So I Want To Be A Journalist…

I’ve officially finished my Erasmus year in France – eight busy months of language, culture and many creative writing submissions – but I haven’t given up the travelling just yet. Last week, I flew to London to attend the So You Want To Be A Journalist? conference at City University.

Between tube-worker strikes, Luton Airport terrorist arrests and a Tottenham Court Road siege, I had begun to wonder if my trip to the English capital was really going to happen.

City University. Picture courtesy of ukeas.com

Thankfully, it did, and the conference was a brilliant experience. Not only were we “bribed” with steaming mugs of tea and the possibility of winning a voucher, we got a chance to listen and pose questions to some of the most renowned journalists working in the British media today.

BBC Education Correspondent, Sean Coughlan, on the Specialism Panel

BBC Education Correspondent, Sean Coughlan, being filmed while speaking on the Specialism Panel

So, with a top-notch line-up of speakers and panelists ready to offer their advice, experience and knowledge, the day’s events began. The programme was jam-packed with sessions, from Jump In or Get Trained? Routes into Journalism to Why You Should Specialise to Foreign Reporting: how it works and what it takes to Break into Broadcast to Data is Sexy.

After a lovely welcome from the organisers – freelance journalists Janet Murray and Louise Tickle – we kicked off the day with a keynote speech from Gary Smith, the UK News Editor at the BBC, who told us that all he had was “a typewriter and an ashtray” when he began his career. 30 years on, he believes the industry is “much tougher” and that, thanks to citizen journalism, news coverage is now a “partnership with the public.”

Pictures of Ms. Murray and Ms. Tickle courtesy of the What Journalists Want website

I had thought the main focus would be the change from traditional to new media and where the profession is heading, which was certainly discussed in detail with us, but we were also given great tips on ensuring that we are multi-skilled professionals with a “crucial interest” in our future career. I was particularly impressed with ITV’s Political Editor, Tom Bradby, who interviewed Prince William and Kate Middleton the day they announced their engagement to the world; Jon Snow – who, despite having almost 25 years of presenting behind him – was possibly the most lovely gentleman ever to us newbies; Keme Nzerem, who managed the remarkable feat of actually interesting me in sports journalism while he spoke; and ITN presenter, Charlene White, who was also a fan of Tom Bradby!

Keme Nzerem: This man interested me in sports journalism. He should be given some sort of award!
Picture courtesy of Channel4.com

I also was lucky enough to interview Rhian Jones, who was also speaking at the conference. She had been selected to be the apprentice for The Guardian’s Janet Murray for a year and, since finishing, has nabbed herself the job of Editorial Assistant at Music Week News, so watch out for her interview – I’ll publish it right here on this blog on Thursday.

Rhian Jones: Picture courtesy of the Guardian

So, all in all, a fantastic time had at So You Want To Be A Journalist? and I really enjoyed my time there. I can’t imagine a better way to fall in love with a job than to hear people who have been doing it for ten, twenty, or thirty odd years telling you how amazing it is and how much they love going to work every day.

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