The growth of online journalism is a major opportunity for tomorrow's journalists if they can only learn to market their skills more effectively - according to one of the industry's leading recruiters.

UK-based Recruit Media is celebrating 15 years in the media recruitment industry, and has placed thousand of editorial, design and new media professionals since it began in 1989.

Company Chair Victoria Lubbock told dotJournalism that journalists are often unable to talk intelligently about their work, and also rely too heavily on their qualifications.

"Everyone finds it difficult to market themselves, but it is essential," said Ms Lubbock.

"Many journalists rely on networking but the industry is just too competitive for that."

The firm will be expanding this year with a new office, a re-brand and new staff - taking the Recruit Media team to 25. It is also piloting a teleworking division.

"Online and interactive media has been the biggest single change in the industry," said Ms Lubbock.

"It offers an immediate and effective interaction with the audience - and a whole range of opportunities to enable publishers to understand what the reader really wants."

Before co-founding Recruit Media, Ms Lubbock worked as a freelance journalist and editor for 12 years on a range of publications including Money Marketing, the Today newspaper and The House Magazine. Her background in journalism has been essential to the success of the company, she says.

"The core skills of a journalist are the same as a recruitment consultant; communicating, gathering facts, processing information and presenting it to people," she said.

Despite the massive growth in online publishing, many print journalists are still reluctant to embrace the internet.

"The snobbery about online journalism is about ego - about not feeling and seeing their byline in the same way because it's a more transient medium," she said.

Many journalists are also resistant to jobs such as copywriting, but at their own expense.

"We’re currently in a phase where many firms are bedding down. Their web sites are in their second or third incarnations - and they need really good communicators and writers.

"A copywriter is just someone who can write well, knows the sector and can write for that audience."

Publishers find it hardest to fill roles that require specialist subject knowledge, says Ms Lubbock, although publications now demand a broader skill set than ever. Roles for web journalists are particularly demanding, often requiring technical or commercial skills as well as editorial ability.

Qualifications, even at degree level, are no substitute for experience, and many employers are confused about the wide range of media qualifications.

"The only qualification we are asked for is that set by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), and occasionally they may recognise City University, London College of Printing or Cardiff School of Journalism as centres of excellence."

Although a media degree is not a disadvantage, Ms Lubbock feels that students need to be taught skills that more closely reflect the vocational roles in the industry.

"Many candidates are unable to market themselves," she said.

"Some CVs [resumés] arrive without even a covering letter so we have no idea what the candidate is looking for.

"It's essential to keep a portfolio - especially online - but some journalists don’t even take screen grabs."

Interview skills are also essential; many journalists are often surprisingly hostile when being interviewed because they are used to asking the questions, rather than answering them.

Ms Lubbock's advice to applicants is to thoroughly research the job they want and be realistic about what they can achieve. Competition is intense, particularly in the consumer field.

"Younger journalists all want to write for brand names like Loaded, GQ or Wallpaper, but the reality is that they will work on Pig Farmers Weekly," said Ms Lubbock.

"You may not be a journalist on the Guardian, but there are many ways to apply your skills and be well paid."

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