindful what you say, particularly about prospective employers. It is also worth thinking about getting a website to use as a portfolio, or at least starting a blog with links to your published work. There is a useful video on YouTube to show you an example of a cuttings portfolio.

Our list of external resources below will give you plenty more information about where to look for vacancies, further careers advice and industry information.

Books

The following books are available to read in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • Journalism Uncovered – Emma Caprez, Trotman
  • In Print: A Career in Journalism – Chris Alden, MediaGuardian
  • Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2012 – William Boyd

Podcasts of past events

Breaking into Journalism

In this podcast, hear from Oxford alumna Bridget Arsenault, Associate Editor for Print and Digital at Vanity Fair London. Learn about how she broke into journalism, what it’s like to work in this competitive field and how she landed her current position at Vanity Fair. The talk was recorded at the Arts, Media and Marketing Fair 2014.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/350110204&color=%231e4f86&auto_play=false&hide_related=true&show_comments=false&show_user=false&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=false

Life as a wordsmith: careers in communicating

Speakers from different communications agencies including Green.TV Media Ltd, Culture Trip and Tamarindo Communications. The focus will be on how, and where, graduates
can put their writing skills to work as so many students struggle to find jobs ‘in writing’ beyond journalism.

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