Sunday, 30 October 2011

An Update: A way in to journalism. Part 2.

What a great, mad, exciting and rewarding two weeks. I’m writing this on a Grand Central train from London Kings Cross to York – I endured a nightmare of a wait in Kings Cross after twice arriving at the station to be told there were no trains! Brilliant.  After a three hour slouch on the uncomfortable benches I find I can get a free upgrade to first class, so it’s not all bad.

Anyway, becoming a journalist, that’s the aim and I think I must be a little closer after working, and being published, with the Independent. One journo, on the news desk, gave me the advice of getting some business cards made up – I have a few ideas for some websites and making myself look (and feel) a bit more professional is bound to be a positive, right?

My experiences on the Indy’s Sports desk have given me direction with what I want to do and how I need to begin going about it. Being in London allowed me to expand my contacts book no end compared to being at home. Meeting some great people and being able to ‘network’ through phone calls and face to face interactions has been a massive plus point and emphasises even more about the industry being who you know not what you know. From nowhere I now have the numbers of a handful of top UK journalists, a few football managers, a BBC television presenter and a Formula One driver!

The highlight of my fortnight came when I pitched an idea for a story to Matt Gatward, the sports editor. I am a huge F1 fan and saw the opportunity to take a different angle on the upcoming inaugural Indian grand prix. I will link the article to this blog. Matt liked the idea and let me ‘run with it’, meaning I had the weekend to find some good quotes and put together an Independent worthy standard of words. Exciting!

As well as spending my weekend eating meat, drinking sol and watching sport, I did think about the article a lot. The chance to get a piece in one of the country’s biggest print papers could be just around the corner providing I was up to scratch writing wise – which I don’t think I, or anyone trying to be a journalist with a bit of self belief, should doubt.

Tuesday morning rolled rounds (Matt was off on Monday) and as I walked in he called me over to discuss the article I had sent him the day before. He liked it, very mush so providing I made a few adjustments. Brilliant, I thought he would allow me to run 300 or 400 hundreds words in a side column but instead he said, “beef it out to around 900 words”. Awesome, I’m getting a byline, a ¾ page feature article and a great deal of confidence! I had an hour and a half to touch up the story and file it with Matt. I loved the pressure and made sure I didn’t miss the deadline by a millisecond.

Seeing my piece in mock-up the night before was good but not a scratch on the real thing the next morning. I was very proud to have a 900 word feature article on the first page of the sports section of one of the most popular newspapers in England. I figured around 20,000 people might be reading it.

After having countless conversations with experienced journalists, from sport to news and health, they assured me that breaks do come to people who put the work in. People who want to succeed and have a desire to get published – and be paid for it! Freelance, an article like mine fetches around £150 dependant on who it publishing it and where it’s going in the paper. I think the soundest advice I was given was to keep every number you are ever given, that’s why I already have a number of contacts in the ‘little black book’ I purchased on my first day in London.

From here I am concentrating on applying for jobs, hopefully in sport or travel but to be honest anything that gets you a foot in a door to begin with appears to be a winner. But, again on words of wisdom from someone in the Indy office, you don’t have to have the backing of a big organisation to go out and be a journalist. Get out there, find the stories, write them well and put them in front of as many people as you can. Sounds like a plan........

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