Work ex at nationals
After you’ve done a stint at a local paper, get as much national experience as possible.
After you’ve done a stint at a local paper, get as much national experience as possible. This is about adding to your CV, making contacts and gaining momentum in your career.
Keep doing work experience, get to know reporters and prove you’re capable – eventually you will get shifts or a job.
How to get it
• The same basic rules for locals apply to nationals. Call the switchboard/newsdesk and ask who you should contact for work experience. Email them your CV and a cover letter.
• Always phone at a time when they aren’t busy. For morning papers that’s about lunch time, for evening papers it’s around 3pm. For Sunday papers, it’s Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
• National newsrooms are very busy places so you have to shout loudly to be heard: be prepared to pester them. You might send off 100 emails and only get one positive response.
• You will improve your chances by a thousand times if you bring them a story. People always write letters to newsdesks telling them how “passionate” they are about journalism – don’t tell people you are passionate, show you are useful and enterprising by bringing in a story. Even if they don’t use it, take the opportunity to ask for work experience.
• Buy a reporter’s notebook, pens and a dictaphone.
• Read the newspaper (not the website) carefully for a month and note the type of stories it publishes. Learn the names of the reporters and note what areas they specialise in. This will help if you strike up a conversation with one of them.
• Try to think of something newsworthy that you could pitch on your first morning – e.g. a follow up for a story in the paper, or something you have found on twitter.
When you’re there
• Turn up early and be prepared to stay late. Don’t organise to meet your best mate for dinner – stay until you are told you can leave.
• If you have a story, pitch it as soon as possible. Don’t be nervous. Newsdesks can be very busy places, but if it’s a good idea they’ll listen. If you get rejected, shut up for a bit and get on with whatever they ask you to do.
• Pitch again. Don’t piss people off, but don’t be afraid to suggest ideas at the right times. Offering an idea is so much better than “is there anything I can do to help?”
• Introduce yourself to reporters by email and approach them when they aren’t busy. Get to know as many people as possible. Being able to approach people is one of the most important skills a journalist can learn.
• Offer to do any job, no matter how small. Listen carefully to what you’re asked to do, and do it to the best of your ability – even if it’s making the tea. 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.
• Answer the phone. There might be a story on the end of it and if nothing else, passing the message on will give you a chance to engage with other reporters.
• As with locals, on your last day, take in a box of chocolates to say thanks.
• Keep a note of everyone’s email addresses and stay in touch. 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.
• Ask if you can come back. Let the news editor know that you’re always available to go in to work for him/her at the last minute. If they call you in for a shift, drop everything to do it.