Retail Gazette – Journalist

Retail Gazette large high res with strapline

Location: London

Closing date: October 1st

Retail Gazette is a well established and highly respected free-to-access retail news publication which is based online. We are currently looking for an experienced Journalist to join our team in West London. This is a permanent role, with a salary of £20k -£25k, depending on experience.

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Does Distance Learning Journalism Work?

Lucy Ruthum

University of Hertfordshire graduate Lucy Ruthnum

When graduate Lucy Ruthnum decided upon a career in journalism, she didn’t let financial restrictions get in her way…

I applied to study English Language and Communication & English Literature at the University of Hertfordshire with the certainty that I wanted to be a teacher.

Things changed after I worked in one of the worst jobs I have ever experienced in the summer before my last year at uni. This experience pushed me to apply for work experience at my local paper, Lynn News, just to feel as though I had accomplished something!

I was actually the first to be given the opportunity for nearly ten years and so was given plenty to do for the week. I went to court hearings, inquests, planning meetings, I went out with photographers and even tried my hand at editing. It was amazing and totally changed what I wanted to do with my life.

Luckily, they were impressed with me and they soon asked me to contribute a weekly lifestyle column while back at university. I finished my course with a 2:1 and in the months that followed I had to make a decision about how I was going to enter the world of journalism.

After three years at university it wasn’t financially viable for me to apply for an NCTJ Diploma course and live away from home. Instead, I took another option – distance learning. For just £500 this gave me all the course materials needed for the exams, along with additional support from online tutors.

This worked well for me, especially when I was offered a full-time trainee reporter position at the same paper. It meant I could train while learning on the job and avoid the trap of throwing thousands away on training and living elsewhere.

Teaching yourself the NCTJ is not easy and you need to have a lot of self-discipline in order to get it completed. Shorthand, for example, is extrememely difficult.

I taught myself most of it and managed to get up to 60 words per minute but when I hit a wall, I had to persuade my editor to provide me with a teacher to help bring me up to speed. It is helpful and I try to have a lesson once a week – I am now between 80 and 90wpm and am hoping to take my exam next April.

In the office, I have been very lucky to gain a wealth of practical reporting experience, and I also run our entertainment section. I love my job and have been able to further develop my local knowledge by working here – which is crucial for any reporter looking to make the most out of covering their patch.

I am certainly keen on branching out to have more focus on both online and broadcast journalism in the future. I have also been able to broaden my horizons by becoming the editor of a festival review website and I currently run my own blog.

Of course, I always want to keep learning. My time at the newspaper has made me see that print journalism is not something I wash to stay in forever, but it has definitely served me well and I do really enjoy it.

Have you ever considered distance learning as a way of developing your career prospects as a journalist? Post your comments below, or Tweet us @Journograds. You can follow Lucy on Twitter @LucyRuthnum

NCTJ Diplomas: A Trainee’s Survival Guide

Steph Niciu

Trainee journalist Steph Niciu

Trainee journalist Steph Niciu describes life on an NCTJ course and shares some of her tips for success…

The NCTJ Diploma is exactly what it says on the tin.  Eighteen weeks of media law, public affairs, news writing, sub-editing and enough shorthand to make your brain (and hand) hurt!

I’m seven weeks into my course at The City of Liverpool College. And what a seven weeks it has been. From the off, we’ve been learning what would usually be taught in a one year MA at an incredible speed.

After just three days we knew about defamation, had started our shorthand theory and were clued up about the intricacies of local council structure.

This is serious. It’s like a full time job.  Heck, we aren’t even students any more. Throw that out of the window. We are journalists.

So how do you survive a course like this? From personal experience, I think you need to be aware of the following:

1) You are a journalist 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 

Just because you finish your course at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean that news stops too. You need to be on the pulse all of the time: read newspapers, absorb online news and watch TV bulletins.

If you are on placement and are covering a patch (for example, I’m currently the Bootle Community Reporter for the Liverpool Echo) go out and familiarise yourself with the area at the first possible chance.

You always need to be on the lookout for potential news stories that could feature in your portfolio. Make use of social media at all times. And what about weekends? It shouldn’t make a difference – if there’s a story, go and cover it!

 2) Time management and organisation:

To ensure that you keep up with the demands of your course, try and stay up to date so you are not left overwhelmed. This means studying after you come home and on your days off.

You might not always have the motivation (‘The Great British Bake Off’, anyone?) but splitting the work into manageable chunks will help you a great deal.

It’s easy to get stressed on a course like this, so take steps to make it better for yourself.

 3) If in doubt, ask for help:

If you are struggling with any aspect of your course, speak to your tutor. After all, they are there to make sure you succeed. For example, if you are unsure about story ideas, ask them for advice.

As I have a physical disability, I’ve used my tutors to talk about issues I’ve been having with shorthand and my placement, which has been both encouraging and helpful.

Using the expertise around you will ultimately make you feel more confident and assured about yourself as a journalist. So, never be afraid to ask!

All in all, enjoy it! Remember to take advantage of the opportunities that the course will give you, good luck and have fun.

Are you currently on an NCTJ-accredited course, or have you recently completed one? How would you describe your experiences? Post your comments below or tweet us @JournoGrads. You can follow Steph on Twitter @StephNiciu

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How To Pitch Your Story To Editors

Oli Rahman

NCTJ graduate Oli Rahman

What are commissioning editors after from their freelance writers? How do you get published? What do you need to know about how the whole process works? Oli Rahman shares his tips…

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to get a free pass for a Guardian Masterclass to find out how to write the perfect story pitch.

Speakers included Time Out’s features editor Caroline McGinn, The Guardian Comment Is Free editor Natalie Hanman, and Delayed Gratification’s Editor Rob Orchard.

They all gave us their insight into how to pitch to editors, starting with something that rarely gets discussed: what does an editor’s job involve?It turns out (perhaps unsurprisingly) that they’re extremely busy people.

They’re struggling to keep the advertising team happy by ensuring that their copy contains a few references to toasters or some other irrelevant product, but they’re also trying to make sure they don’t break too many hearts by ‘spiking’ stories (killing them off before they go to print). And then they have to think about the budget and deadlines on top of that.

Being an editor in short, can be a stressful job. That’s why, when sending in a pitch, you need to be sure that it is something they feel is worth taking the time to read.

Imagine your name is John Doe and you are the features editor for Country Living Magazine. An email arrives in your inbox:

“Dear Joan,

I’m a journalist and I have a great idea for a feature for County Life Magazine.

I know that County Life is an amazing magazine with lots of amazing stuff to do with the county. So I was thinking of writing a feature about amazing stuff in the county, such as riding on horses and rolling in hay scented fields!

Please let me know how much you will pay me for my awesome skills with words.

Regards

Ben Smith”

Hopefully there aren’t many out there who would write something quite as bad as this, but it serves to illustrate my point. It captures everything wrong that can go wrong with a pitch email. It states the obvious “I’m a journalist” (No, really?) and is clearly a generic email that has been copied and sent to lots of people and only hastily edited.

The idea is mentioned but not actually elaborated on. There’s no talk of pictures, and the slightly pushy question about pay is inappropriately early. The pitch doesn’t seem to be tailored to the publication in any way. To add insult to injury, the editor’s name is misspelt, as is the publication’s title. And the idea itself sounds awful.

What an editor actually wants is a person who takes away the stress of them having to use their imagination – they already have far too much on their mind as it is. They want the idea to be almost fully formed so that they can picture how it would look on a page.

Including pictures or at least giving ideas about where good images could be sourced from is always advisable. Being polite can also work wonders. If an editor suggests a change it’s probably because they know their readership a lot better than you do as a freelancer.

The template pitch below is from Timeout’s features editor. She described it as the best pitch email she received in 2012:

“Hello Caroline,

Hope you’re well. I’d like to pitch this story to you as a potential 2-page feature for Time Out magazine. You’re always great at finding a new angle or new way to see the city, so I think Time Out would be the ideal place for it.

Urbex- London’s Secret Explorers.

SELL The rise of place hacking in the capital

When it comes to secret spaces there isn’t a better place to be than London. The combination of dereliction and development in the capital means there are dozens of places people don’t want you to go.

But that hasn’t stopped ‘place hackers’, professional urban explorers who, every night, go in search of the city’s off limit areas. The movement is spearheaded by Professor Bradley L Garrett, a researcher at the University of Oxford, who used the activity as the focus of his dissertation, and subsequently became one of Urbex’s key members in the process. He’s also developed a reputation among police and building site owners as a menace, and has subsequently been arrested (on a plane on the way back from Singapore), and had his house searched by the authorities.

The feature goes in search of the activity known as ‘urbex‘ and the man who leads it- Garrett is releasing a book on his time as an urban explorer later this year.

Links to images below.

I write regularly about new happenings in London on my blog, which you can see here: xxxxxxx.com

I’d love the chance to speak to you about this idea and whether you think it might be appropriate in some way for Time Out.

Many thanks for your time,

John Smith”

There are no clear rules for the right way to pitch, but according to the editors I heard at the masterclass, the above email is pretty close to perfect.

Always remember: the more you’ve thought about your piece and why you’re the right person to write it before you pitch, the less likely it is to end up being deleted or ignored.

Have you struggled to get your story pitches picked up by editors? Or have you been successful with your ideas? Share your thoughts by commenting below or joining the debate on Twitter with @Journograds

Journalism: Not For The Working Class?

Lauren Cope Graduation

Lauren at her graduation day – but is it all downhill from here?

Lauren Cope wants to break into journalism but is feeling the bite. She says those without strong financial support are destined to struggle…

You might have heard, but getting a job today isn’t easy – and working class graduates in particular are feeling the strain.

According to the Journalists at Work 2012 study by the NCTJ, 65% of those in the industry have a parent who is a professional, manager or director, with a measly 3% of new journalists coming from parents who are ‘unskilled’ workers – not reassuring statistics.

And then there are the internships – aspiring journos need an extravagant list of work experience placements under their belt if they even want to be considered.

Four in five young journalists claimed they had to do work experience before getting their first job. What’s most disappointing about this is that 92% of these were unpaid placements.

With some placements lasting a matter of months, costs of travel, lunch and other expenses mount up. Some companies are prepared to help out, but many others only offer expenses to those based in London. Plenty don’t offer anything at all.

Last year MP Hazel Blears proposed a bill to eradicate job postings for unpaid positions, but the bill was not even heard in Parliament.

Times are hard. Young journalists who don’t have already have their own savings or financial backing from their parents are ultimately being forced out of employment.

What’s also worrying is that, from many people I have spoken to, there seems to be the common story that employers favour graduates they already know of.

Tom, a recent graduate from the University of East Anglia, told me: “I was given a position because I impressed during my work experience. They liked that they knew how I worked and wrote already.”

“I paid travel expenses for the experience, but getting a job at the end of it has made it worthwhile. I guess that’s why we’re willing to pay so much – if it helps to get us a job, we’ll do anything.”

But the bad news doesn’t end there. To become a junior reporter at most UK newspapers, an NCTJ qualification is required.

The diploma, which teaches you essential elements of reporting, shorthand, court reporting and media law, is seen by many as the gateway to a journalism career.

If you have the foresight to combine this qualification with an undergraduate degree, then you can save money and time. If not, forking out for a Master’s, may be necessary.

Alternatively you can try the year-long course, or even the five-month fast-track diploma. But this isn’t cheap – the latter costs just under £2,000, without expenses. If you already have a student loan, getting this mandatory extra qualification might not be financially viable.

All this gloom and doom is only relevant, though, if you can find jobs to apply to. Journalism jobs are notoriously under-advertised, and although sites like JournoGrads, HoldTheFrontPage and Journalism.co.uk post listings, plenty of newsroom jobs are handed out through contacts.

In a crowded profession, getting replies to emails is uncommon, article pitches often go ignored and critique is rarely provided.

Financial experts might be insisting that the economy is improving, but the costs of getting into journalism are sticking around. More work than ever is needed to get our feet in the very, very expensive door.

What do you think? How accessible a profession is journalism, and how important are money and connections when it comes to getting onto the career ladder? Join in the conversation on Twitter @JournoGrads


 

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