Lu-Hai is studying Multi-Media Journalism at Bournemouth University. He’s had bylines in the Guardian, Brighton Argus and Hastings Observer. He writes music and film reviews at musicrooms.net and contributes to dimsum.co.uk, the leading British-Chinese community website. He dreams of writing a non-fiction book and of meeting Mila Kunis for purely-professional reasons. He blogs about films at Orange Films and you can find him Tweeting here…
One December evening, I was searching online for placements, initiatives, competitions…. anything. I was bursting at the bit to become a journalist, frustrated at the lack of opportunities available to me, even though I was on a journalism degree and had already done some decent work experience. I then stumbled on an organisation called Catch 22.
Catch 22 is a social enterprise, based in north London. It aims to help young talent (18-30s) find placements in journalism, when they lack experience in landing them (hence the name). Their media partners include Bauer, Trinity Mirror, Redwood, Emap, Associated Newspapers and others in an ever growing list. These partners pay Catch 22 to provide them with fresh faces (the ‘enterprise’ bit), but it’s free for successful applicants (the ‘social’ part).
Past graduates of the scheme have had placements at Wanderlust, Harper’s Bazaar, London Evening Standard, and spurred people on to jobs in as diverse places as B2B periodicals, a Cambodian national newspaper and pornography magazines. Their programmes run thrice a year and last 12 weeks, during which you’ll gain a crash course in all the qualities needed to start a career as a freelancer.
After sending off the application form, I was called to an interview where we also had writing tasks. Be sure to come across as eager and hungry! I was in the March-May cohort, trying to keep up with my university studies alongside. It might seem overkill, and it was a little, but the contacts and friends I made are priceless and the regular pitching sessions and tasks we did provided me an education my degree sometimes lacks.
For two days a week, we’re given tasks following strict deadlines. We re-write press releases, go court reporting, interview locals, set-up a blog, design a magazine, and carry out vox-pops. Most challenging was when we were told to find a local news story, research and write it, and then pitch it to the Haringey Independent within a set time. We got feedback from their senior reporter on our stories (past trainees have been published).
Our tutors are working journalists, such as Simmy Richman who’s an editor at the Independent on Sunday Magazine. He set a competition in which all 15 trainees listened to an album, wrote up the review, and the winner was published and paid in his newspaper. On Wednesday evenings we had guest speakers like former Heat editor Sam Delaney (who’s very generous with his advice) and David Randall, whose book The Universal Journalist is a must-read. He was a treat, reeking of old-school Fleet Street but who nevertheless put us young guns to shame with his online research skills.
Catch 22 also has its own magazine, for which we pitched and worked on features, which if good enough, was promised publication. We are marked on our work and if our average is sufficiently high we are put on LaunchPad, Catch 22’s talent pool from which their clients can select.
The most beneficial part for me were the morning editorial meetings, where we had to find article ideas and pitch to the tutors, who gave us feedback. Although I felt some of the course was repetitive, that was an invaluable lesson in the art of pitching and idea generation. After all, ideas are the bread and butter of the freelancer.
I really enjoyed my time at Catch, and have 15 new friends – we’ve met up twice since the course ended. One of our cohort is currently on a three month internship at the Metro. She’s getting tons of bylines, learning the online side of the paper, while others are at magazines FHM and Closer.
If you are thinking of entering journalism but can’t be bothered to learn it at university, Catch 22 provides a brilliant education.