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Advice for Students

News Journalism: Work Experience tips

11 August 2022
Keyboard by Nick Youngson via Alpha Stock Images (picpedia.org)
Keyboard by Nick Youngson via Alpha Stock Images (picpedia.org)

For the MA News Journalism you will do a compulsory work placement in two newsrooms in order to complete your NCTJ qualification as well as the University degree.

I would recommend thinking about this in February, as it takes a long time to sort out and this could be your opportunity to get a job when you finish the course.

Lots of people leave it to the last minute because of all of the other pressures you are under, but trust me if you want a good placement take the time to do your research – use this placement wisely.

  1. First of all look at where you would like to work

Do your research, think big but also think realistically. You have to have two placements but there is nothing to stop you from doing more as you have the whole of April. For example students on my course went to: The Mirror, Tortoise, BBC, The Independent, MyLondon, WalesOnline, The South Wales Argus.

  1. Tell your lecturers where you want to go in case they have direct contacts

Even if it is just giving you an editor’s email, you will be able to bypass ending up in the general inbox of the publication – which lets be honest probably never gets checked.

If they have no contacts, go on twitter and find the editor you would be contacting, find them on LinkedIn and contact them there. Otherwise, you can try and guess their email by the general email available. For example if the email is newsroom@mediapublication.co.uk, and individual’s email is likely to be their first and last name with the same @ section.

Networking and making a good impression is really important at this stage, so it goes without saying spell check your CV and cover letter meticulously. Don’t forget the email itself either, it is easy to forget.

  1. Once you get your placement confirmed, find stories to pitch the week before

This will be the end of the second term and though you will be exhausted, the most important thing is to find stories. The worst thing you can do is turn up to your placement with nothing, or not fully formed ideas. I recommend coming with at least six ideas, their reporters will be doing six a day so if you can do more – do! If you are going to be working in an area you don’t live near, or have never been to here are my tips:

  • Contact councillors and ask what is happening in the local area and what is important to their constituents
  • Join Facebook community groups
  • Look on next-door for the area
  • Look at stories they have already covered and see if you can find another angle

 

  1. Say yes to whatever they ask you to do

Even if you have come fully prepared with loads of pitches, you may be asked to write stories that you don’t want to. Absolutely don’t say no. Put your stories to one side and write whatever story they want you to.

  1. Print out your work experience form and get it signed by the editor

You have to do this not just to send this to the lecturers, you have to submit them to the NCTJ board on your portfolio. Keep it and file it, you never know when you may need it later.

  1. Newsroom atmosphere

This may be your first experience of the newsroom, so get to know what you like and dislike as this can colour where you may choose to apply for a future job.

  1. Make notes

Write notes throughout the week, I voice noted each day to keep track of everything. That way when you go on to write your reflection (which is marked) you will have things to write. It is a pain to try and pull 1000 words out of thin air.

Remember the most important thing is to enjoy it.