Student case study – Alice Barraclough, Channel 4 and The Guardian

“So you want to be a journalist?” asks a current online journalist and producer at Channel 4 News. My palms begin to sweat as I feel my grip tightening around my pen, ready to note down any important advice that may land me that all important sacred job after the dreaded graduation.

Please, pretty please, do not tell me that all I need is “a bit of luck” and “lots of connections,” because that advice is actually rather useless. Instead, I want to know how to win the Willy Wonka Golden ticket for work experience; that unpaid, degrading, tea-making, photo-copying job that every man, and his dog, requires to get their foot in the door and have experience lathered over their CVs. Because apparently that’s what makes you stand out. To get your resume at the top of the pile, it’s not just about that first class degree, or being part of a sports team, or performing in a musical, or volunteering hours of your time to others. It’s not even about studying abroad, having a part time job, or writing for the student paper. It’s about all these things collectively, the things which make you the incredible individual that you are (plus some work experience!)

Over the two days in London we were allowed to question and listen to a variety of different journalists, from showbiz and entertainment to news and book bloggers. All were helpful. All gave me fire in my belly to push myself further towards a dream career. General advice was that you need to know your strengths and play to them, embrace technology and have a thirst for knowledge for everything and everyone around you. Sound easy enough?

What was made apparent at both Channel 4 and the guardian is the simple fact that there is no set way to gain a career in the media. You don’t have to be studying undergraduate journalism and you don’t need a postgraduate degree. Every person that got up and spoke to us, led a workshop or answered questions had different qualifications but one similar interest; people. Because without them; there is no news, no sport, no music, nothing to comment on, or argue against.

One of the last professionals we quizzed regarding his route into journalism was the guardian’s culture pros network editor. It turns out he has no formal journalism training, just a humanities degree and lots of experience. This was both refreshing and somewhat relieving to hear, as I’m currently questioning whether I can a) afford or b) need, to have a diploma in print or broadcast journalism just to make the cut. His final piece of advice was, “Freelancing is hard, especially when you’re fresh out of Uni, but pitch as much as you can and be willing to write for free at times.” To summarise; you will probably have to move back home with your parents, you will most likely be unemployed, potentially depressed and living off copious amounts of coffee. Guess I better stock up on my housemates’ extra strong blend of Italian coffee for all those late nights writing to come!

Alice Barraclough is a 3rd year Drama and English & American Literature student. You can read her original blog here.

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