How I Became A Digital Journalist

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I’ve always felt that careers advice is few and far between in schools and unless you already know you want to be a doctor or an astronaut, it never felt like they could give you any answers. And let’s be clear, I’ve always needed answers.

I have frequently taken tips (and solace that I wasn’t a lone range failure) from other people’s experiences, shared on blogs and the like, so I decided to share my two cents here.

 

2012 – Graduation

After spending 3 years studying for a History degree at Sheffield University I left in July 2012 feeling no more certain of what I wanted to do with my life than the day I started.

So I joined a start-up travel website (which I think has since gone bust but I promise that wasn’t my doing…) as a Content Manger, where I was getting a chance to write every day (I didn’t know how valuable that was at the time because I still had no career direction) but it was really repetitive stuff. Basically writing about places to visit, hotels to stay in, where to eat yadda yadda.

Despite the monotony I loved my time in that office – we were based in a beautiful little mews house in Maida Vale. We ate a LOT of Marks & Spencer sandwiches and people were good eggs. There was also a legendary Christmas party that went down in the history books.

I was there for 8 months, until May 2013.

2013 – Internships

Despite having spent the last period of time writing everyday, because I hadn’t loved the work I still didn’t feel writing was necessarily for me. Also everyone is always telling you how competitive journalism is and I didn’t feel I had the cojones to be one of the contenders.

But on the other hand I didn’t have any other grand ideas and by this point I had some valuable experience in that arena. So off I went.

I started the (soul-destroying) process of applying for experience at national publications to give my CV a bit more clout. Eventually, after a series of interviews (for UNPAID work. Yeah I know. What.) I was in the Daily Express office for a month.

From there, they recommended me (as soon often happens) to freelance on a new magazine, which was being launched for two months – things could have been looking worse.

I also did a short course in Fashion Journalism at Central St Martins around this time. I can’t exactly remember when or how this happened. But hey, it definitely did.

Regardless of my fingers in several little pies I knew my CV was still competing against those with double diamond studded gold plated trophies in journalism.

So I moved to Brighton. Obvs.

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2013 – NCTJ

In September of 2013 I started my NCTJ by the seaside at Brighton Journalist Works. In my mind it was this blissful time spent making new friends, living with bed-partner and writing some stories along the way.

But as all of those people can probably attest, it wasn’t quite that rose-tinted. It was a fast track course and so we learnt what people learn in full undergrad degrees in 12 weeks. Went from not knowing what shorthand was to being able to write 100 words a minute.

I also simultaneously took on the role of Community Correspondent for Brighton’s local newspaper – The Argus – this was where I learnt I LOVE court reporting – the nosey girl’s dream. So it was hard work but I loved every moment of it.

Straight out of that I was offered a job on a newspaper at home in Essex (yes I wear white stilettos okay?) and was overjoyed.

BUT life was like oh no wait bbz. I got a little surprise in store for you.

2014 – Puerto Rico

So yes if moving to Brighton seemed a bit edgy and out there. JUST YOU WAIT. So there is this small place in the Caribbean called Puerto Rico and we moved there to work for a year.

We ate a lot of plantains and beans, we spent the weekend at the beach, we had a penthouse in the centre of the capital San Juan and we were able to afford to hire a speedboat with champagne cause not everywhere in the world does it cost £500 to rent a cupboard under the stairs (LOOKING AT YOU LDN). It was all pretty Kim Kardashian.

But after a year we started to miss home and so we were moved to open an office just outside Chicago – in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (it’s where Collin Frizzle goes in Love Actually to find hot American chicks. Yep we r the bomb). America was much more familiar than PR, except with -31 degrees, guns and shopping at Walmart. What. A. Country.

We spent a lot of time travelling for work – New York, Boston, Connecticut, Seattle, Vancouver, Wisconsin.

Then we came home in June 2015.

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2015 – Back On The Wagon

Whilst I had been away I hadn’t technically been working in journalism but I had a couple of freelance jobs on the side – working for the Puerto Rico franchise of the travel company I first worked for in Maida Vale, writing for The Editeur and obvs starting up this little space.

And with the blog came expanding my presence on social media, which I know sounds lame but is so invaluable in making contacts and getting your name out in the big world of media even in a different time zone from the other side of the Atlantic. So if you live here you really have no excuse!

A good example of why this is worth while – I had for a long time followed Emma Gannon, who is Social Media Ed at Glamour Magazine and general blogger-royalty, and we had the odd little Twitter exchange. And then one morning I saw Emma at Liverpool Street station, I introduced myself and now we are IRL contacts. And you cannot underestimate that in, what you will discover, is a tiny little media world.

So the message there is hustle constantly. You never know who is watching. Whilst we were away in America I’d also become quite friendly with Pandora Sykes at The Sunday Times and she arranged for me to do some work there when I got back.

This was also the time I had my first foray into the grand media temple that is Time Inc. with some freelance summer holiday cover at LOOK magazine through June and July.

Then on to Stylist magazine. I also became a Community Contributor at Buzzfeed, did some freelance articles for the National Union of Students, taking everything and anything to bolster your writing profile and your range of experience.

I now work full time doing Digital Content at Good To Know.

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If you have any questions about journalism or want to know more about my career path – leave them below!

  • I loved reading this – mostly because I am very nosey, but also because I find other people’s careers super interesting! Networking is absolutely key x

    Sophie Cliff

    • hahha thank you Sophie! i’m glad you enjoyed reading it, even if only for nosiness reasons ;)xx

    • Also I always mean to ask what do you do Sophie?? I’m also a nosey Sophie 😉 xxx

  • I loved this post! What an amazing adventure you went on! Well done for getting there!

    Fix Me In Forty Five – A Beauty & Lifestyle Blog

    Blog Lovin’ // Instagram

    xx

    • Thank you so much Stacey!! Yes it feels like it’s been quite a long process but I’ve enjoyed it along the way :) where do you work? xx

  • This sounds incredible! What a journey! I’ve only really just started my blog (will be one year in January) and only really getting into it, but I’m all of a sudden loving all things creative (I’m currently a second year science student, with now realised no interest in furthering my life in science whatsoever!), like blogging, photography, fashion and travel! I’ve considered journalism, but apart from my blog I have no experience in writing, what do you do for the NCTJ? And were you working as a journalist for a certain magazine that enabled you to travel so much?

    JosieVictoriaa // josievictoriaa.blogspot.co.uk // Lifestlye, Travel and Fashion

    (side note, I love the Love Actually point in there – when I read Wisconsin, it immediately reminded me of him!)

    • Thank you so much Josie that’s a lovely comment :) congratulations (for January!) on one year of blogging – the time goes so fast but it’s definitely an achievement. So glad that it’s made you realise the things you really enjoy, I think it definitely highlighted for me how much I enjoy writing and has helped me with photography when I might not have learnt elsewhere :)
      So for the NCTJ you study 6 modules – I can’t remember them exactly but I think they were – News Reporting (learning how to write a story for digital/papers/magazines), Media Law (how not to get in trouble whilst doing it!), Shorthand, Production (subbing, photoshop) , Public Affairs (local gov etc.) and I CANNOT remember the last one….ahhh. sorry! But definitley look into it as an option if you’re interested in journalism xxx

  • Amazing, I love that you didn’t just stick to this boring life plan and you did so much great things. I would love to go travelling for work. I am trying to get into digital journalism and planning do a course to help me.

    Zeynab x
    The Beauty Load

    • Thank you so much Zeynab that’s such a nice thing to say! I think I was always worried that I would ‘miss my chance’ but it’s such a stupid thing to think.
      Congratulations – if you need anymore tips or advice on which courses to do I would be happy to help :) of course I recommend the NCTJ! xxx

  • You are incredibly well connected! I agree that it’s a very small world

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    • Hahah thank you Suze! I’m not sure about incredibly well, but it definitely takes hard work – you only get to be connected by putting yourself out there xxx

  • It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Great post!

    Tegan xx – Permanent Procrastination