What the JDF means to me: Keiran Southern, Los Angeles correspondent, PA Media

The Journalism Diversity Fund was launched by the NCTJ in 2005. In its 15th anniversary year, the NCTJ is seeking to help more prospective journalists by increasing annual revenues to the JDF; last week we were delighted to announce that Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, has become a sponsor.

Over the last decade and a half, the fund has enabled 347 journalists to undertake their Diploma in Journalism. The vast majority have gone on to have successful careers in the news media sector.

Keiran Southern received a JDF bursary in 2014, studying for his diploma at PA Training in Newcastle. After stints at The Chronicle and MailOnline, he is now Los Angeles correspondent for PA Media. PA Media is a financial contributor to the JDF.

We asked Keiran to tell us what the JDF means to him.

 

I'd known I wanted to be a journalist from about the age of 11.

I did my first work experience stint at the Skelmersdale Advertiser, followed by the Liverpool Echo. In both newsrooms I was told to get a degree before studying for a formal journalism qualification. So that's what I did. During my second year at university I started to look seriously at my options and was quickly deflated by the enormous costs of entering the industry.

Courses can you set you back thousands of pounds, and that's before adding in the price of potentially moving to a new city and supporting yourself during your studies. For anyone from a working-class background, those costs can quickly put an end to any hopes of a journalism career.

Fortunately for me, the Journalism Diversity Fund stepped in and paid for me to study at the excellent PA Training course in Newcastle, which was led by the brilliant Paul Jones. Sadly, the Newcastle course is no longer going, but it was widely seen as the country's best and provided an unrivalled grounding.

After I completed the course, I bagged my first job, a short walk upstairs from the training centre to the Newcastle Chronicle. It was an exciting time to start at the Chronicle, which had become Trinity Mirror's (now Reach plc) initial digital-first newsroom six months earlier. Throughout my early career, the JDF often checked in to see how I was doing, a welcome source of reassurance.

During three incredibly enjoyable years in the north east, I covered everything from crime to politics and everything in between, earning an award nomination or two in the process (I wuz robbed). There was even a “Man vs Food” challenge, which I'm not sure would pass the health and safety test these days. Annoyingly, that feature remains stubbornly among the top images when Googling my name. Yes, that is me sat looking forlorn in front of a massive pile of food.

After Newcastle I took the well-trodden path down to London to work at MailOnline. After a six-month stint at Northcliffe House, I was fortunate enough to land my current job, as the Los Angeles correspondent for PA Media, formerly the Press Association.

In my two years in Hollywood, I've covered some of the biggest stories in the world and interviewed scores of A-list celebrities. It's been a gruelling spell, filing from tough environments like Hawaii, the Met Gala in New York and the red carpet at the Oscars. A recent job involved travelling to Canada to cover the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Someone has to do it, I suppose.

None of this would have been possible if not for the JDF, which for 15 years has done an incredible job of bringing much-needed diversity to our newsrooms. Long may it continue and happy birthday.
 

Find out more about the Journalism Diversity Fund here.