Question marks
Credit: Image by Valerie Everett on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Ahead of a presentation to journalism students at Southampton Solent University, we asked our @journalismnews community of 91,000 Twitter followers what they wished they had known about journalism before entering the industry.

The question threw up some common themes among the responses from our network of journalists working in digital, print, broadcast, sports and magazine journalism.

Here are some of their answers.

1. Experience is everything

Many journalists noted the importance of getting solid practical experience in the industry. Elliott Lewis-George, digital project manager at Redwood London, noted that "experience can teach you more than a text book ever will, and that journalism is so much more than words". has previously shared advice on how to land a work experience placement. Our jobs board also features internship opportunities, although we do not advertise unpaid internships that are longer than a month.

2. Learn new skills, but traditional ones are important too

Asavin Wattanajantra, digital marketer at Metia, noted that "journalism isn't all about writing any more".

"You need digital skills otherwise you'll be lost."

Similarly, Chelsea Hawkins said she wished she had known that journalists need to be able to "do it all: web, multimedia, photo..."

On the flip side, a number of people noted the importance of traditional journalism skills such as media law and shorthand.
3. You need to be thick-skinned

Freelance journalist Kate Bod warned that "everyone will slag you off for doing it despite wanting the job themselves".
And copywriter Naomi Jane noted the need for journalists to be tenacious."A story will always need to be covered, rain or shine,' she tweeted. "I remember reporting on last year's flood in a pair of wellies!"

4. Freelancing is tough

For any journalism students considering a career in freelancing, our Twitter community had a few words of advice.

The Times commercial projects editor, Kat Brown, said she wished she had been taught "how to file a tax return and do the boring side of freelance management".

Anna Ruggiero ‏also said she wished she had learnt "the practical side of freelancing such as rates and paying your own taxes", while Christie Tucker noted that tax returns are a harder nut to crack than shorthand.
Dom Peppiatt, staff writer at GamesTM Magazine said it would have been useful to know how to "effectively approach/pitch/present freelance ideas". runs regular courses on successful freelance journalism.

5. Don't go into it for the money

Quite a few people noted relatively low salaries for journalists, particularly those just starting out in the industry. Freelance journalist Liam Jack tweeted: "There's very little money in it, and it's insanely competitive".

"Only go into it if you're 100 per cent committed," he added.

However, others pointed out that the "addictive" highs and lows of journalism were enough to compensate for the pay.
6. "Journalism is a lifestyle"

Our favourite tweet came from Gareth O'Connor, managing editor of Ireland-based Today FM News, who noted that: "Journalism is a lifestyle".

German journalist Petra Breunig also said that "journalism isn't just a profession".

"You really can't get rid of it," she said. "And it is very fast and will become even faster".

Saraab ‏tweeted that journalism is "a way of life"

"Stress is the norm. Do not lose your idealism, it what separates good and bad journalists".

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