Work Ex at locals
Local newspapers are where every young journalist should start.
Local newspapers are where every young journalist should start. Your first week of work experience should be at a local as you’ll get far more chances to write your own stories. Don’t think local newspapers are beneath you.
How to get it
• Call the newsdesk and ask who you should contact for work experience. Email your CV and cover letter to the contact.
• If they don’t reply within a few days, call back and ask if they received your CV. If they didn’t, say you’ll email it right away. Keep pestering: it’s something you’ll spend your career doing.
• Remember newsrooms are busy places. The newspaper might have lots of people booked in for placements. If they don’t have any convenient weeks free for you, organise something for a couple of months’ time. It’s good to get as much experience as you can.
• Buy a reporter’s notebook and a dictaphone.
• Read the newspaper (not its website) for a month and note the type of stories it publishes. Learn the names of the reporters and news editor. Think of how you could do follow ups to stories in the paper.
• Talk to people in your area. If you know someone with a story, write it up before you go in. Send off some Freedom of Information requests to local bodies. They might turn up some interesting results which could lead to stories.
When you’re there
• If you have a story, pitch it as soon as possible. Don’t be nervous. If you get rejected, don’t panic. Remember that people are busy getting on with their work.
• Offer to do any job, no matter how small. Listen carefully to what you’re asked to do. Prove you can follow instructions and you’ll be asked to do more. Write down all usernames and passwords the first time you’re told them. Ask how to use the office phone system.
• Always answer the phone, people will thank you and there could be a story on the other end. Note down the name and number of anyone who calls the office.
• Expect to be bored. There are times when no one will be free to babysit you. Use this time to look busy and keen. Make calls to try to create stories.
• Try to buddy up with one reporter. If things are quiet, ask questions about how she/he got into the industry. Making friends with a journalist is useful for references and freelancing.
• On your last day, take in a box of chocolates to say thanks. It’s cringe but people love it.
• Keep a note of everyone’s email addresses. Take every opportunity to contact them after you’ve left. If you’ve got story tips, email them in. You could even contact your favourite reporter six months down the line just to let him/her know how you’re doing.
• If you liked the place, ask if you can have a shift there. It might be unpaid, but do it for a couple of months. The key to converting work ex to paid work is to keep coming back until you’re valuable to them.
Now read our guide to work experience at national papers.