The New Online Journalists #9: Amy McLeod

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Amy McLeod talks about her path from the BBC to setting up a website offering graduate advice.

I had no idea that I wanted to be a journalist when I left university; I graduated with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from St Edmund Hall, Oxford University in 2008.  I had, however, made a number of short films which served as a useful starting point and got me work experience for the BBC.

Once in the building I talked my way into the current affairs development department and found myself working as a journalist.  I heard about the intriguing future plans for BBC content management and worked alongside Phillip Trippenbach, who was responsible for multimedia development – he made me realise the enormous potential that digital technology provides.  

In my spare time I learnt HTML and started work on a few fledgling coblogeration projects.  Thankfully I built up a relationship with a good web developer which meant I could be more ambitious with regard to the functionality of sites I was working on.

Training

I needed training to progress and so I opted for a fast track NCTJ which was far more affordable than a Masters (but probably not as good value for money).

Digital journalism was not covered at all; I set up a hyperlocal site for the college locality and encouraged my fellow students to use the platform to build up their portfolios.

I had several work experience placements on newspapers but the employment prospects were bleak. I wanted to work online but concentrate on producing written content so I moved from London to my home town Birmingham and set up www.rightfield.co.uk – a website that offers advice to recent graduates on how to use online platforms when starting out.

Doing it yourself

I interviewed innovative people and discovered Birmingham’s lively social media scene.  Thanks to Twitter, that network and my online portfolio I was approached by the University of Warwick to write for a new pilot website project that was being developed to provide better access to their online and research resources.

I currently write articles, record podcasts and research stories for the site.  I mainly produce 800-1000 word feature pieces based on a particular academic’s research, but I also contribute to developing the longer-term strategy that will see academics publish content to the site themselves.  I really enjoy that part of the job – figuring out ways to help people make the most of new media – the more the merrier!

My plan is to continue investing time in learning digital technology skills, finding ways to make use of these new capabilities while all the time improving on the basics – interviewing, research and telling a good story.
I think it is vital to remain open-minded about your career progression so you can respond positively to opportunities that present themselves. At the moment I am experimenting with translating datasets into infographics.
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