Job as a journalist

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Steven Black is the person who sniffs out the news for people in a town who rely on their local paper to find out what is happening in the area. As a reporter he finds and writes the news – from a major accident to a diamond wedding celebration.

What does your job as a journalist involve?

Basically, I have to fill around 10 pages of the newspaper with news and features every week. I interview people, write stories based on what they tell me and organise what photographs need to be taken.

What's a journalist's typical day?

I start at around 8.30 a.m. by calling the fire station and the police to see if anything has happened overnight. I also get lots of calls from members of the public, councillors and others in the community. Most of the day is spent interviewing people and writing up the stories. I finish at about 6pm but might work later on Wednesdays because the deadline for printing is 11am the next day.

What stories have you worked on recently?

Recently, people campaigning against a development of new houses called me. I organised a photograph of them at the site with their petition. I also asked other residents for their views, called the local councillors and spoke to the people who want the planning permission to get a balanced story.

What else might you write about?

Court reports, inquests, accidents, local events, diamond wedding anniversaries – anything that is of interest to local readers. Most interviews are done over the phone, because there just wouldn't be time to interview everyone face-to-face.

How do you write the story?

I write down what people tell me in shorthand in a notebook. This was one of many skills I learnt during the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) course. Other topics included interviewing techniques, desktop publishing, editing and proofreading, law and ethics.

You have to be tactful and friendly to encourage people to talk to you. From these notes, I write the story directly to the computer. I then spellcheck it, read it through again and send it through to the sub-editors – the people who design the pages – so that they can work with it.

Steven's route to his job as a journalist

  • Completed a one-year National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) pre-entry journalism course.
  • Applied for a job on his local newspaper.
  • 18 months' training on the job with day-release at college.
  • Qualified as a newspaper journalist.

Steven's journalist tips

  • Don't assume you have to go to university or do a media studies or journalism degree.
  • The NCTJ pre-entry course prepares you for a career in newspaper journalism and it's good to get your foot in the door as early as possible.

Journalist related jobs

  • Advertising creative
  • Announcer/Presenter (TV/Radio)
  • Copy editor
  • Newspaper Editor
  • Publishing Editor
  • Photographer
  • Press officer
  • Public relations officer
  • Researcher (Media)
  • Technical author

Salaries of journalists

  • As a trainee on a local paper, you'll earn between £8,000 and £12,000; on a magazine up to £14,000, and in radio or television up to £21,000.
  • With experience you could earn from £15,000 to more than £40,000.
  • Freelance journalists negotiate a fee for each piece of work they do – the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) sets recommended rates.

Job as a journalist

  • The minimum entry requirements for newspaper journalism are five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) including English, or equivalent qualifications.
  • Many new journalists have a degree. Many others have at least two A levels/vocational A levels (AVCEs)/three H grades, or equivalent.

There are two main entry routes into journalism:

  • Direct entry – straight from school or university to a local or regional newspaper.
  • Pre-entry – most trainees enter newspaper journalism after doing a oneyear, full-time vocational journalism training course at a college accredited by the NCTJ.

Whichever route you take, you'll enter into a training contract, serve a probationary period and be expected to obtain the National Certificate of the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) or an NVQ Level 4 in Newspaper Writing.

  • Entry into magazine journalism is generally at graduate level.
  • You can join a publisher's training scheme or first take a course accredited by the Periodicals Training Council (PTC) or the NCTJ.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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