Ten things all journalists must know

Journalism has never been an easy profession to get into, or stay in. Today there’s more competition than ever for jobs on newspapers or magazines that are downsizing at a seemingly inverse proportion.

However, here are ten things every would-be journalist should still be aware of:

1. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

If you have a contact, use it. Don’t be shy, it may be that the editor gave a talk at your college, school or training course and will remember the pasty kid who asked all the questions. Handy when you’re trying to get a start or at least some work experience.

2. Never forget your audience

You are not writing for yourself, your mum or your mate. It’s all about giving the readers what they want.

3. Never take anything at face value

Some of the best stories come from checking the smallest detail. It may be the bland press release that has crossed your desk doesn’t tell the full story, which handily brings us to…

4. Never trust a press officer

Just as you are there to represent your readers’ interests, they are there for their client. Being friendly is fine, just don’t let it compromise your judgement.

5. Don’t get hung up on qualifications

Some of the best journalists working today didn’t sit the training courses run in universities or colleges today. In the end it’s character and tenacity that will count.

6. Don’t be too proud to start at the bottom

Your first job won’t be your dream job and there’s a 99% probability it won’t be that well paid (mine was £10,500pa before tax). Just stick with it and dream of the day you are in that dream job.

7.  Always try and stay at least a year in a job – unless that dream role comes along

Your CV will look flaky if you keep jumping ship every six months because ‘the hours were long’, ‘the job was too dull’ or ‘my boss was a real pain’.

8.  Learn to sub

It’s always a handy skill to have. Everyone thinks they can write but few can sub. It’s not just a question of checking the spelling or grammar but stepping back from an article and questioning everything about it. A good sub can save their employer from legal action – always handy.

9. Always be looking to add new skills

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been in journalism, with today’s innovations anyone who stands still is putting themselves out of the market or – at the very least – limiting their options.

10. Most important of all – contacts, contacts, contacts

Exclusives don’t just happen. A trusted source who is only willing to talk to you makes life so much easier.

Have I missed anything?

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