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How to Become a Journalist at University

24th November 2015 Posted by: Emily Adams

THE world of journalism is notoriously hard to get in to, but it’s certainly not impossible. There are many things you can do while at university to maximise your chances of making it happen.

I have always wanted to be a journalist, to write something that other people want to read and, although it still surprises me, that’s exactly what I do every day and I love it. So here are some pieces of advice and top tips I’ve picked up along the way to help you get your foot in the door and become a journalist.

Eat, sleep, blog, repeat

For me, it all started to take shape when I launched my blog at university. Pick a topic you are passionate about and just start writing. Make sure it’s got a purpose and a specific audience, and a catchy name never goes amiss. Mine was simply about the trials and tribulations of student life and while it may seem a bit predictable, it was what I knew most about. It can be daunting putting your work out there for the first time but you have to be pretty thick skinned in this industry, so this is a great start for getting some feedback to improve your writing. Put your work all over social media and you’ll be surprised at just how many people are intrigued about what you’re doing and will click and have a read. Write whenever you can, about whatever you can. Practice always makes perfect.

Top tip:  I recommend using Wordpress for your first blog. It’s super easy to use, the different themes and layouts can make it look incredibly professional and it may surprise you to know that many websites for newspapers and magazines still use Wordpress as a base.

Look locally

Work experience is a great way to help you find out what you want to do. Imagine landing what you thought would be your dream job and realising it’s not what you expected. Use your time at university wisely to try as many things as possible. Most local publications are more than willing to let you come along and work for a week or two. Although it turned out local news wasn’t the perfect fit for me, I was writing every day, I got to interview some interesting people, and my name was in print. It’s all worthwhile experience. And on my final day, I got to cover the surprise arrival of Barack Obama at Stonehenge. It reminded me just how unpredictable and amazing the industry is, you never know what might happen.

Top tip: Even if they want you to make the tea, do it was all the enthusiasm you can muster. Who doesn’t love someone who brings them a hot beverage? It’s a sure fire way to make friends in the office.

Email, email, email

Email everyone you can find in the business, pitch them your ideas, send them your work and it might just pay off. It’s not necessarily going to happen straight away but you never know who may be reading that email. I pitched one of my blog articles to every national newspaper in the country because I was truly passionate about what I had written and I wanted everyone to see it. Eventually, the Independent got in touch and published it online. It’s still my proudest moment to date and it was all because I didn’t give up on those emails. I wanted people to see my work and I made sure it happened. There’s no reason why you can’t do it too, newspapers and websites always need content.

Top tip: Don’t be put off if you don’t get a response. Go over your email and make it short and snappy. Get straight to the point and don’t be afraid to email again and again. Eventually they’ll reply!

Read all about it!

Get involved with your student newspaper in your free time. Write the odd article, try out different genres and have a go at pitching ideas. Everyone involved is a student just like you so there’s no pressure if you just want to try it and see what happens. There’s no commitment so you can write when and how often you want.

Top tip: If you love the writing, have a go at the next level up and try your hand at being a section editor for the newspaper or website. It’ll improve your editing and writing ability, your leadership skills and give you experience working in a team; a great way to make friends if nothing else.

The final countdown

After university, interning is, for many people, the best way forward. You’ve blogged and built up your portfolio, you’ve tried work experience and found out what field you want to work in and you’ve sampled the real thing at your student newspaper, so now you stand a very strong chance of clinching that all-important internship. Throw yourself into it and try your hand at everything they give you. This is your chance to prove how much you know and how much you want it. One, three or six months later and they might just offer you a permanent job. If they’ve got to know you, they like you and your work and they’ve already trained you, they’re more likely to hire an intern than looking elsewhere. After all, that’s exactly what happened for me!

If you want any more tips or simply want to ask me a question, feel free to tweet me at @EmilybAdams or check out my old student blog: hashtagstudentproblems.wordpress.com

Good luck!


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