Most advice on how to break into journalism will suggest that you need a journalism qualification and some writing experience to dazzle your first employers. A good shortcut into the industry is getting involved with student-led publications.
Empoword Journalism is a platform that strives to give women and non-binary journalists a place to publish their work, especially students and recent graduates. It was set up during the pandemic on the advice of Sky News presenter Kay Burley, speaking at a virtual workshop held by News Associates.
A group of aspiring young journalists heard the value of documenting their experiences during these historic times. Fast forward to today, Empoword has more than 1,000 contributors, including journalism and non-journalism students.
It publishes a wide range of news articles, opinion pieces and features. It is active across newsletters and TikTok. It also hosts live discussions providing journalistic advice and insights from journalism veterans, such as Victoria Derbyshire. It has even launched a donation system to help support the publication.
This has been an important springboard for many journalist's careers. One of the publication's founders was Lauren McGaun, who now works as an assistant news editor at ITV News. Above all else, Empoword provided valuable networking opportunities.
"We've had so many speakers from the broadcast industry and some of them are now my colleagues," says McGaun.
"You also develop an incredible network of other women entering the industry and it's those contacts that can help you get jobs, share advice and help with job applications."
Former Empoword editor-in-chief Sanjana Idnani agreed that networking opportunities are crucial. As an English literature graduate, Idnani managing to get onto a BBC post-graduate apprenticeship scheme at BBC Wales News without formal journalism training - something she attributes to her student side gig.
"There's a big misconception that you need to have done something really massive to get into the industry like work at a big national paper and that isn't necessarily true," says Idnani.
"Don’t underestimate the power of your other experiences. The stories you do at Empoword and similar publications show interest, commitment and drive."
Employers can teach you the hard skills of the job, but they cannot teach you soft skills like work ethic and enthusiasm. That is precisely what they want to see coming through in your application.
Beau McCormick-Roddis is currently a TV broadcast assistant apprentice with TalkTV and another who did not need a journalism degree to get there. What made up for it was a portfolio brimming with podcasting and writing experience.
"I was told after I secured my job at TalkTV that [my portfolio] was one of the reasons that I got the job," she says.
"That is why I think getting involved in opportunities like Empoword is so important. You can develop new skills or fine-tune existing ones in a safe space without judgment and with such a supportive team.”
Emma McAndrew is the deputy editor of Empoword Journalism
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