UPDATED: Editor says who you know is more important than what you know in journalism

Neil White, editor of the Derby Telegraph

Neil White, editor of the Derby Telegraph


The editor-in-chief of four regional newspapers told Leeds Trinity students that work experience is more important than ever when competition is so high.

Neil White, 51, editor of the Derby Telegraph, said when faced with a choice he would rather hire a student with work experience than a first class degree.

He told students that even at the age of 15 it was through his work experience at a local radio station that he was offered work at the Coventry Telegraph.

He said: “It is definitely who you know in the industry and not what you know.

“We have a job coming up at the moment and I doubt that I will even advertise it before asking people I know, otherwise I’ll end up with 300 applications.”

As well as having a good CV and good contacts within the industry, Neil also expressed the importance for applicants to have the principal skills of journalism – accuracy, ability to write tightly, write headlines and be ‘fleet-footed’.

He said: “We’ve been a bit disappointed with graduates coming in and being shocked at the pace of the newsroom and the commitment needed.

“I’d almost put more pressure on universities to get students ready for the fast pace of a newsroom.”

Neil has reported on some key regional events during his time, from the Kegworth air disaster, when a plane crashed on the M1 killing 47 passengers, to Coventry City winning the FA cup in 1987, when he was thrilled to get to touch the cup.

He said things had changed a lot from when he first started out, when “drinking in the pub with contacts was absolutely encouraged and attending police Christmas parties was okay”.

He said: “I’m privileged to have lived through a time of humongous change, with the explosion of the internet and Google.”

However, he was keen to tell students that his papers can reach between 80,000 and 100,000 online hits a day and that regional papers are students’ first “port of call” when getting experience.

He told students in the audience that being able to master a range of skills including video and social media were important.


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