10 Tips From Music Week’s News Editor

Rhian Blog Post

Rhian Jones is the current news editor of Music Week

By Rhian Jones (@JonesJourno)

I’m now just over two years into my journalism career. After graduating from the school of Janet Murray as a journalist’s apprentice in April 2012, Music Week – the most rock and roll trade magazine out there – took me on as a staff writer. I’ve since risen the ranks to news editor and it’s about time I reveal the integral lessons learnt along the way, and what a job in journalism today is really like. Is it all it’s cracked up to be? Read on…

1) Multi-skilled really is multi-skilled

I don’t just mean all the fun stuff like being an expert interviewer, feature writer, news reporter and reviewer. Try sub-editor, designer, website updater, photographer and administration assistant too. It’s not glamorous but you need to prove you can do all the boring stuff too if you want to progress.

A year ago I’d never understood the appeal of sub-editing. Where’s the fun in editing someone else’s words? I’m a journalist and I will spend my time writing my own thank you very much. Well, it turns out that the majority of editors/deputy editors/senior people at magazines/newspapers climbed the greasy pole through sub-editing roles, rather than traditional journalism roles. So if you want to get promoted, you need to have A* sub-editing skills – grab any chance you can to start building them now. Revel in being an integral cog in the team that gets your publication out the door.

2) Be meticulous

Don’t brush anything under the carpet, it will only come back and make more work for you later on. Triple check every single name, date, fact and make sure every word makes complete sense – just because it sounds good, doesn’t mean it is good. Be the best editor of you own work you can be.

After deciding I was 99% sure all the names were correct in a recent feature it was pointed out that I’d misspelt Chaka Khan as Cakra Khan. The difference between a 10-time Grammy Award winning soul singer and an Indonesian singer who, according to his Wikipedia page, “started his career in the music world since 2012. With music and lyrics that are easy to digest”. Check, check and check again.

3) Research

If you don’t listen to the album before interviewing the artist, or find out as much about the interviewee’s life as Google allows, or discover what that company executive actually does, you’re likely to get a pretty boring interview. Proper research throws up the best questions and you might end up getting an exclusive headline-grabbing comment.

I used to be terrified of reading someone else’s articles on future subjects in case my brain somehow plagiarised all the information and wrote it into my article without my knowing. This has never happened.

But without researching your subject first, that interesting fact may have never been discovered, or you might not have asked that excellent out-of-the-box question. It also makes you sound fairly knowledgeable and intelligent during the interview by being able to understand references and add in your own. Don’t be afraid of asking colleagues for question ideas either. As long as you’ve got a few of your own first, there’s no harm in collaboration.

4) Accept your niche

After reading ex-Heat magazine editor Mark Frith’s Celeb Diaries I was convinced I wanted to work for a celebrity gossip magazine. Then I read Piers Morgan’s The Insider and wanted to work for News Of The World. The Guardian was the dream after studying sociology. During the phone hacking scandal it was The Times. Cosmopolitan, Glamour and many more have also featured at some point. But instead I ended up at a B2B (business to business) music industry magazine.

It’s not as nonsensical as it sounds – I studied music at college and Amy Winehouse, No Doubt and Paramore are my heroes – and it works. Some interviews have made headlines in the Mirror, The Independent, The Times, Metro, NME and more. Glamorous award ceremonies, trips abroad and celebrity meetings are also fairly frequent.

Since journalism is SO BLOODY COMPETITIVE (yawn), the sooner you start carving out your niche and stand out from the rest, the better. Plus, if you join a title that serves a small industry, you have a much better chance of being the star of it. You’ll find all the things that should make you want to be a journalist in the first place (love of writing, interviewing and news) anywhere.

5) You can’t change the world

There are lots of things I don’t like about the UK: our education system, homophobia, racism, ignorance, sexism, out of touch politicians and greed. So my initial plan was to write things that will change them all. Well, I can’t. And neither can you. But, you can do your small part.

Interview a pop star who’s down with the kids and ask them about misogyny, explain why a rock magazine talking about male depression is cool and do your best to get more women commentators and interviewees in your publication. Make just one person think about something in a different way and you’ve made your mark.

6) Be nice and fair

There will be days when you never want to see or speak to anyone who works in PR ever again. ARTIST RELEASES BRAND NEW SINGLE!!! SMALL AND UNKNOWN MEDIA COMPANY LAUNCHES INNOVATIVE APP!!! STARTUP SEEKS INVESTMENT!!! – all of these are often pitched as interesting stories.

It’s very easy to get frustrated, ignore calls or angrily slam the phone down while juggling interview transcriptions, an exploding email inbox and a pile of pages to sub-edit. If it’s a crap story and there is genuinely nothing you can do with it, it’s fine to say no – give an explanation as to why but always thank them for calling. What happens if that PR person one day has a client that has a huge exclusive story but they remember your rudeness and take it elsewhere?

Plus, you represent your publication at all times – if you are thought of as a bastard, that reflects badly on the people you work for. Relationships in journalism are very important (see why here) and a bit of courtesy goes a long way.

7) You make the news

No, not you personally (providing the Christmas party doesn’t get too out of hand), but it’s up to you to create a story. This might involve something said during an interview, the results of a press conference or the accumulation of a few opinions. It’s very rare that a fully formed lead lands in your lap so always be on the look out.

Think about things from all angles – you’d be surprised at what could be relevant. On the same vein, it’s also your job to make something interesting. This is more for trade publications, but sometimes you might have to write an ad-supported feature that has every reason to be achingly inane. Don’t switch off straight away just because money is involved. We all need to get paid so make the best of it that you can – you never know what you might discover.

8) Many mistakes are inevitable

Despite the mass of emphasis placed on the value of journalism degrees, the real learning starts on the job and never really stops. So expect to make mistakes. Lots of them. You’ll have many moments of realising that you know nothing, but don’t let it get you down.

Don’t compare yourself to those who are ten years more advanced than you. Whether they admit it or not, they were you once. If you’ve got someone who is willing to take the time to teach you, rinse that for all it’s worth and take note of every bit of feedback. It’s also far better to have an opinion that you regret later on than write a boring piece full of fact and only facts.

Don’t be afraid of publishing something that might ruffle a few feathers. As long as it’s the truth and your editor is happy, what’s the worst that can happen? You get a pissy email from some communications person? Who cares! They can’t do anything.

9) Try and write things ASAP

This is where a portable mac/laptop comes in handy. Try and type speeches as they happen (as well as recording) – even if you only get half of it that saves a hell of a lot of transcribing and you’ll be surprised at how much of that information goes into your brain.

It makes it far easier when writing up and take a note of the times on your recording when someone says something important/interesting so you can quickly find a quote later on. There’s nothing more demotivating than writing a feature/interview weeks after it’s happened and you’ve forgotten what was great about it.

10) Party like a journalist

Go to events, conferences, ceremonies and launches. Yes, they are going to be outside of working hours but they are also likely to involve free drinks.

Don’t be afraid of going on your own. You are highly likely to meet someone new and in a few years you’ll be recalling those lonely drinks to rooms of people you now know because you put the work in. Being drunk at a party is also usually where the best stories are found.

Finally: work hard, say yes to everything and have fun. It is, as expected, the best job in the world.

Rhian originally wrote these piece for her personal blog. Do you have any lessons to share from your first job in journalism? Get involved by tweeting us @JournoGrads or commenting on our Facebook page.

Can’t Find A Journalism Job? Branch Out

Positivity Cup

Staying optimistic about your job prospects isn’t always easy (Pic: Amy Dicketts)

By Amy Dicketts (@amydicks)

If you’re a student or recent graduate reading this post, chances are you’re whiling away your summer in a hot office somewhere, working for free in the hope of securing that elusive goal: a job in journalism.

I was in the same position last year; the only person eating a packed lunch in Canary Wharf, trying to save pennies while pursuing my dream role. It’s not much fun is it? But working for free shouldn’t be the only way of getting in to journalism – and it isn’t.

By the time I was offered my first job after graduation – as a community manager – I was over the moon, even though it wasn’t a journo job. It was paid and it was permanent and when you’re fresh out of university and feeling battered and bruised by the job market that’s all you care about. Taking the job meant leaving an unpaid internship at a magazine. Some people might say that I should have stuck it out if I was really committed to a career as a journo, but I think that branching out was the best decision I ever made.

A community manager is literally a manager of a brand’s community. For me it means managing and moderating a forum-based community and maintaining and growing a fairly substantial Twitter account. This might seem like a step in the wrong direction for someone who wanted a career in print, but as journalism becomes increasingly digital it is no longer enough to simply be able to write. A cursory glance at job listings proves this.

A Junior editorial assistant at the Huffington Post, for example, now needs to be able to build pages, seek out viral stories and drive social media traffic, as well as produce top quality content. Taking a step away from journalism might well give you the chance to add these extra strings to your bow, making you a much more attractive candidate.

Don’t see it as a move away from journalism but as a detour around working for free. People shouldn’t be expected to work for nothing in the vain hope that it might one day pay off. Taking a creative job in a different industry is just another, fairer way to gain the necessary skills to secure your ideal role.

It could also give you the opportunity to see what else you want to do. Brands are hiring communicators in a big way. From charities to councils, businesses are now seeking socially-savvy people who can get their message out to people in an engaging and effective manner. Writing for a publication is no longer the only way to communicate with people.

Will you miss writing? Probably. I used to, so to counter this I started up two blogs, commuteblog.co.uk and yngldn.blogspot.co.uk, to provide a creative outlet and to teach myself a bit more about different forms of online publishing. Freelancing will always be another means to getting your work out there, if you are willing to put in the hours outside of a full time job. It’s not always easy to balance it all, but it can pay off hugely in the long run.

The one thing to remember is this: there is no single ‘right’ path to securing your dream job. If you put in the work and keep your goal in mind, there’s no reason at all that you can’t get there in the end.

Have you ever been tempted to take a different path to reach your end goal? Or are you doing that now? Have your say by tweeting us @JournoGrads or commenting on our Facebook page.

10 Journalism Job Interview Questions

Emma Ann job seeker

There’s more to interviews than looking the part (Pic: Emma Ann)

By Catherine Hancock (@catherineha1991)

In April I had my first journalism interview and since then, I’ve had two more.

Interviews are a learning curve, and no two are the same. The more you go to and (hopefully that wont’ be too many), the more familiar you’ll become with the process.

Out of the three interviews I have been in, similar questions kept cropping up – so I’ve put together a list of things you may be asked and what you should expect:

1) A test

News Quiz

Never be surprised if they throw a news test your way

Oh yes, always be prepared for a test – even if you are not pre-warned about one.

The test could be on anything – whether it’s writing up a story from a press release, or a quiz to see how much you know about the local area and current affairs.

From my experiences I have only had one test and that was in my last interview.

It was a timed ten minute quiz, with questions including: “What is the population of Worksop?”, “Who is the governor of the Bank of England?” and “Who is the editor of the Daily Mail?”

As with the nature of journalism: expect the unexpected!

Questions You Might Be Asked:

2) Tell us about yourself

Catherine baby for blog post

Just how far back should you go?

It’s that old question which everyone is unsure about how to answer!

Don’t give a step-by-step documentation of your birth up until now, or that time you tried to strip naked on the beach (Yep, the above picture is me).

Instead, think about any key moments in your life that will impress and are relevant to the job.

For example – talk about university, work placements and throw in a few things you like doing in your spare time and any clubs you are part of.

Personality plays a big part in getting that job and the interviewers will want to know if you will fit into their team.

3) What do you think of our website/ newspaper, what do you think we could do better?

catherine hancock blog homepage

Room for improvement?

Now, this isn’t the time to slate all the things you dislike about the company’s publications.

It will offend your potential employers and won’t make you look very good.

This is a chance for the interviewers to get an outsider’s view of their work and to see if you are capable of coming up with ideas which will improve the company as a whole.

Start off with positive aspects of their website/ newspaper, then move onto things they could improve on.

For example, you could word it like this: “You have great video content on your website, I think having more of this would drive people to the site.”

4) Tell us about a time when you have found your own story

Catherine Hancock newspaper

Get out there and find some stories

If you go to an interview for a trainee reporter role and haven’t found your own story before, then there is something wrong!

Being able to find your own stories is a key quality of a journalist, so make sure you have at least one example to show to the interviewers.

It doesn’t have to be anything groundbreaking, but a it should be a story that shows you can do the following: spot a story idea, have the confidence to pitch the idea to a newspaper, know who to talk to for quotes, are able to write the story without help and can take a picture.

All of this shows initiative and that you already have the basic skills of a reporter.

5) Scenario: What would you do if someone called the newsroom and said there was an explosion in a nearby town?

Talid Khatib explosion

Be prepared to think on your feet (Pic: Talid Khatib)

This question comes up time and time again in some form, so be prepared for it.

It shows the interviewers you are a modern day thinking journalist. So for example, if this is an interview with a newspaper, in this digital age the first thing you would do is get something up on the website.

Explain how you would get something up and published like: “It has been reported there has been an explosion in an industrial building in Chilwell, more to follow.”

Inform your editor and get someone to check social media for pictures and eyewitness accounts, which you’ll use for quotes for an updated version of the story.

Call the emergency services so they can officially confirm what has happened. What ever you do, keep updating the website with more information.

6) Who would be your key contacts in the area?


Contacts are an essential tool for journalists

I sometimes find this question a bit difficult because I think it wouldn’t be as simple as people in the police force, hospital staff or local councillors.

Think about others who could give a tip off for a story – for example key people in the area such as teachers, shop owners or other key members of the community.

Tell the interviewers how you would get to know people in the community so you’d be the first one they’d contact if a news story broke out.

It’s usually the people you least expect who give you a diamond of a story.

7) How would you cope with door knocking?

door knock

So-called ‘death knocks’: Never a pleasant experience

Door knocks or ‘death knocks’ aren’t a myth and unfortunately these things happen more often than you may think. In case you don’t know, death knocks are when a reporter goes to the house of someone who has recently been bereaved to interview them.

I once heard a horror story of a journalist who went on her first death knock and someone opened the door, greeting her by chucking a bucket of water over her head.

Horrific huh?!

In my last interview I got asked how I would cope with door knocking and even though they sound like horrible things to do, you have to approach the situation with sensitivity but in a firm manner.

You have to respect the families wishes if they tell you to go away. Leave your number with the family, sometimes they will call you. Refer to the PCC code and talk about the ethics of journalism.

8) How do you feel about working weekends and some evenings?

Catherine Hancock

Work weekends? Moi?

If you are going into journalism for a 9-5 job, then you are daft.

Every newsroom is different, but at some point you will have to work weekends and some evenings, because most news isn’t planned.

Say you are flexible and more than happy to swap sunbathing in the garden at short notice to go and cover an exciting story.

Nod along.

Give examples of when you have done this in the past at university in work, and you will be well away.

9) How much do you use social media, which sites do you use the most?

social resume

Don’t underestimate the power of social media

A wise editor once told me that they wouldn’t even consider someone for an interview if they didn’t have a Twitter account.

That may seem harsh, but in reality social media is such an important way of sourcing news stories. By not having a Facebook or Twitter account, you are automatically at a distinct disadvantage.

Mention how much you use social media, how you use it, and how you would use it to find a story.

Make sure you know how many Twitter followers you have! This was a question I got asked in an interview and luckily I knew the exact number.

Talk about your blog if you have one and tell them what type of people you follow or pages you like.

Also talk about the negatives of finding stories by using social media, for example making sure information is legit and how to trawl through all the spam!

10) Give us an example of when you have worked as part of a team to get something done

Catherine Hanckock team

Teamwork - a vital attribute in most working environments

In my last two interviews I never spoke about my experiences of working a part-time job at Costa Coffee, because I didn’t think they were relevant.

In my last interview, however, I was encouraged to talk about it and it enabled me to find the perfect example of working as a team whilst under a lot of pressure.

If you have an example of working as part of a team in a newsroom then use it, but if you don’t, think about the time when you ran the student newspaper or when you were at work and had to make 10,000 lattes in a day, whilst showing the new person what to do and talking to the customers at the same time.

Just because the answer isn’t journalism based doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant to the job.

Have you recently had a job interview for a journalism role? What questions were you asked? Share your experiences on Twitter @JournoGrads or on Facebook

What Should Employers Do For Interns?

Newsroom by David Sim

The newsroom can be a daunting place for interns (Pic: David Sim)

By Hetti Lawrence (@hetti_rose)

Google the phrase ‘work experience’ and you’ll find many articles by top organisations advising students and graduates on how best to behave on their visit to a working environment. Wear smart clothes; be friendly and engaging; be punctual; be clean shaven… the list goes on and on.

However, there is very little advice available for the companies who accept these interns. In my opinion, they are in far more desperate need of advice than we are.

As prospective interns, we go to the trouble of calling or emailing companies, often multiple times, begging them to briefly accept us into their lives, to graciously undertake any odd jobs that they don’t want to do, usually for no pay.

As a result, these companies have on offer dozens of very keen students, often with excellent qualifications and prior experience, willing to work for them in exchange for a decent reference for when we decide its high-bloody-time someone paid us for our work.

So, because of this hideously unfair arrangement that is now basically mandatory to all students and graduates should they wish to secure a decent job (or perhaps even any job at all), I have decided to write a very necessary list of pointers for all employers who are considering offering placements or internships:

1) Assign someone to be responsible for the intern. Make clear to the intern that this is the person they should go to should they have any questions about anything. Make sure the intern knows this person’s name, where they sit in the office, their contact details etc.

2) Introduce the intern to everyone in the office – or, if it is a particularly large office, just to the people in the immediate area. Make sure the intern knows everyone’s name and what they do, and encourage your colleagues to be welcoming and engaging back.

3) Give the intern a tour of the office. It doesn’t have to be particularly in-depth, just the basics – where the toilets are, where the fire exits are, where to make a cup of tea/coffee, where to keep/have your lunch etc. Make sure they know/have written down any codes needed to get in and out of the building (ideally email them this ahead of their arrival) and make sure they know basic information like when they’re expected to arrive and when they can go home.

4) Take the intern to their desk and familiarise them with the equipment they will be using. Ideally, your company should have a ‘work experience email’, so work can be sent to the intern and so that they have a contact address to give out should they need to speak to anyone. Also, make sure the intern knows the company number should they need to ask anyone to call them back, as well as any out-dialling codes etc.

5) MAKE SURE THE INTERN ALWAYS HAS SOMETHING TO DO. Before you bring someone in on work experience, consider whether there will be enough work to occupy them for a week/fortnight. If not, be honest with them: it’s ultimately in their best interests. Let them know they will be first in line should an opportunity for a work experience placement arise in the near future.

And if you DO decide to take them on, here are some pointers on how to keep them busy:

● Before they arrive on the first day, have a list (mental or written) of tasks for them to undertake, ideally some which are ongoing that they can always fall back on should they finish other work.

● If you notice they are finishing work quicker than expected, take that on board. Offer them work that is more challenging and see how they get on.

● If the worst happens and you completely run out of things for them to do, ask other colleagues to see if they would like any assistance with anything. Perhaps the intern could just shadow them for a while, particularly if they are making any out-of-office trips.

Consider this: you have taken on an intelligent, enthusiastic young person who desperately wants to work in your field, perhaps even within your company. If you screw up their first experience in that environment, your sector may have just lost one of the greatest future employees it could have ever had.

Do you have any tips yourself that you think employers should take on board when hiring interns? Join the debate on Twitter @JournoGrads or on Facebook

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