Last week saw the 8th Journalism Week at Leeds Trinity, four days packed full with inspiring speakers from various strands of the journalism industry. These professionals gave aspiring journalists numerous tips and tricks for their future careers. Here are a few recurring themes that emerged throughout the week:
1. Get your foot in the door.
The idea of getting experience and saying yes to opportunities was rife from the word go. Jeff Stelling, Soccer Saturday presenting legend, said in the first talk of the week: “If you get that foot in the door, don’t give anyone the opportunity to push it out”. He wasn’t the only one to pick up on the subject of experience, with Leeds Trinity alumnus and Made in Leeds Video Journalist, Mark Kielesz-Levine, saying that trainee journalists should keep their eyes peeled for any opportunity and never say no. The most important tip for work placements? Make tea.
2. You make your own luck.
Almost all of the speakers talked about how luck had got them to where they were: whether being in the right place at the right time or being lucky enough to be offered an opportunity that launched them forward. However, Dave Betts, former Managing Editor (TV) of Sky News, believes that luck isn’t something that just lands in your lap but something that has to be worked for: “Don’t give up… Work hard, you can make your own luck”.
3. Be multi-skilled and adaptable.
Nowadays, in most news organisations, it’s impossible to just get by on one skill. Journalists need to be multi-skilled and adaptable to various job roles. This is especially true in smaller establishments, as Mark Kielesz-Levine showed when he recounted stories where he was cameraman and presenter. Chief Reporter for Bauer Yorkshire, Laura Pennington, told students: “Don’t think of yourself as a one medium journalist”. This advice was mirrored in BuzzFeed reporter, James Ball’s, talk: “You might need to know video, you might need to know social media”. It’s vital that journalists learn more than just how to write well.
4. Be aware of technology.
It’s no secret that modern society is dominated by technology and social media. Technology can have a great role, which Christian Payne, blogger at Documentally, highlighted with his extensive technology timeline and list of useful gadgets. It’s clear that social media can be very useful for journalists, as Magazine Journalism student, Vanessa O’Sullivan, said: “social media isn’t only great for networking, but also for getting yourself out there and noticed”. However, Scott McLeod, Head of Content at evertonfc.com, pointed to several recent social media verification issues, saying: “Never make assumptions, it’s absolutely 101.”
5. Be original.
Once again, being original and finding a niche was a recurring theme that all speakers touched on. If trainee journalists want to stand out from the crowd, they have to be different from their peers. Steve Canavan, Sports Writer for BBC Sport and The Blackpool Gazette, spoke of the importance of being good, being original and being creative: “Always be unique, be as different as you can, be confident and vigilant and you will always be successful”.
6. Know your law.
Any trainee journalist will know that law is an important consideration when reporting stories. Chris Ship, Leeds Trinity alumnus and Senior Political Editor for ITV News, informed students that, when you go for jobs, editors will want to know if you’ll land them in court. This showed how important it is to prove that you know your media law. James Cruickshank, editor at The Digger, discussed the risk of defamation within print journalism, an issue he has faced several times in his career as a crime reporter.
7. Follow your dreams.
Without a doubt, the most important theme to come from the week was to not give up on your dreams. Have faith in yourself, push forward, take opportunities and get yourself out there. If you want to be a journalist, make sure you keep hold of that dream and follow it, wherever it may take you. As Andrew Knight, TV Journalist, Producer and Presenter, quite simply put: “[journalism is] the most exciting career you could possibly have.”