Credit: Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

They say hindsight is a wonderful thing. If given the chance, many of us would love to start over and re-enter the industry with all the knowledge we now have.

Sadly, time does not work that way. But the coronavirus pandemic has made us rethink newsroom processes and focus on our own development.

We asked a handful of professionals about what they wish they knew if they were embarking on their careers during a pandemic.

Keep tabs on your emotional state

The news cycle has been incredibly stressful over the last 12 months as it has been filled with lots of bad news. Many have spoken out about the burnout, stress and anxiety of working throughout the pandemic.

According to freelance journalist Harriet Marsden, those starting out should be keeping tabs on their emotional state when covering news which is often negative and seemingly endless.

"The 24-hour news cycle [takes an emotional toll on you], not just on your mental wellbeing and ability to do our work well, but also on our social lives outside of work," she says. "You're a journalist 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You will never not be working, even if just in your own mind.” 

Remember your training

From TikToks to wearable technology, we live in a time of fancy gadgets and digital platforms.

It is fine to be keeping up with the times and trends, indeed mobile journalism has been a virtue during covid-19. Just remember not to forget the basics of the craft, says retired journalist Antoine Khoury.

"Double-check your sources. Avoid lengthy articles. Be unbiased. Any opinion you have, keep it for an op-ed," he advises.

Be realistic with money

Low salaries and unpaid work are age-old complaints in the industry. As the cliche goes: 'you don't go into journalism for the money'.

Understand from the beginning that the industry is very competitive, and covid-19 has intensified that. Freelancers might find work hard to come by, but you will need to be writing regularly to increase your profile in the industry.

Journalist and digital writer Francesca Baker says that while you should not work for free, your financial expectations should reflect the current market.

“Don't listen to anyone telling you that you're ruining the industry by accepting anything less than £2,000 for a feature in a tabloid," she warns. "It’s not your personal fault, even though it does affect you personally."

Speak up and offer your opinion

If you are a fresh face in news organisation, it can be hard to offer your opinion on how processes should work. This was the case for neighbourhoods reporter for Detroit Free Press Kyla L. Wright.

She says that despite her strong knowledge on a number of subjects, she shied away from chipping in with ideas because she did not want to be seen as arrogant or unwilling to learn. That was until she later realised that sometimes a fresh mind is exactly what newsrooms need to innovate.

News organisations are grappling with all sorts of tough challenges: digital transformation, diversity, remote working possibilities. If you have valuable insight, be confident in yourself, Wright advised, and make your presence heard.

"I had to realise that I was selected to be in these newsrooms for a reason and if someone has an issue with that, it's just that — their issue."

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