When I first considered journalism as a potential career path I had no inclination to, initially, take Journalism as a course at university. Crazy right? But, for me, I knew I loved politics, so that was what I aimed to study.
However, my other great passion lay in writing. I realised from a young age that I was relatively decent at it and that is how I started making inroads into journalism as a potential career.
Having taken Journalism as a third module to begin with, I found that the profession was absolutely fascinating and so immediately set about changing my degree to become Politics and Journalism.
Nevertheless, I still have the same opinion of journalism that I did to begin with: it is a career based on what you do; as opposed to what you have got. It is all well and good saying to an employer, “Here, I have this qualification”, but if you are not able to display that you have had ample time honing your craft and creating content, then I doubt you stand much chance in such a competitive industry.
For anyone wanting to get into journalism the best way to do it is by doing just that; journalism! I’ve found that in keeping up a regular stream of blog posts I am allowing my writing to mature through practice, practice, practice.
The great thing nowadays for people my age is we have the tools right at our finger tips. Digital media is opening the doorway for aspiring journalists to make their mark. It is extremely easy to set up a blog and just start writing. Write. Write. Write.
At Stirling we are very fortunate to have our own student newspaper, Brig Newspaper. If you fancy getting something in print or on their website then simply join up! It’s a great experience.
On what to write about, that is up to you. For example, I already had a subject I was passionate about: politics. So find something that interests you – it can be sport, fashion, travel, food, drink, culture, you name it – and begin writing. It doesn’t even have to be something grand like getting an inside scoop, so do not feel pressured. However, it is a good idea to start thinking about your local community, and what stories there are to be told there. Yet, you might just have an opinion on a certain restaurant, or have read something in the paper that is not getting as much coverage as you feel it should. If that is the case, produce something.
Of course, if you are trying to follow a career as a journalist, be professional. You do not want to go on an endless rant about how unjust you feel the referee was in the last Dundee FC game. Instead, critically evaluate a scenario and give an opinion that will not offend or cause a potential employer to think “Yikes!”
The benefits of starting out in first year are tenfold.
You are at an early stage where you can begin testing the water on your own and experiment with what you like. Also, you will gain skills in knowing where to find information for stories, make contacts and improve your writing skills.
Furthermore, if you feel you have produced something that is of good quality, and you wish to share it with a wider audience, email it to a local newspaper. Local papers and other websites are keen to get new voices in their content. I have been asked both by the Alloa Advertiser and democracy campaign group Bite the Ballot to write for their blogs. And I’m just a first year! For me, it was a massive achievement and displayed that what I was writing was obviously good quality.
This sort of recognition will ensure you stick at it and provide you with a sense of pride for your own work.
Your Journalism degree will also benefit from it. Concepts like citizen journalism, journalism audiences, online/digital journalism all feature in your first year of Journalism Studies and, if you are already working in that sort of environment, you will grasp them easily. It even encourages you to buy more newspapers and expand you reading as you pick up that “nose for news” your lecturer always tells you about.
So, to conclude, if you want to be a journalist; do it. Start early and get the skills and meet the people who matter. After all, in the future, those contacts will come in handy when you are writing for the Guardian, Times, Herald, Telegraph…
The opportunity is there; the potential opportunities are endless.
You can read more from Ross right here http://politicalbagels.blogspot.co.uk