Picture: Dave King, editor, Swindon Advertiser, Dominic Ponsford, editor, Press Gazette, Brien Beharrell, editorial director, Newbury Weekly News Group, Jeroen Bergmans, editor, easyJet Traveller, Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors and Graham Dudman, managing editor, The Sun.
Accuracy, shorthand, media law knowledge and ideas for great content will get you journalism jobs, a panel of editors told student journalists at the NCTJ Student Council.
42 students from 68 NCTJ-accredited courses across the country attended the charity’s annual Student Council on Friday at Guardian News and Media in London.
Following a welcome by Kim Fletcher, NCTJ chairman, and an introduction by Joanne Butcher, NCTJ chief executive, staff from the charity answered questions from the students about exams, fees and operations.
A panel event then followed in which five high-profile editors answered students’ questions about careers in journalism and the outlook for the industry.
Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors was panel chairman and the five editors were: Brien Beharrell, editorial director, Newbury Weekly News Group; Jeroen Bergmans, editor, easyJet Traveller magazine; Graham Dudman, managing editor, The Sun; Dave King, editor, Swindon Advertiser; and Dominic Ponsford, editor, Press Gazette.
Bob Satchwell started the session by asking what qualities the editors looked for in a reporter.
Dave King was the first to answer saying: “Shorthand is number one.”
Jeroen Bergmans said: “Accuracy is important and an understanding of what works in a magazine. If you pitch a story, where are you going to get the pictures that will work with that story?
“If you pitch a story now it is probably not going to be printed until April and you have to think about the timing, are the pictures going to look like they were taken in February?”
Graham Dudman agreed: “I want to know you can write 100 wpm shorthand, go to court and not muck it up and I want to know you can knock on a door to get a story. 5,000 word dissertations on a multimedia integrated society don’t interest me. I want shorthand and I want you to know your libel law.”
Dominic Ponsford said: “Fantastic enthusiasm is what I look for. Journalism is hard work and I look for someone really keen with good ideas. On Press Gazette we have a limited freelance budget, but if it is a good idea for a story, I’ll commission it. Good ideas will always get you work as a journalist.”
The panel were asked if they saw it as important to work on local news platforms before progressing to national titles.
Graham Dudman said: “I like to see reporters have worked for at least 2 years on a regional paper or agencies. You will be up against reporters from other national newspapers, many will have years and years of experience and you need to have developed the skills and rat-like cunning, to compete.
Students were keen to hear the best way to approach editors for a job.
Brien Beharrell said: “I’m always getting letters addressed ‘Dear Sir’ and they don’t get interviewed by me. A good journalist will always research and know who they are addressing.”
Graham Dudman added: “Send a CV that is no more than one page long - you’re not that interesting quite frankly. Keep it short, to the point.”
The outlook for jobs in journalism was a concern for many of the students at the Student Council.
Dominic Ponsford said: “I think it is certainly improving, I don’t think it is the worst time in history to be looking for a job in journalism – that was last year.”
Brien Beharrell said: “There are jobs, it’s tough at the moment but it was tough when I went in, it was very selective. You do just have to keep going. We haven’t been taking on people but this week I did. The industry has gone through a big transition process, people are now moving on to other things, giving other people a start in local newspapers.”
Dave King said: “People haven’t been moving because of uncertainty. It’s a bit like the housing market, once people start moving the whole thing moves.”
Graham Dudman added: “If you are hungry enough you’ve got to be prepared to move around the country. Journalism is a countrywide career, you have to be prepared to leave your homebase and if you go where the jobs are you’ll be fine.
The panel were asked their views on strategies for publishing news on the internet.
Dave King said: “If a big story breaks and it is past deadline, I can’t print another paper, but I can compete by putting it on the web.”
Graham Dudman said: “This is about content. You have all done absolutely brilliantly to get where you are, on these great courses where you learn how to produce great content.
“If the content you produce is good enough and someone wants to read it, you will always be employed by someone to produce it.”