Journalism for PPLS students – a profession with many guises

Are you interested in a career in journalism? It’s a career area which plays to PPLS strengths, whether it’s your understanding of language from LEL, of how people are influenced from psychology, or your logical approach to building arguments and problem solving from Philosophy. A browse through the PPLS graduate destinations over recent years throws up PPLS grads working in various different areas of journalism.

At the recent Creative and Cultural Careers Festival in March (CCCF17)we had a fantastic panel of speakers who shared  their top tips for getting into this area.

 CCCF17 hosted an inspiring panel of speakers:

  • Chaired by: Dr Kate Wright, University of Edinburgh, an award-winning journalist for the BBC who is now the university’s Chancellor’s Fellow in the Cultural and Creative Industries.
  • Hilary Mitchell, BuzzFeed UK,.Scotland Editor for BuzzFeed UK, has also written for the Guardian, the Metro, the Daily Record and the Independent in the past, as well as previously working in our very own Edinburgh University Students’ Association.
  • Nick Oswald, Bitesize Bio, after a molecular biology PhD, time working at biotech startups and then in labs, he set up a blog to help answer the questions scientists ask each other. Now BitesizeBio.com is a popular website viewed by almost a quarter of a million researchers per month.
  • Ben Thomas, BBC, a journalist and producer for BBC Scotland News, working for television and radio. Ben’s experience includes Panorama, Radio 5Live, undercover investigation, documentaries, and rolling news coverage of major UK and international events such as the 9/11 attacks in New York
  • Tom Gordon, The Herald, Scottish Political Editor, has been reporting since 1998. Starting out covering Glasgow City Council, then moving to Holyrood in 2004.
  • Mark Fisher, National Union of Journalism, studied Drama, and worked in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe reviewing theatre, before gradually working his way up to being theatre editor at the List – now working freelance and for the NUJ.

Their top tips for getting into Journalism were:

  • Know yourself – jobs in the sector vary widely depending on whether you are working freelance or employed, so try to get a sense of what your parameters are, e.g. what do you want from a job in terms of location, whether you’re self-employed or not etc
  • Be specific about what you want, and what you can offer when you ask for work – If you are sending out a speculative application, make their job easy by identifying how you fit straight away. If you can ask about getting experience in a specific area, that helps the employer to match you to a gap they may be trying to fill. And, if you can, send examples of your work.
  • Write and keep writing – practice the discipline of being clear, succinct and timely with submissions – it is a skill that you can hone
  • No experience is too small, e.g. start writing reviews for student newspapers or at the Fringe festival and you’ll start building your portfolio
  • Your qualification is not as important as who you are – be brave! You, your qualities, determination, insight and creativity are what are important!
  • Don’t wait for permission and don’t expect opportunities to come to you – be proactive, find your own, talk to people (do your research on individuals and flatter them), get out there and just do it!
  • Get some support – ask a professional to mentor you
  • Don’t be shy about asking to get paid for what you do!

What next?

  • Read about the sector via our website and MyCareerHub including tips for how to get into local and niche areas of Journalism
  • http://www.nctj.com/ – The NCTJ offer good, practical courses to be able to hit the ground running (but, as above, qualifications are not as important as your experience and qualities!)
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