Blogging / General Journalism / Lessons learned / Writing skills

The year that journalism really changed. For me. And maybe everyone else too.

2014. The first year I was fully employed as a journalist throughout. I started off 2014 with a job as an editorial assistant and sub-editor at a small but national magazine for schools and fundraising groups. It was the perfect start to my career, and, although the readership was far from who I was, I learned a lot of valid and fail-safe rules of the industry. In August I applied and was lucky enough to find a new job as a multimedia journalist for an online publication. No, not a job where I’m an assistant, doing all the small tasks that you’ve just got to kinda suck up and do in an early journalism career, but an actual, full-time journalist. I get to interview people, I get to write my own features and I go to those scary things called editorial meetings that, on work experience, I always found the most terrifying things in the world.

But 2014 is also the year that I really began to understand what a journalist is. And how it’s changing. And now, the old-school dream of working for Cosmopolitan magazine and writing features and getting a byline is not what I want to do anymore. That dream has sailed and it’s new and exciting, but also pretty scary to think that I don’t really know where I want my next step to be. This all sounds very dramatic – yes I want to write, I want to create content, I want people to read what I write, but I also want it to make a difference. I want it to be worthwhile.

There’s people on social media I used to massively envy. Like, hugely. They are older than me, and went straight into a successful journalism career, meeting celebs, writing about them, interviewing people. It sounded so fun and exciting. And now when I’m reading a feature they’ve written about Katie Price’s hair extension which fell out onto the path when she was talking her new baby (who’s dad is a sex addict) for a walk… well, I’m just not jealous any more. I’ve started to narrow down journalism into the parts that I’d love to do, and other parts that I wouldn’t enjoy one bit. Instead of the huge statement of ‘I don’t care where I work I just want to be a journalist’, I DO care where I work, and I would never want to be writing about Kerry Katona’s latest conquest.

So journalism changed a lot this year – in the industry, and for myself. And here’s why.

1. I learned what a journalist actually does

I went to a careers event, run by my own work, and took along my work shadow for the day. I heard a senior features writer from a magazine I would always have dreamed writing for describe and explain her job. And I didn’t like the sound of it one bit. Yes the title sounds fancy and jealous-worthy, but her actual day-t0-day job? Writing was only a tiny part of it. And searching through a phone book, calling 25 people before you find the right person? Can’t say I’d want to do that.

2. Blogging overtook everything

And YouTubing, and people building their own brand, and making their own content. Blogging has been something I like to just do – I just like to write. I LOVE to write in fact, and no one was telling me that I couldn’t use this phrase, or that I needed more stats and research. I just do what I want. But I’ve never written on this blog with the intention of trying to make anything go viral. Hell, I barely ever tweet it out because I forget. But now I’m aspiring to those full-time bloggers, who have had journalism training, and are making their blog their full-time job. Oh the dream.

3. Thinking coding and SEO

I moved to online journalism this year, and since doing it, I’ve realised it’s been at the exact right time. Digital jobs are going crazy, companies are pining over digital natives who know a thing or two about coding, or SEO, or social media, and all that stuff. Instant content is increasing, online publications are soaring, print magazines are still slowly dying, and I feel pretty happy that I can say I work in digital.

4. Writing is only the end result

This is another lesson I’ve learned: writing and journalism can get confused. You can love to write but be a shit journalist. You can be a great journalist, but not a great creative writer. They’re just not the same. Blogging is so different to journalism, all you have to do is write. Journalism is about the research, the people, the actual ideas, the execution of your story, the experts you talk to, the images you choose with it – and writing? Writing is only the end result. Yes I’m a full-time journalist, but do I spend every day just writing? No.

5. Social media is fun. And relevant.

And it really is a part of journalism too. I’ve seen countless journalists I follow on Twitter who used to work for national publication and are now in social media as editors for a range of top brands. If you know how to write, you should also know how to market your work. And that’s why online journalism and social media are so interlinked. And I love the way the industry is going. I used to do the social media in my previous role, and now my experience with it is for my own online publication, out of my full-time job, where I schedule tweets throughout the week and get creative in how to attract a new audience. And it’s fun.

6. Everyone else knows it’s changing

As probably many of you do, I follow journalism.co.uk and their daily newsletter about the industry. And they know it’s changing. They know that creating content is the new way of talking about journalism. They know digital journalism is where it’s at, and that we should be learning the skills of this new, modern industry. They write and share tonnes of articles and features about what we should be learning and how you should be approaching journalism these days. And they’re right. And if you don’t follow their newsletter then you def should.

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