As a trainee journalist studying on Cardiff’s prestigious magazine post grad course, I often get asked what I’ve learnt and what tips I’d give to young, aspiring writers. As I come to the last few weeks at Cardiff, it feels like the appropriate, and obvious, time to reflect.
The course at Cardiff is very respected within the magazine industry and its reputation means its students are hugely valued. Many graduates achieve prestigious roles in their careers such as Hattie Brett, who was chosen to lead Bauer’s newest digital platform, The Debrief, as editor after previously being the assistant editor of Grazia.
As I’m surrounded by this year’s incredibly talented pool of trainee journalists, I thought it would be far more useful to pick their brains and find out what this course has taught them and get their top tips for the journalists of tomorrow, rather than simply rely on my own. After all, each of these young journalists have brought something different to the course and also taken something unique away from it. Here’s what they had to say…
My tip: @miaholt
“Write as much as you can even if you don’t have to. Finding your own voice is something that will set you apart from others and being able to write an entertaining and thought-provoking piece of journalism will ensure you connect with your readers and establish your name. So blog, freelance and keep diaries because it all helps you find your identity.”
Stuart Knapman: @KnapmanStuart
“Never underestimate how much time it can take to achieve the results you want. From page design and layout to basic things like sentence structure, you should always give yourself far more time than you think you’ll need as if things can go wrong, they will.”
Jordan Harris: @JordsHarris – http://thegrillandbarrel.wordpress.com/
“Write for your audience/community. Find out what they are interested in, what they want to find out more about, and what they are talking about and write relevant content. Don’t just write for yourself.”
“Find the point where creativity ends and verbosity begins, then STOP! By all means play around with words if you’re a punsmith, but remember: journalism is all about communication. Be creative… but respect your readership and their ability to diffuse your writing.”
Matt Ayres: @mttyrs – http://mattayres.co.uk
“The most important thing I’ve learned from the course is that if you’re a good journalist you can write about more or less anything. I always assumed that because my expertise is in film and music, I’d be restricted to jobs on magazines regarding those subjects. The reality, however, is that we all have to be open to any job within the field of journalism. They’re not always as glamorous as the ones that involve interviewing bands or movie stars, but they usually require the same skills. Learning to be adaptable and willing to develop specialisms is vital. I’m personally working on being open minded about what’s out there and taking any opportunity I can get to write well in exchange for money.”
Kirsty Hatcher: @kirsty_hatcher http://kirstyhatcher.blogspot.co.uk
“My one tip of advice would be to make sure your work experience emails stand out. Try and avoid sending generic emails that will just get lost amongst an editor’s 100 other emails, so make sure the subject line is interesting and creative, rather than just ‘work experience enquiry.’ ”
Georgia Hathaway: @georgiahathaway – http://fashionoysteruk.com
“Read every magazine you can get your hands on and observe everything – from the front to the layout to the way that they communicate with their readers. Thinking about magazines in a critical way will help you. Also be prepared to write about topics you may not have an interest in. It’s good to specialise in certain topics but not before your career has even started.”
Sophie Epstein: @sophstein – http://gotmeat.wordpress.com/
“Don’t ever dismiss writing about a subject you don’t think you’re interested in because you can always find an angle that is interesting to you in one way or another.”
Emma-Louise Pritchard: @emmapritchard5 – http://emmalouisepritchard91.wordpress.com
“I have learnt that going out of your comfort zone is a really good thing. Even if the topic/project/feature sounds too unfamiliar you should embrace it and learn as much as you can. I found this with our motoring module which seemed intimidating at first but I have loved it! Exploring new areas can only open doors so you should always give them a go.”
Sally Biddall: @sallybiddall – http://sallybiddall.co.uk
“One of the most important things I’ve learnt about journalism is that it’s a craft. Anyone can blog or chronicle their thoughts in a diary, but to be a great journalist it takes thought and structure. In many respects it’s a formulaic art form, and reigning in your writing style to fit this can be a real challenge. Have an open mind and listen to those with experience in the field; they will help you hone your skills.