Rosie Taylor wrote for Forge Press at the Uni of Sheffield for four years and ended up as a News Editor there. Her first ever story was – in her words – “an incredibly dull down-page about the dentistry school doing well” but she finished her time at Forge winning Student Journalist of the Year at the NUJ Regional Press Awards.
Just goes to show that student media helped her make progress!
Rosie started Ones to Watch when she finished at Forge last May and she describes herself as “a massive student media geek” – the site, Wannabe Hacks are told, will be relaunching very soon… we’ll keep you posted!
I’ve heard student media described as “boring”, “not proper journalism” and “a waste of time” by some aspiring journalists and even by journalism tutors. But don’t be fooled by these non-believers, student media is by far the best way for any wannabe hack to get the experience that is vital for landing a job.
Of course, when it comes to getting employed as a real life hack, work experience at newspapers is important. As is having a good portfolio, blogging and generally having your fingers in as many multimedia pies as possible.
But student media can give you something that a week sat in the corner of a professional newsroom writing picture captions cannot: experience of journalism at the deep end, including all the responsibilities, pressures and politics that go with it.
That’s because student media does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s journalism generated by students, for students. And that means there is no safety net – no professionals and no team of lawyers to help you out when it all goes Pete Tong.
Student journalists must learn from the off how to handle many of the things the job can throw at you. From sweet-talking the university’s paranoid PR team to blagging your way into gigs; getting a taste of the highlife interviewing politicians and celebrities to tracking down individual students for exclusive human interest stories, student media allows you to really get to grips with journalism in its purest, if crudest, form.
If you want to be a journalist there is simply no excuse for not writing for your student paper. As well as the experience you’ll gain, it’s also a great way to get a folder full of cuttings and it makes for good CV-fodder (which, let’s face it, is what we’re all after).
But where student media comes into its own is at the editorial stage. Holding an editorial position on a student paper really is a must for anyone serious about working in the media. Not only does it show commitment, but it is a place for you to get your teeth into journalism.
With researching, arranging interviews, writing, commissioning writers and photographers, designing pages, subbing, laying up and keeping an eye on the legal side of things, it’s likely you’ll have more responsibility in an editorial role on your student paper than you will ever have in the rest of your career. And that’s not forgetting the fact that you will have to do your degree at the same time. But this is no bad thing; after all, anything which prepares you for the pressures of a professional newsroom is going to go down well with interviewers.
There’s no doubt either that an editorial role helps you build the thick skin you’ll need once you leave university and enter the job for real. Once you’ve dealt with your share of complaints, worked on pages for hours to have them deleted by faulty computers, had your front page story fall through two hours before deadline and defused in-fighting between editors you’ll be tough enough to make it.
That said, getting involved in student media is also a fantastic way to have fun. Pulling together to get the paper to bed at 1am creates a camaraderie rarely seen in any other university society. There’s nothing like working your socks off all week to make that shared deadline-day pint feel wholly deserved.
Student media really is the best way you can prove your worth as a dedicated journalist. The potential to achieve is limitless. So if you haven’t written for your university paper yet, get involved now. If your university has no paper, start one.