General Journalism / Graduates / Lessons learned

Seven things you’ll learn as a newbie journalist

I guess I properly started my career in journalism back in 2013, but my latest role has really tested my skills as a journalist, and taught me a helluva lot in just a couple of months. Here goes.

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1. You haven’t quite established your writing style yet

Not when you first start out. You think you have, but you won’t actually realise until you’re faced with masses of deadlines, and churning articles out of your ears, that you finally realise what your writing style is like. It becomes easier and less forced. You are influenced by writers on the internet, and that’s okay because you won’t really notice you’re writing like them, it’s all pretty natural. You’ll learn so much more about writing, and cutting out all those crap and unnecessary words when you’re working, than you ever did when you were doing your NCTJ. Srsly.

2. Your ideas aren’t always great (and that’s okay)

You had this idea that when you became a journalist, you had MADE IT. You WERE a journalist. You were up there with all the people who you admired, and you had equipped with you EVERYTHING you could possibly know about being a journalist. Wrong. You’re still an amateur, you’re learning every day. You will think up ideas and your editor will think they’re crap and yes you might go to the loo and feel like you’re not up to the job, but you are. That’s life. Every journalist has had a story idea shut down, so don’t think that doesn’t apply to you.

3. You’ll miss being able to write your own stuff

You hear people say that they don’t have time to blog anymore “so sorry I haven’t blogged in ages!”, because they are writing at work all day and sometimes the last thing they want to do when they come home is to write. Don’t believe them. If writing is a passion of yours, you’ll want to do it when you’re home from work having spent hours in front of a computer screen doing just that – writing. Why? Because this way you can write what you like, as much or as little as you like, and you have no editor telling you it’s crap. Apart from yourself.

4. You SHOULD write your own stuff

And not just blogging. But you’ll notice and meet other journalists who hold staff positions at bigger publications and yet still write MORE. They freelance. They write for other magazines or websites about issues close to their heart that perhaps don’t get to do at their full time job. They get noticed, and they know that writing more for more publications will help them out in the future. You remember that.

5. You’ll realise it’s not as glamorous as you once thought it was

You always had this amazing, sparkly picture of yourself working in London as a journalist and you just knew that you would love every bit of it. You wanted to tell people you were a journalist, you wanted it on your Twitter bio, you wanted that lifestyle. And when you’re in it, it IS exciting and amazing but you also realise you’re staying late to hit deadlines, pressured with the best ideas in the world every single week, challenging your skills to the max now that the multimedia approach is evergrowing and you remember: it’s work.

6. But you still get to do some bloody good things

There are moments when you start out when things are just like you expected – you get sent freebies and things to review or feature and people thinks it’s ‘so cool’. You get to interview some pretty cool people – famous and not famous – and learn new things about life and stories and people. You get to write some things that really make a difference, and someone will tweet you saying they loved the article and you get a warm fuzzy feeling inside. ❤

7. You will want to work on your own brand

This relates to point 4. You realise that your journalism career doesn’t just revolve around the job you do 9-5pm. If you want to go really far, and be really successful, then you’ve got to develop you’re own brand. You realise that freelancing to build your ‘brand’ isn’t uncommon – everyone is doing it. You realise that buying a domain and spending money on your website is pretty much an expected thing to do. But you know it’s going to help you one day. Twitter and Instagram are part of this and being active in social media is too.

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