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.

Types of Jobs

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.

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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

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 The Oxford Scientist) 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 applications – and scan internship opportunities listed on Journo Resources during the vacation. Getting work experience is not always 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 a 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 been 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 University Media Society), and attend other student events hosted by organisations such as News Associates and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Will I get paid?

Internships and summer jobs are governed in the UK by National Minimum Wage law, which means that if you are carrying out activities that class you as a “worker” by the employer, then you should be paid. Full details of Employment Rights and Pay for Interns are published by the government.
If you are undertaking a learning and development opportunity such as a micro-internship, or volunteering for a charity or statutory body, or shadowing or observing, then you may not be eligible for the National Minimum Wage. The organisation may reimburse you for your travel and/or lunch expenses, but they aren’t obliged to do so.
 

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 (published) 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 is a great resource that has information on journalism and media graduate schemes in the UK,  awards, freelance rates and salary data.

Newspapers

There are multiple routes into newspaper journalism and there isn’t a “set” career path. Some people start with regional or local papers, others through graduate schemes, NCTJ qualifications and experience, internships, working at smaller publications and freelancing. In recent years national newspapers that have offered trainee positions include the Financial Timesthe Guardian, the Daily Telegraphthe Independent and Evening Standard, The Times, the Trinity 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.  Some 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.

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 recruit people who have undertaken work experience with them first.

Some magazines and journals look for writers with specialist knowledge (often gained as part of a degree) therefore, before applying check whether you need to have a specific degree to be eligible for roles.

Broadcast 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 and CNN run trainee/internship schemes. Visit their websites for more information on closing dates and read our additional sector pages on Music & Radio and TV & Film for additional advice.

Press agencies

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. 

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 NCTJ courses can include news reporting, journalism e-portfolio, Teeline shorthand, media law, court reporting and public affairs. There are also Master's 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, you can also try one  News Associates'  free workshops. Before you embark on further study, ask questions about which organisations students have worked for after graduation, 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.

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 - you can contact people via LinkedIn) in the industry and seek their views.

The title ‘journalist’ can cover a very wide 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,  National Geographic, Marie-Claire and the New Scientist. However, in many cases, publications are employing fewer full-time journalists and many write on a freelance basis, often writing for multiple publications.

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)
  • social media

Nationally-advertised jobs for trainee journalists are often listed in www.journoresources.com and sometimes appear in the Guardian’s media pages online.  The website www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk  and www.journalism.co.uk. have information on jobs, news and resources for UK journalists.

It's vital that you keep monitoring relevant job boards as the time frame for applications is often short. Always keep 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 if your Facebook profile is for social use only, think about whether you want future employers to be able to access all of your content, photos etc. Create a LinkedIn profile and if you have a Twitter account, be mindful of what you say and think about whether your tweets are reflective of your writing interests and would be of interest to a future employer. It is also worth thinking about creating a website where you can showcase your portfolio, or  a blog with links to your published work. 

Our list of external resources below has additional information about where to look for vacancies, further careers advice and industry information.

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