Credit: Photo by Paula May on Unsplash

Mentorships can be a valuable way to help journalists of all experience levels develop their reporting skills, progress at their company and hit their long-term career goals.

They are not reserved for young journalists though; editors and other senior journalists can too benefit from having an expert to turn to for advice and useful tips borne out of years of cracking the craft.

But where can you find these opportunities and how do you know if they are a good fit? looked at four mentorship opportunities. We emailed some of the mentors and mentees involved about the value of mentorship, and where journalists can hope to progress if they get in touch.

Media Mentors Program

Run by, this programme offers a host of different mentors in the US with a variety of specialisms - and it is not an opportunity exclusive to US journalists. It aims to inspire the next generation of media leaders through one-to-one sessions set on any terms suiting the mentor and mentee.

There are 76 journalists who have offered up their experience and expertise, as well as others in PR, marketing, product and engineering roles. While there are many traditional roles, like investigative journalists and general reporters, there are also those working in podcasts and audience engagement.

One of those is Forrest Milburn, audience growth editor, The Miami Herald. He is inspired by editors and internship co-ordinators who have helped him trust his own journalistic judgement by not shutting down "wonky" ideas. At the same time, a mentor to him is not someone who fails to motivate the mentee to think critically about their own work.

"If I get a sense that my editor - or, a colleague who's been in the industry for longer than myself - has their one way of going about things and that's it, I immediately shut down and almost get in a bad creative rut, where I'll instinctively pitch ideas that I know they'll say okay to," he explained.

He made the switch from reporting to audience engagement, realising that journalism is about more than bylines. He hopes to instil a sense amongst young journalists that their work is not finished after clicking 'publish'.

"Reporters struggle to grasp a lot of what audience work is at its essence, and therefore leave all of that until the last minute or even right after a story is published," he explained.

"I don't care how good you are at social, newsletters or digital strategy, the end product of that promotion will not be better than if the audience person was brought to the table from the very beginning.

"Finding a mentor who can teach audience strategy can really round out how a young reporter views journalism, and their work will really improve once they get a more fully realised vision for who they can reach and how they can provide impact on readers."

In Milburn's ideal world, a 1,000-word story published to the news website would be weighed equally against kickstarting community conversations around local issues or hosting 'Ask Me Anything' discussions on Facebook groups for subscribers. Ultimately, he wants to get young journalists thinking about new ways to do their jobs.

"I just long for a world where all of that can stand on its own as journalism, rather than as side dishes to the 'journalism nucleus' that is an article," he said.

"If we truly define journalism as questions and curiosities that lead to answers to inform, engage and have an impact on readers, then there's no reason for our product to be as inelastic as it currently is."

There is no fixed deadline to arrange mentorships. For more details on how to apply, click here, look at each mentors calendar on the website and set-up a meeting.

Theo Chikomba (BBC News)

As university courses come to a close this summer, journalism students will no doubt be thinking about their next steps into the industry if they have not secured a position already.

BBC broadcast journalist Theo Chikomba looked to take on five university students as mentees this year to help prepare them for the transition into the working world.

As someone who has embarked on a mixture of mentorships himself, he said that working with experienced journalists often gives mentees the confidence to push themselves and not talk themselves out of good opportunities.

"I think many jobs have come up where I look at them and think there’s absolutely no chance of me getting this. There have been days where I'm halfway through an application and I exit it thinking I'm not capable of it," he said.

"You can achieve so much more when you can walk into a room with confidence knowing you are capable, if not more than capable, of taking on a difficult job.

"It can be a range of areas depending on the person including; broadcasting techniques, writing tips, how to develop ideas for different platforms, voice coaching, getting the best out of online articles and most of all storytelling. These are just a few areas where you may feel less confident and that mentor can potentially help you develop in those areas if you mention them from the beginning."

He admits that he wished he had believed in his ability more at the beginning of his career. Now he wants to help journalism students make full use of their talent, like those who have helped him realise his.

"Many [journalists] say they struggled at the beginning and that it took them so many years. As a young black journalist, it can be perceived that it’s even more difficult. This is backed up by the number of black journalists in the industry - not that many - so it’s difficult to even picture you getting that dream job.

"About two years ago I met a very senior BBC news presenter who I told my concerns about progressing and he stopped me in my tracks. He basically told me to forget what you’ve been told by people and simply work hard to get to where you want to be.

"That day I changed my mindset about what I wanted to achieve, and I got my first chance to broadcast at the age of 23 on television. Although this is shorthand to the full conversation, I want to be able to give this kind of tailored advice to younger journalists who are looking to get into the industry – that it’s possible with hard work, with a bit of luck and perseverance."

Applications for this opportunity have now closed

Women in Journalism Mentoring Schemes

The Women in Journalism (WIJ) network has nurtured around 300 mentees over the last four years on its mentoring schemes, run for both senior and junior women journalists working on print, broadcast and online. They are exclusively available to WIJ members (which you can join here).

Running for more than 25 years now, WIJ knows its active mentors and applicants personally. It has amassed a 650-strong membership of journalists and many sign up to be mentors and pass down support, tips and knowledge. WIJ uses its network to match mentors to mentees based on experience, areas of expertise and current role.

Hilly Janes leads the WIJ mentorship scheme. Whether these women are thinking about their first steps in the industry or just the next big one, in both cases, it aims to create a strong network of women in journalism to support each other in situations they have experienced and can understand personally.

"The youngest, who have been in the industry for less than five years, often want help developing their skills and making new contacts; mid career journalists can feel 'stuck' and not sure how to work their way up the ladder to the next stage, or what it should be," Janes said.

"Women who've taken career breaks to have children can lose confidence and feel sidelined when they get back to work, or may want to go freelance for the first time. We try and support people with all these issues, as appropriate."

Applications for this opportunity is closed for 2020. It will return for 2021 so keep an eye out for announcements and testimonials.

Solutions Journalism Network 2020 Mentorship Program

With a network of more than a thousand journalists in the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), this year-long mentorship programme has relaunched for its second year. It is ideal for applicants who need some practical advice and a push to get serious about solutions journalism.

Take Allison Dikanovic, for example, who has been accepted to receive mentorship this year. After working part-time as a reporter at non-profit news organisation Milwaukee Neighbourhood News Service, she was unsure about the direction of her career.

Aspiring to produce more impactful journalism, she wanted to plug into a broader network of people doing similar work with similar goals as a source of technical and moral support.

"More than anything, people need the support of each other and need to know someone who can say, 'I did this, and I'm going to help you figure out how to do it too'," she said.

The SJN mentorship has allowed her to Skype-in regularly with a cohort of other early-career journalists with similar values about our goals, challenges and successes, as well as having access to resources and opportunities, such as travel grants, to pursue passion projects.

One of these was a solutions-based story in New York. With the travel grant, she investigated the changes to its youth justice system and how this impacted kids in the system and their families. (You can find that series of stories in part one, part two and part three). She has since moved there to pursue a master's degree in 'social Journalism' at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

"I want to be a journalist who is working to change the way we make journalism to make it more collaborative, inclusive and useful to people. I hope that my journalism can provide information and tools to help people feel more a part of their communities and equipped to be able to navigate challenges and take action within them."

Applications for the programme have now closed. Keep an eye out for more opportunities at SJN here.

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This article was updated on 6 February 2020 after applications for the SJN mentorship program and Theo Chikomba had closed

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