How To Get Work Experience At NME

NME

Getting work experience with the iconic magazine was no easy feat for Anna. (Pic: NME.com)

Anna Hall writes about her work experience this summer with one of the UK’s most well-known music journalism magazines…

NME magazine has been a British institution for decades and, if you’re looking to break into music journalism, it is quite possibly the holy grail of work experience placements. After having (relentlessly) applied for a placement through the Editor’s PA Karen Walter almost a year ago, I got offered a week of work experience this June. NME typically only offers one-week placements. That sounds short, but believe me, it is well worth it! Just being in the offices, surrounded by people who are doing exactly what I want to do was thrilling.

NME is part of Time Inc., a media company that occupies most of the Blue Fin building right behind the Tate Modern on the beautiful South Bank. When I arrived, there were three other interns and we were given a row of computers with an impressive view of the river and the City’s glittering skyscrapers. It was so exciting being in the heart of London and inside the offices of the magazine that I’ve grown up reading.

On the first day Karen showed us around the building and introduced us to the team, but after that it was really up to us to be productive. While occasionally people would come up to us and give us jobs to do, we were mostly expected to ask for work. That was really daunting.

You barely know anyone so it’s important to be proactive (otherwise you’ll end up doing nothing all week!) I got to do a lot of different things, from transcribing interviews with members of The Strokes and The Monkees, to researching for articles and sifting through back issues.

The most helpful thing I got out of the experience was feedback on my writing. Karen sent us a list of new singles and we were asked to write up a 100-word review of 3-4 tracks. One of the writers on the team then sits down with you on your last day and gives you advice on how to improve your writing . Getting  that one-to-one guidance from an experienced music journalist is invaluable, even if the article doesn’t get published.

They say breaking into journalism is tough. In truth, even getting work experience in the industry is hard. It wasn’t easy for me. My advice is that simply sending an email isn’t enough. Karen is no doubt flooded with applications and there is a rumour that NME gets 200 requests for work experience a week!

When I applied, I sent in my CV, covering letter, and writing samples by post, followed by an email. I did this simply because I think getting a physical copy in the mail is harder to ignore and it shows that you’re serious enough about the job to go through that effort. I generally apply for all internships and work experience by mailing my application in; I’ve always received positive feedback about that.

Aside from that simple trick, if you want to secure a work experience placement at any magazine you need to write! You don’t need to be a Journalism major or an English major – many of the other interns weren’t. The most important thing is to be writing prolifically and consistently. All of the other interns at NME that I worked with had music blogs and updated them constantly with gig reviews, album reviews, and anything music related.

While I don’t run a blog, I write monthly for several small, independent publications and my university newspaper. There are so many opportunities to write that if you are not writing consistently, you really won’t be taken seriously. Be passionate, write prolifically, and then bombard Karen with your writing samples and CV (don’t be creepy though – no stalking). Everyone at NME really was lovely and if you are passionate about music journalism, they will take notice.

Would you like to write for us about journalism work experience you have had? Get in touch! For the latest on jobs and internships, follow us on Twitter @Journograds and like us on Facebook

My Day At The Daily Express

Selina was able to get a couple of bylines while on work experience

Selina was able to get a couple of bylines while on work experience

By Selina Sykes (@Selina_Sykes)

Before the end of last term I was lucky enough to be invited in for a day of work experience at the Daily Express newsroom. My lecturer at Kingston had asked if I would like to shadow him during his Sunday shift as news editor – though shadowing was far from what he had in mind.

I managed to get into the building with no problems by nabbing myself a pass from security. As it was a Sunday shift, the newsroom was fairly quiet, but it filled up and was buzzing by the evening. As soon as I sat down I could tell that I was in for a challenging day. I was logged in and shown how to check the wires (a platform which newspapers, magazines and broadcasters subscribe to for reports from news agencies trying to sell their stories).

My first task was to get to grips with checking the main agencies for stories that could be used for tomorrow’s paper. Although I was a bit nervous about picking the ‘wrong’ thing, I had done my homework and read a few Daily Express papers beforehand and suggested some property stories, which are popular with their readers. I was then assigned some stories to get on with.

I had only been in the newsroom for about an hour when a reporter doing the night shift rang in ill. Before I knew it, my lecturer was suggesting me as the replacement and I was cancelling my evening dinner plans. “You’ll have to learn a hell of a lot very quickly,” I was warned. I had arrived at 9am and would finish at midnight. Time for another coffee, I thought.

Though, in keeping with true journalist form, I found myself down the pub with a pint at lunchtime. I took a quick detour on the way back to the office for a caffeine fix. I was going to need it if I wanted to stay on the ball till midnight. I carried on working on stories while keeping an eye on the wires – which is easy to forget if you’ve got lots on your plate. After submitting some stories I was shown the news list and how the paper is laid out. Seeing how quickly the pros work made me realise that I have a long way to go.

As the day and night staff turnover began to take place, I was introduced to the night news editor. He was really nice, which put me at ease. My lecturer assured him that I was good and wouldn’t cock things up, wished me luck and left me to it. I had been told during the day that it would be a busy shift as it was the X Factor final and Sports Personality of the Year.

As by far the youngest person in the newsroom, the news editor gave me the X Factor final to cover. I had not watched a series since I was about 15, but I had just over an hour to rectify that before the final kicked off. I had assumed I would be researching and helping out with bits and bobs, but instead I was asked to write two different articles to cover each eventuality – one written as if Ben Haenow had won, another written as if Fleur East had won. That way we would be able to have the piece ready as soon as the result was declared. The pressure was on.

During a mini break I admired the view from the top of the building, shared the news with a few friends, slapped my cheeks a few times to keep myself awake and Googled like I never have before. Thankfully, finding the finalists’ back stories and details of the prize wasn’t too difficult and I managed to get two articles in before my deadline. There was no time to sit back and relax however, as we sat poised ready to lift quotes once the winner was announced. Luckily the news editor was at hand also taking notes – my shorthand is sadly not up to speed yet. Seeing how quickly and effortlessly he picked out the quotes and inserted them into the article ready for print was very impressive – I hope I can be that good one day.

I got such a thrill from being in a newsroom. I’ve worked at a local newspaper before, but there is so much more going on at a national. You feel that you are at the heart of the news and that you get to find things out before everyone else does – which is really exciting. We even knew who was being knocked out of the Strictly semi-final hours before it aired, as it was all pre-recorded. I had  to bite my tongue so as not to tell anyone, and made sure I didn’t text my mum. In the run up to the first edition of the paper, which went to print at 11pm, proof copies were slid on the desks – which is when I saw my first national byline. I couldn’t help but grin.

I had to get over my excitement quickly as my next task was already lined up. I was shown how to access a site where all the national papers are uploaded to check out the competition. The first edition of each paper is uploaded bang on 11pm as it goes to print. I was asked to go through rivals and note down their headlines. This is expected to be done with quite some speed so there is no chance to get a sneaky read.

By the time the shift ended, it felt like the adrenaline-fuelled hours had flown by. I said goodbye to the news editor, who said he hoped to see me again soon before I ran for the last train – I was due to start a work placement at a local newspaper the next day. Starting out in journalism may involve a lot of graft, but when you finally get somewhere you know you’ve earned it.

Want to blog for Journograds? Or have you already written a post you think our audience would like? Get in touch by emailing the editor, or dropping us a line via Twitter @JournoGrads

Student Radio And Building A Portfolio

(Pic: Curtis Kennington)

(Pic: Curtis Kennington)

By Mariella de Souza (@energeticsloth)

At the start of my final year at university I’d found out that the student radio station was seeking presenters.  I’d never done anything radio-related before and there wasn’t a large amount of criteria that applicants needed to meet. All you had to do was deliver a pitch to the radio team, explaining what type of show you’d do.

The position was open to all students with an interest in delivering music, discussion & debate, news – anything that people wanted to listen to, really. I saw it as a creative form of public speaking that would be an exciting experience for a budding journalist.

I’d just returned from my Erasmus exchange year in France and had acquired a taste for French jazz and contemporary. My friend was in the same position and was also keen on joining. I thought it would work better having a co-host to get discussion flowing, so we decided to pitch together – the idea was a radio show based on our love for France.

We’d centre it around French culture, our exchange experiences and diverse francophone music. It would be an excellent outlet to share our passion for the country whilst encouraging other students to pursue their own exchange experiences.

After a 20 minute pitch and discussion with the committee, we secured a weekly prime time slot. They loved our idea and the niche concept. We were so excited – after what was a relatively simple process, we now faced immense scope to create our own show. ‘La Boulangerie’ (meaning ‘The Bakery’) was born.

And so it began. We were informed about the schedule, content restrictions (e.g swearing) and the exciting protracted deal with Ofcom to make the station the first FM university station in the country. We didn’t know this detail before, and that made things all the more exciting. Maybe it would even happen whilst we were working there!

We learnt about the Myriad audio system, the process of uploading, reformatting and logging music under strict music copyright guidelines. It was a really professional setup. The station had its own building with a recording studio and a large Star Trek-esque board with three monitors to manage the audio.

Each week we jotted down script, accounting for every minute, calculating song length and discussion topics. Some weeks we had guests discussing topics such as food, music or travel around France. We would put out whimsical questions to listeners, provoking debate, to great reception. Our listeners came from our show’s Facebook page, our friends, family and campus adverts. The station had its own popular website too.

Then the news came that Ofcom had agreed to make Insanity Radio an FM station. It would be broadcasted to the local area. This was a historical agreement. We would be reaching a wider unnumbered, anonymous audience.  This made us take everything even more seriously. It was great to receive messages on air that a random listener loved one of the songs or was responding to a poll we’d put out.

In addition to walking away with our degree scroll at graduation in one hand, we were carrying an excellent media portfolio in the other. Testing the waters, gaining experience and spearheading your journalism career is ten million times easier at university than in the competitive world after graduation. It was such great fun and employers are always intrigued how I came to be a radio DJ!

Got a blog idea you would like to write about? Send us your pitches or Tweet us your ideas @JournoGrads and we’ll take a look!

My First Day As A Journalism MA Student

By Selina Sykes (@Selina_Sykes)

So I’ve just finished my first day as a journalism MA student at Kingston University. I had been warned during the interview process that this course would be tough, but boy did it hit us all hard.

The day was so jam-packed and there was so much to take in that I soon forgot how nervous I was about being new to the university and not knowing anybody. Fortunately everyone I’ve met so far is incredibly friendly and easy to talk to (a vital quality for any journo).

The journalism lecturers made it very clear from the word go that this year is going to be hard work – but worth it in the end. The course is made up of an MA and NCTJ qualification (that’s two qualifications at once, just to emphasise – so lots of exams and deadlines!)

There are about 30 pieces of assessed work, with the first due in October. Shorthand exams make up a large bulk – I can tell already that this is going to be the killer, especially in the first few weeks. This year is going to be a case of constantly trying to keep my head above water.

I have always been an organised and proactive person but this course and my other writing commitments will certainly be keeping me on my toes. I need to fit in commuting from London into my schedule as well – though I have already decided this can be an allotted time slot for extra shorthand practice and reading news.

I have bought a ridiculously big bag to carry my life around with me, so I am prepared. I am also moving house this weekend, which has has made things rather chaotic. Got to love good timing!

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From jargon guides to exam timetables – time to get to grips with the reading material!

It was great to have a few opportunities during the day to have a chat with lecturers and hear where they have worked. There were obviously a lot of impressive CVs in the building and being taught by people in the field with contacts is amazing opportunity. During lunch I found out that one of the lecturers who specialises in sport is a Chelsea fan and has interviewed Frank Lampard – very jealous!

We then had another session with the journalism and magazine students during which we found out what exactly we had signed ourselves up for. We started with a news quiz – I don’t like to brag but I was quite chuffed to have got the top score with 18/20! Next we were loaded with style guides, exam dates, work placement handbooks and newsroom jargon booklets.

We were then given a careers talk and told that we needed to arrange a minimum ten-day placement, ideally during the Christmas holidays, for our NCTJ portfolios. I am so far very impressed by the amount of career support that is available for journalism students and I can already see why the course has such a high employment rate – always a nice thing to hear when you’ve invested a lot of money into further study.

After a long day we ended with a much deserved drink at the faculty welcome reception. Although I am still pretty overwhelmed by the amount of information I’ve taken in and the course’s sheer intensity, I am ready to get stuck in. Roll on Monday!

Have you just started a journalism course? Want to write about your experience? Share your views with us on Twitter @JournoGrads or drop us an email!

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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