Rhian Jones has just finished her year-long apprenticeship with freelance education journalist and The Guardian contributor, Janet Murray, and is now Editorial Assistant at Music Week. I spoke to her at the ‘So You Want To Be A Journalist?’ Conference about how she nabbed the apprenticeship and why a journalist is always learning.
In 2011, Jones had just finished her first year studying English and Media at Lancaster University, and spent the summer writing for The National Student, where she’d made such an impression that they asked her to keep working for them when her two-week work experience placement had come to an end.
She had done “quite a lot” of writing at TNS, which gave her work a worldwide online readership. “It was all experience,” she states. “Before that, I’d written one article for my student newspaper. Also, when I was 18 or 19, I used to go to gigs and [then] write music reviews.” While at TNS, Jones was trying to find a way to move to London permanently, her ideal being to quit university and get a job. “That’s when I saw the advert in The Guardian,” she smiles, “so it was perfect really.”
She learnt “everything” from her apprenticeship and it has clearly stood to her. “You start learning when you get your first job,” she declares, mentioning a Guardian editor who told Jones it took ten years for her to learn how to be a journalist. “I knew nothing about writing before,” maintains Jones. “I made every mistake in the book. So [when I was an apprentice to Murray], I learnt how to write.”
Before Murray selected Jones as her apprentice, the former wrote in The Guardian: “I have no doubt that I have as much to learn from my apprentice as she or he will learn from me. But if I can achieve one thing, in addition to giving a young person an opportunity to learn my trade, it will be to encourage others to follow suit. I’d love some of the big newspapers and publishing houses to be bold enough to grow their own talent through apprenticeships instead of cherry-picking the top graduates, as they do now. They might just be surprised at the results.”
Jones certainly believes that she had a lot of skills already, such as resourcefulness and how to do an interview, which she says she had picked up from working in lots of call centres, and this was what drew Murray’s attention. “The apprenticeship was really hectic,” Jones reveals. “I had emails at 6 o’clock in the morning and at 11 o’clock at night. It didn’t stop. It’s a lifestyle, journalism – that’s exactly what it was for those months – but I loved every minute of it.”
She’s now moved on to work at Music Week. Four weeks in, she has been a photographer for an event at the Houses of Parliament, gone to Sony Records HQ for a Jubilee Tea Party, and transcribed “really interesting” interviews. In between the glamourous aspects of her profession, she manages her own page on the site, and notes that her role at the magazine “will build over time.”
On 25th April, Jones was speaking at the journalism conference as part of the ‘Jump In Or Get Trained?’ session, alongside Belinda Goldsmith (Global Head of Editorial Learning at Thomson Reuters), Chris Wheal (freelance journalist and editor), Lucy Jolin (freelance health journalist and author) and Portia Walker (freelance foreign correspondent), all of whom gave their thoughts on whether journalists should get trained on-the-job or at university. “It’s fun,” Jones said of the conference, “and it’s great to meet new people. You hear so much negative stuff about journalism – it’s really hard, no-one’s going to make it and it’s competitive – and that’s certainly how I felt when I got into it. If you go to events like this [though], you come away very inspired.” Her advice for future journalists is “to be resourceful, to be determined and to have people skills,” and she believes her previous employment in bars and shops has given her the confidence to have a career dealing with the public.
In the future, Jones plans to be “a big hotshot journalist”. She describes herself as having a love-hate relationship with writing, but that she really thrives on her work. “Once I’ve done [some writing], it’s great, but sometimes it’s the most stressful thing in the entire world. But I don’t ever want to stop. In ten years’ time, [my aim is to] be a really, really, good writer, and doing something that I love.”
What do you think of Rhian Jones‘ journey? Would you do an apprenticeship to get your foot in the media door?