3 min read

Journalism Masterclass -- how to break into the industry

Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford with...

John Kay, chief reporter, The Sun

  • Qualities:
  • Dogged determination
  • Ability to think on feet at lightning pace and tenacity
  • Direct route -- graduate traineeship; must have 100 wpm shorthand. 180 reporters get whittled down to 4.
  • Local newspaper route -- work at a small paper for awhile.
  • News agency -- Southwestern Bristol; INS in Redding. Pays peanuts and has tonnes of work, but one gets experience.
  • Or just get exclusive stories. Meet as many people as possible, talk to as many people as possible, make as many contacts as possible.
  • Best part of job is getting to the office and having no idea what you're going to do that day.

Karl Schneider, editorial development director, Reed Business Information (large B2B mag/web publisher)

  • Qualities:
  • Rat-like determination
  • Passion for your topics
  • Willingness to share
  • Opportunities to shape the profession have never been greater.
  • 75% of revenue is from online -- unique to B2B.
  • With B2B, it's very much about your community.
  • If you're passionate about something, the chance to get paid for covering it is a fantastic privilege, and is possible usually because you're passionate about it.
  • If you're faking it, that generally comes across pretty quickly.
  • Ways B2B makes money
  • Ads content
  • Paying users (over half)
  • Targeted advertising (possible due to the kinds of audience)
  • Online advertising
  • Smart: using crowdsourcing to simultaneously gather data while using it to improve targeting.
  • Having to be willing to learn new things all the time; knowledge of HTML/CSS important
  • The tools you need are free; this is a dramatic change.
  • If you come to a publisher saying you're passionate about telling stories and you're not doing it (via a blog, for instance), the publisher will question your honesty when all the tools are freely available.
  • "If you want to get into journalism into any sector -- just go do it. You'll get attention."

Chris Wimpress, political editor, Huffington Post UK

  • "If you don't have a blog and are writing about stuff on your own time, then you should start doing it."
  • You need to show tenacity; you might have absolutely no traffic for months, but keep at it.
  • The Lobby -- group of journalists allowed to attend meetings with the PM's communications people.
  • "I really hope that anyone who's wanting to work in political journalism ... makes that process irrelevant."
  • In response to criticism that HuffPo reduces the value of the written word, argues he'd rather many people earn less than
  • Apparently Guido Fawkes sells the IP addresses of people in gov for targeted advertising.
  • Getting a job:
  • Don't listen to what anyone says about there not being jobs.
  • Show you have something different and interesting.
  • Intern recently hired was an English grad with a massive network of relevant contacts in the banking industry.
  • It's really difficult to specialize if all you know how to do is be a journalist. Consider what kind of journalism you want to do and how you can start doing it.

Gaz Corfield, Editor of The West Londoner blog

  • Got 3 million pageviews in that many days for blog
  • Started a news WP blog about west London with FB and Twitter set up through Bit.ly
  • Got a bunch of hits... Then the riots happened.
  • Got 1500 pageviews for initial riot coverage.
  • Started liveblogging and got a million page hits that day.
  • Using Tweetdeck exclusively to cover; an update ever 90 seconds or so.
  • Used location-based tweets to curate content.
  • What separated from mainstream media was:
  1. First
  2. Fastest
  3. Everyone admitted they were first and fastest.
  • Has started to get responses as a result.

Q&A period

How to get work experience

  • Schneider -- ask him or an editor
  • Kay -- Murdoch scholarship
  • Wimpress -- Do NOT write a "Dear Sir/Madame, ... I HAVE to do an internship, therefore I'm applying, here's my CV."

How to stand out?

  • Use your initiative

What kind of blog should you have?

  • Nobody really cares about personal blogs
  • Show that you can drive traffic

Importance of journalism degrees?

  • Immaterial; what's important is the core journalism skills.
  • None of the panelists have one.

Getting into the Guardian/big papers

  • Wimpress -- Just keep hammering away at the specific portion you're interested in.

Important of shorthand?

  • Kay -- absolutely from an operational standpoint, though validity of shorthand notes is being questioned legally. Always have a tape backup.
  • Wimpress -- Only has really needed it about 5 times, and those five times he really wished he had it.
  • Schneider -- Ability to effectively and quickly tweet more important.

What if you're bad at telling stories?

  • Kay -- Getting story more important than writing it. Gold standard is getting the story in the first place.
  • Ponsford -- It's useless to have a room full of people who can write beautiful prose but nothing to write about.

Not sure what the last question was, but some points:

  • Schneider -- Many ways to monetize stuff; just try some.
  • Ponsford -- Having to report in the "ass end of nowhere" is really useful for learning story development skills