Tag Archives: online journalism careers

Advice for journalism graduates

If you’re one of the many journalism graduates wandering the jobs pages this summer, here’s my Five-Step Plan® to getting a job in journalism

  1. Get a job, it doesn’t matter what. Nothing makes a person employable like being already employed. Plus you now have an employer’s reference. You’ll be making new contacts and learning new things, giving you more to talk about on the CV/interview. If you can get a job in the area you want to write about, even better: even if it’s something as prosaic as working in Next because you want to be a fashion journo. You’ll be surprised how much knowledge you pick up. Once you have the job, try to shape it so you can gain as much useful experience as possible: suggest an internal newsletter you could write, or contribute to the company website.
  2. Get a blog – no, don’t stop reading. This is not about online journalism. A blog helps you achieve a number of things regardless of whether you ever want to publish online professionally:
    • Practice makes perfect: writing regularly for a blog helps you hone and improve your journalistic style (note: that’s journalistic style, not diary style. Your journalist’s blog should be a series of articles, interviews etc. in your area of interest, not what you did on your summer holidays)
    • Ready-made portfolio: writing regularly for a blog gives you a wealth of material to show to potential employers. You should of course also include any material you have had published elsewhere. Include it on your CV so they can browse through it in deciding to give you an interview.
    • Proof of commitment: if you’re committed enough to write a blog regularly, to get out there and find out what’s happening in your specialist area, that proves you’re more committed than most job applicants.
    • Exposure: at this point, whether or not anyone reads your blog is not the primary goal, but if you do it well, you can build a reputation, and two things can happen: a) when you’re at the interview, the editor says “I’m a reader of your blog”; and b) freelance jobs will come to you. Note: this often takes years, and is often connected with the next step.
  3. Get involved in the area you want to report on: firstly, know where to get grassroots news in your area, so build up a first class favourites folder/Bloglines account of the best bloggers and news sources. Secondly, comment on those blogs and sites, and engage in the debates. Thirdly, conduct your own interviews for your own blog, online and offline. And finally, get away from your computer and do things: attend events, do courses, arrange a day in a relevant company. All of this proves your commitment, builds your reputation, and gives you a contacts book to die for.
  4. Get a good mobile phone – that is, one that takes pictures, video and audio. Download some free editing software like Windows Movie Maker and Audacity, and play around with it. Upload some video or audio to to your blog, YouTube or Switchpod. Quality will come with time, but the primary point here is to prove that you have some multimedia experience. Journalists are increasingly expected to know how to produce audio and video as well as text, and this is another way of putting you ahead of the competition. You will also need it for step 5:
  5. Get an eye for news: don’t wait to join a news organisation to become a journalist. As you do your job, as you walk the streets, as you read the newspapers and browse the messageboards, keep your news sense about you: is something happening that is newsworthy? Record it with your phone and send it to a relevant news organisation. Has someone said something that is newsworthy? Highlight it on your blog. Is there a national story that you could put a specialist or local angle to? Write it up.
    This is the most fundamental of skills for a journalist, whether in news or features. It is the one thing employers will be looking for. If you can tell them you filmed the floods on your phone or spotted a good lead on a forum, it proves you’re always ‘on’.

Rick Waghorn on going solo, the importance of advertising, and where next for ‘My Football Writer’

As solo sports journalist Rick Waghorn relaunches his Norwich City news website in the first step towards franchising the service, I spoke to him about going solo, the importance of advertising, and the likely first places for the franchise to expand.

Originally, Waghorn says, the plan was to offer a franchise “in much the same way as you would set up a bathroom shop and people would buy the kit off the shelf from you.” But the plan has changed.

“I’m not sure that’s realistic in that perhaps that works for someone with a redundancy package to self-start a franchise from us, but I think the way it may work is: I’ve got some funding that we use to actually pay salaried journalists to open a Sheffield bureau or a Manchester bureau rather than someone actually buying a franchise off me.”

The new-look site is an impressive effort from a team of three people – putting most local newspaper sites to shame with clear layout and even up-to-the-minute features such as the ‘most read’ section, podcasts, blogs and a text service. Most impressive is a set of RSS feeds from what, in old media, would have been called ‘the competition’ – Waghorn clearly recognises that making your site a destination is more important than pretending the competition doesn’t exist. “If people only have ten minutes at lunch to go online, they’ll want a site that has all the details.”

In the 14 months since launching RickWaghorn.co.uk with money from a redundancy package, the site has exceeded Rick’s “wildest expectations”.

“It is very much hard work. In year one we roughly took about £35-40,000 which was done on a commission split with my ad man. It has been a huge voyage of discovery.”

Now Waghorn is planning “another voyage of discovery.”

“The theory is that what we’ve done with Norwich should be equally applicable to most other provincial football clubs,” says Waghorn, “so we’re starting to have discussions with different regional journalists. Now the question is how you service that in an advertising sense, but one of the interesting things is if you can start offering, if you like, regionality, then I can start offering, say, advertising in Suffolk to companies in Norfolk.

“Or, let’s say we looked at the three Championship sides in South Yorkshire. If we had those we could serve them all with one advertising rep, but offer someone advertising on all three, and do a bundle sale.”

Teaming up with senior advertising executive Kevin O’Gorman has been crucial, with O’Gorman working “the local beat, bringing little local firms onto the internet who have built their own websites and need to market them.

“We give them a friendly face – someone they’ve been dealing with on a local basis in the last few years, and he holds their hand and helps them online. I do the editorial and he services the advertisers in a very old-fashioned newspaper sense – and then you find a mate with a background in web design and get the lucky breaks, but I’ve found a ‘Team Rick’ which has worked well so far.”

Another key to the site’s success has been its flexibility, and speed.

“It’s very peculiar for football because few regional papers have a Sunday edition, and at Norwich Evening News I was the last match report anyone ever read – at 5 o’clock Monday night when the paperboy put the paper through the door it was 48 hours after the event. In the age of rolling news that doesn’t make sense. Now, arguably after the official club site, I’m the first match report they read because my match report goes up on the website five minutes after the match finishes. All of a sudden I become a Sunday newspaper because I put out my match report, my interviews on Sunday. Now that presents a challenge to local newspapers because what are they going to put in their Monday night newspapers?

“Also, when you’re not part of a local newspaper group you’re nimble. I can hold my hand up to dozens of mistakes we’ve made but because you’re only two or three people we can say ‘Oh, that didn’t work, let’s try that,’ and I think that nimbleness is another of the key factors in dealing with the internet.”

Rick’s advice to journalists wanting to go it alone is to recognise the importance of advertising. “Start talking to your advertising department, because just as much as the editorial department is suffering from redundancies, so is the advertising department. Most journalists will tell you that the only time you bump into anyone from the advertising department is at the Christmas party when you’re trying to get off with one. But these people have skills and contacts, and you bolt the two of us together and that’s where it’s worked, so I’d start taking your friend from the advertising department out for a drink.”

Haymarket to spend millions recruiting digital experts

Good news for graduates with new media journalism skills. Journalism.co.uk reports on Haymarket’s digital recruitment drive:

“Haymarket Media Group is to invest £1.3 million over the next year to recruit and hire additional experts in the field of digital media.

“The publisher, which has already invested £7 million this year to expand and strengthen its online portfolio, is seeking skilled online project managers, designers, web editors and developers to join its Teddington and Hammersmith-based teams to work on existing and new multimedia projects.”

Trinity Mirror to revamp local websites

Liverpool Echo April 19 07According to Holdthefrontpage.co.uk Trinity Mirror is to upgrade its sites with “breaking news, video, audio, blogs and user-generated content.”

This includes a training programme with “a series of week-long video journalism courses and a series of one-day multimedia workshops, which will be attended by more than 70 journalists in the North West region before being rolled out across the division.”

Guardian wants ‘proper reporters’ for video and plans to invest 15 million online

Journalism.co.uk reports on The Guardian’s plans to invest £15m in its online operations and ‘big plans’ for video – “to take advantage of its advertising potential” (that old chestnut). Apparently Guardian Films, its television production company, has grown “rapidly over recent months to a point where it now broke even”. It seems broadcast-trained journalists can now look to the print sector for employment too:

“Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told conference that £1 million would be invested in video production and hiring experienced production staff.

“Currently self-taught reporters and camera people put projects together.

“We don’t think we can go forward without proper resources and reporters,” he said.

Meanwhile, the move to use the web to target overseas markets continures, with the Guardian intending “to launch an American version of its Comment is free portal as part of its bid to be the world’s leading voice of liberalism.”

Students blog about why online journalism skills are necessary

Last week saw the start of this year’s online journalism module: second year students, some on a specialist journalism degree, others studying media or television (last year all but one were journalism specialists, which perhaps indicates how students are beginning to realise the importance of online).

I kicked off the session by asking them why they felt they needed to study online journalism. Encouragingly, their responses were well informed. Then I gave them just 20 mins (hence typos) to write an op-piece-style blog post on why people needed these skills.

As you’d expect, these ranged from the dry factual-based approach to a more wit-based posts (it could be said that the latter is more appropriate for blogs). I particularly liked:

“For those who have not experienced online journalism you have suffered long enough, the time has come to don your spectacles and embark upon a life of microwaveable meals in front of your computer screen.”


“Not only do readers have a heightened level and speed of news intake on the internet, they have the ability to interact with the news inself. Posting responses to breaking news bulletins, and being involved in news forums and developing further informed disscussions within an ‘online community'” (Link)


“this is pretty good right? You get the chance to have your say and some hillbilly from the other side of the world with a computer can hear your voice. Or are you guys taking our jobs away from us? With the accessibility of this new technology, opportunity in journalism has never been so broad, right now not only am I and the rest of us alcoholic hacks competing against each other we now have to compete against any old joe with something to say. But this is ok. You guys have just raised the bar, and a bit of healthy competition is always good chicken soup for the soul.” 

Interestingly, the students seemed to equate “online journalism” with being taught to “write for the web”. That’s one lesson (one and a half if you include last week’s introduction to blogging). As for the other nine… well, more on those as the weeks go by.

Meanwhile, please click on the links below to go to those blog postings – please post a comment if you can so the students know they’re not typing in a vacuum:

Charlotte’s post

Why online journalism skills are essential in the news industry

Rant #1: A student studying a ‘dino’-profession

Online Journalism

Why are online journalism skills essential?

Todd Nash’s entry


Tapi’s entry

Why are Online Journalism skills essential?

Online Journalism…Why???

On the Line

Why Online journalism skills are essential in the news industry

Why online journalism skills are essential in the industry?

Are wikis the new blogs?

The following article appears in today’s Press Gazette, Sadly, since the demise of the /discuss webpage, this is the only place you’ll find it online:

Picture this: you write a story covering an issue on which there is a broad range of opinion – so broad that it would be impossible to summarise it effectively in one article alone. Let’s say: local transport problems. On the newspaper’s website, alongside your rather superficial analysis (quote, counter-quote, “only time will tell”) you place a ‘wiki’: a webpage that readers can not only contribute to, but also edit and change, so that one reader’s contribution is another reader’s subbing material.

Or how about this: you’re working on a story that involves reporters in Washington, London, and New York. Rather than relying on lengthy conference calls or an editor who has to read three separate articles and combine them into one, the journalists collaborate by editing a single webpage that all three have access to.

If recent discussions are anything to go by, these scenes could be part of newsroom life sooner than you think. A piece by American columnist Bambi Francisco last week argued that it was only a matter of time before more professional publishers and producers begin to experiment with using “wiki-styled ways of creating content” in the same way as they have picked up on blogs. This was picked up by Ross Mayfield, CEO of wiki company Socialtext who, guest-writing on the blog of The Telegraph’s Shane Richmond, wrote: “Unusually, it may be business people who bring wikis into the mainstream. That will prepare the ground for media experiments with wikis [and] I think it’s a safe bet that a British media company will try a wiki before the end of the year.”

A number of experiments with wikis have already shown its potential to both reach out to a readership – and to fall flat on its face. An example of the latter was the LA Times ‘wikitorial’ – an editorial piece on the Iraq war which the newspaper allowed readers to edit. After only a day the newspaper had to pull the feature due to readers flooding the site with inappropriate material.

On the positive side, however, was Wired’s experiment with the form late last year, when they allowed readers to whip an unedited article about (yes) wiki technology into shape. Over 300 users made edits, with one interviewing a Harvard expert, and another suggesting a contact – and when one user complained about some quotes from an interviewee, the original journalist, Ryan Singel, posted his interview notes so that users could pick a better one.

So can we look forward to a wiki utopia where our readers check our facts, spelling and grammar – and do our interviews to boot? Or will the wiki dream be killed off through the fear of cyber vandals treating our news websites as virgin walls for virtual graffiti?

A clue to the answer may come from the rapid adoption of blogs by newspapers and broadcasters, a move that has been fuelled in large part by economics: the appeal of free content to publishers has been strong, while at the same time the fear of losing audiences to an army of micro-publishing competitors is neatly addressed.

Like blogs, wikis offer cost-saving user generated content, instant reader community, and even – for those so desperate to trim staff that they are willing to risk ending up in court – volunteer subeditors.

Wikis are blogs 2.0: like blogs, they provide an arena for readers to critique and correct, to self-publish, and to form communities. But they are different in a key way: wikis are ‘articles by committee’. The range of voices editing each other results in an often conservative, fact-based piece of work that stands firmly on the fence. This is why the ‘wikitorial’ experiment failed – if you want outspoken opinion, don’t conduct a survey.

But like blogs, wikis will only flourish if as much time and care is invested in them as are invested in editing articles. Shane Richmond identifies two obstacles that could slow down their adoption: inaccuracy and vandalism. Both can be addressed if savvy editorial staff are assigned to monitor the page and step in – both to prevent legal issues, and to facilitate those much-sought-after A-List contributors.

For now, the wiki seems likely to become an in-house tool before it reaches the news websites. The Telegraph are already planning an internal wiki as a precursor to something for readers to get their teeth into. “Once we have a feel for the technology,” says Shane Richmond, “we will look into a public wiki, perhaps towards the end of the year.”

In the meantime expect a lot of half-hearted and misguided experiments, a lot of mistakes as a result, and a lot of pooh-poohing from those without the guts to try.

Why media will embrace wikis
LA Times ‘wikitorial’ gives editors red faces [http://technology.guardian.co.uk/online/news/0,12597,1511810,00.html]
The Wiki That Edited Me
Veni. Vidi. Wiki.
Veni, Vidi, Wiki (published article)
Shane Richmond: What makes wikis work
Wiki Wild West
Change is inevitable

New journalist job no.117: Database Editor

At some point someone should compile all the new jobs that have been created by news organisations’ shift online. Here’s one to start you off: Database Editor.

Read Derek Willis’ post about his new job at WashingtonPost.com – one I can imagine becoming increasingly important as news orgs start to realise the power of databases – from archives to stories that use databases to empower readers (e.g. Channel 4’s ‘NHS postcode lottery’ piece ).