Most journalists across print, digital, TV and radio will tell you that their careers in the media started with work experience.
But during the past year, almost every newsroom and studio across the country closed their doors. Work placements, for the most part, became a thing of the past. A whole cohort of trainee journalists and graduates were entering the world of journalism with a CV short of some very important practical experience.
2020 saw the entire nation get creative inside their own homes, but this does not need to be limited to TikTok dances and dalgona coffee. Hiring managers are looking to see how candidates have adapted to this new world, making the most of every opportunity.
David Bartlett, audience and content director for Reach, was hiring a whole new team in autumn of 2020 in London and the South East.
He said that although work experience opportunities are scant, someone who is committed to journalism will continue to tell stories even through non-traditional means.
"There are many avenues to create great journalism. If we interview someone who said 'I created this Instagram account and built-up a following in this particular niche' that shows that they had the foresight to think about something and apply themselves to making it work.
"It’s not enough to just turn up to an interview and say 'I want to be a journalist' without being able to demonstrate what they’ve done to make that a reality."
Bartlett is not the only one looking for practical examples of journalistic skills and nose for a story.
"Lots of people have been using social media in new and creative ways over the lockdown period. Anyone who is serious about starting a career in journalism will have dabbled in the new storytelling tools that social media has to offer," says Richard Neville, the head of brands at DC Thomson Media.
Tenacity, enthusiasm, curiosity
Although we have swapped the morning commute for a walk to the living room, the fundamentals of being a good journalist have remained the same. Neville, who is currently hiring up to 20 staff for DC Thomson Media, said that he was looking for three key qualities in new journalists: tenacity, enthusiasm and curiosity.
"We still want to see evidence of these core traits in all new recruits."
Regardless of which medium you work in, hiring managers are looking for dedicated candidates with good ideas.
Bartlett added: "We don’t know what exactly news consumption will look like in the post-covid world. There may be things that reporters used to be involved in, that might appear not that important to consumers now. The ability to have good ideas and understand what your audience is going to want to read about is key."
Look to the future
Will this year of uncertainty have a negative lasting impact on the next generation of journalists?
Bartlett does not think so. "This won’t be forever. It can feel daunting to be in this situation that none of us wanted or envisaged. It’s been going on for longer than we had anticipated. If your plans haven’t come about, don’t give up. The people who are the most determined to become journalists and have the talent to do so, will do. I have no doubt about it."
The pandemic has brought up a myriad of stories which are just waiting to be explored. As a journalist, this could be the most exciting of times to kickstart your career.
"You are starting out in the middle of one of the biggest global stories since World War Two. Media coverage has never been more important or sought-after in the modern age. Learn from it," added Neville.
As most newsrooms have now gone virtual, it is time you do too. Some organisations, including Journalism.co.uk, are offering online work experience, allowing trainee journalists to gain crucial skills from home. Be proactive and reach out to your local news organisations for the opportunity to learn, albeit virtually.
Do you want to learn how to create shareable news videos for social media? Join our training course with ex-BuzzFeed producer Kassy Cho.
Free daily newsletter
- Tom Hourigan, senior journalist, BBC News, on reporters' mental health during the pandemic
- How did you get your first job as an audience development producer?
- Five tips to break into sports journalism
- David Higgerson, chief audience officer, Reach plc, on overcoming leadership challenges during the pandemic
- Rusbridger: Facebook needs to be cut some slack on news and regulation