This time last year I was in the same position as many aspiring journalists. I was newly-graduated with internships under my belt but not a sniff of a job offer. As a last resort I applied for the PMA Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism. Seven weeks into the course I landed my perfect job. I am now junior editor of Polo Times magazine and I absolutely love doing what I have always wanted to do.
There are so many different routes to a job in journalism. But PMA stands out from the pack because it gives you what editors want in the current media climate. Just 12 people are selected for each nine-week postgraduate course, which run twice a year. From day one we were journalists, finding and writing several news stories a day. Having had my fill of university, lectures and libraries it was invigorating being in a busy newsroom, actually doing journalism, rather than being told about it.
It’s fair to say that all 12 of us arrived at the office on the first day terrified, but still sure we were reasonably good at writing, if nothing else. But we were swiftly proved wrong. There are no grades at PMA. Instead each piece of work is marked simply on whether it is of a high enough standard for publication. If it isn’t as good as it could possibly be, then it isn’t enough. We had to re-submit everything until we got it right. But as the days and weeks went on, I found myself improving at an astonishing rate.
In addition to news and feature writing, the course covers interviewing, web-editing, subbing, proofreading, shorthand, flat-planning, Indesign and video-editing. We also had experience of covering press conferences and exhibitions. And that’s just what it says on the tin. It also covers networking, self-motivation, running on next-to-no sleep, tear management, confidence-building and coping with stress. Those nine weeks were the most tiring and difficult of my entire life. But they were also the best.
In just a month and a half the 12 of us launched a new B2B magazine, Street Food Business. I was elected news editor, which was a real challenge and more than a few evenings were spent in the office working into the night with takeaway pizza. We sourced our own news and feature ideas, by finding our audience and going out to talk to them. We laid out the pages, sub-edited and proofread everything and created a mobile app, as well as shooting and editing original video features for the website. Quite simply, we did it all.
Although PMA isn’t about essays and exams we were tested on the magazine industry, grammar, spelling, proofreading, media law and shorthand in the final week. But these things had begun to come naturally to us by this stage. In just nine weeks several of us achieved 80wpm in Teeline shorthand, because we had already had to use it.
Then in week seven I was offered two jobs in the space of two days. Polo Times needed somebody who could hit the ground running, write news, take charge of the website and social media, edit a section of the magazine, get involved with creating an app and layout pages. I was offered the job before I got home from the interview.
PMA is not for the faint-hearted, but nor is journalism. Those nine weeks gave me confidence, a wide and relevant skillset, 11 new friends and most importantly of all, a job.
Polly Bryan is junior editor on Polo Times magazine. She graduated in 2011 from the University of Birmingham with a BA in English Literature and after a gap year spent travelling and interning, was selected for the nine-week PMA Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism. She blogs here and tweets @pollybryan and @PoloTimes. You can also check out Street Food Business magazine and find out more about PMA here.
Image on homepage courtesy of s_falkow