I knew I wanted to be a journalist from a young age as I’d always loved writing. But it wasn’t until I started my first role in journalism that I realised that’s just one part of the job.
You’ll also have to have great communication skills, as getting out and speaking to people is the best way to get great stories.
It all began with work experience
When I was 15, I went to my local newspaper on work experience.
When I was there the journalists told me to do a degree in whatever subject I wanted, and to then do a fast-track NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) Diploma after university. So that’s what I did.
I studied philosophy and English at the University of Sussex, two subjects which I love, but aren’t much use in my day-to-day job.
I then went to Highbury College in Portsmouth to study the intensive six-month NCTJ Diploma.
That’s where the real training began.
We learned reporting skills, shorthand, media law, court reporting, public affairs and production. We were also given patches in the local area to mine stories from each week.
It was full-on and felt like being thrown into the deep end, but it was the best training you could get to prepare you for a career in newspaper journalism.
A week at my hometown newspaper
While doing my NCTJ I spent a week at my hometown paper the Chichester Observer on work experience. I kept my ear to the ground and made sure to use all my local contacts for great stories.
The weekend before my placement there was a tragic incident at the local beach where a man drowned saving a young girl from the riptide.
I made sure to speak to witnesses and get reaction from the local community. It meant I went into the placement with exclusive content and it made the front page.
When a few junior reporter jobs came up just a month later, I already had a front page under my belt and – happily – I made the cut.
The start of my career as a journalist
It was the start of two-and-a-half happy years cutting my teeth as a reporter on my hometown paper.
Highlights included interviewing Brian May from Queen, covering Goodwood Revival and trying my hand at windsurfing for a feature, as well as working on high-profile murder cases and covering elections.
My advice to anyone hoping to go into journalism is get an NCTJ Diploma –it’s essential – and try to secure work placements so you get a chance to impress the people in charge.
To find out more about accredited journalism courses in the UK, visit: www.nctj.com
To find out if you’re eligible for a training grant, check out the Journalism Diversity Fund: www.journalismdiversityfund.com
And read about how my Generation Tribe co-founder Charlotte Harding started out as a magazine journalist.