So far on Jump For Journalism, I have interviewed a journalist at a celeb gossip mag, a travel editor, an NCTJ student and a multimedia journalist. Recently, when trying to find interviews, I have wanted to continue with this diverse bundle of journalists. My next hunt was for a sports journalist…
Luckily, I was successful with the mission, after getting into contact with Talal Musa, Sports Sub-editor at the DailyMail, as well as being a video games journalist for MailOnline.
You can read his contributions to MailOnline here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?s=&authornamef=Talal+Musa
Or follow him on Twitter here: @Mooseygamer
Not only writing for a national publication, he has also done the fast-track NCTJ course, like Kayleigh had in our last interview.
Talal agreed to an interview, and gave some very helpful and detailed pieces of advice for aspiring journalists like me. It was a great read to see his journey in getting a full-time staff job. Read on …
Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions! Firstly can you tell us what your current journalism position is?
Staff sports sub-editor the Daily Mail. Gaming correspondent for Mail Online.
What initially sparked your interest in the journalism industry?
Having a great uncle who was the editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post and a mum who works for The Times meant that journalism has always been a big part of my life. I tried other things, but was always drawn back to it.
What education/training do you have which you think helped towards your journalism career? E.g. degree/NCTJ
I have a first class BSc Psychology degree from the University of Leeds and an NCTJ qualification in newspaper journalism. This was done on a three-month intensive course at Harlow College, and I thoroughly recommend it.
Did you complete many work experience placements? If so, how were you successful in getting these and how did you make yourself stand out?
In a nutshell… I started helping out at thelondonpaper aged 16, before writing my first article for The Times after my A-levels. After uni, I joined the News of the World on a work experience placement, where I was kept on. A few months later, they paid for me to study at Harlow to get my qualification. I shifted at The Sun to supplement my income.
I joined News of the World on a work experience placement, where I was kept on.
During my time at the News of The World, I also travelled around the county, working as reporter for different regional papers – including the Manchester Evening News and Yorkshire Evening Post. I then got the News of the World Graduate scheme, only for the paper to close on the same day. I had been there almost two years. I then joined the Daily Mail as a causal news sub-editor, before getting their grad scheme and ending up on the sport department. I also decided to rejuvenate the Mailonline gaming section. Phew….!
What advice would you give to wannabe journalists who are applying for work experience but getting no replies or just rejections?
1. Don’t give up! Lots of people said no to me, but I kept on pressing and eventually they would let me on. Often, if you say you will come in for free, it shows that you really are serious about learning. Don’t be happy sitting there on Facebook, wondering what to do – the key is to bring in stories – good ideas make a good journalist.
2. DO NOT EMAIL PEOPLE! They will most often be bombarded with emails. Ring them – at least so they can hear your voice FIRST – then, when they ask you to send a CV, they will be expecting it. Always try and get through to the department you want.
3. Start up a newspaper – it’s great if you have done some stuff for your student paper, but who hasn’t these days? Why not start a rival paper and carve your own name in the college / university’s history? There’s not just one newspaper on the shelf, is there?
4. Cuttings – reviews and stuff like that is fine, but it’s not going to get you noticed. Most journalists want you to have some sort of news experience. That DOES NOT MEAN RE-WRITING PRESS RELEASES! You have to source your own stories. if you can’t…then learn.
5. ALWAYS thank the head of the department for having you in – and ask to come in again or for a reference. You’ll be amazed at how many work experience people come in and out without saying a word.
6. ALWAYS HAVE IDEAS – on your first day, know the newspaper you’re going to inside-out. Have a list of ideas that you can present when you’ve settled in after a couple hours.
7. ALWAYS check your CV!
Just know that ANYONE CAN DO IT! I am not a good journalist by any means. But I want to be.
You have done a lot of freelance work at publications such as Mens Health, The Sun and The Times. What is it like being a freelance journalist?
Fine, and you can make a good career out of it. But there are loads of freelancers around. I was not going to stop until I got a staff job. If you want a staff job, they are out there. Home in on a paper and try and do as many shifts as possible there instead of jumping around. That way, if something comes up, you’ll know the system and the people.
I was not going to stop until I got a staff job. If you want a staff job, they are out there.
What advice would you give to NCTJ trained journalists who are looking for their first job in journalism?
Do not give up. Set yourself a target. I used to wake up every morning with a few target papers on a sheet of paper. I would ring around and schedule all my work experience. With all respect, try not to be arrogant. I know it’s hard – especially after uni – working for free. There’s a part of you that will think, ‘I did all this work to get a PAID job!’. But that will pass, and when you do get that journalism job which you will, you’ll appreciate your wage and know that you’re getting paid to do something you enjoy. That is a rarity these days…
You’re getting paid to do something you enjoy. That is a rarity these days.
Finally, can you tell us something random about yourself? ☺
I once learned Pi to 75 decimal places after being sent out of primary school Maths lessons for being naughty. I was 8 at the time and can still recite them all now.