National Careers Week is taking place between the 2nd and 7th March, and the NCTJ is proud to support the campaign. Throughtout the week, we will be sharing first-hand accounts from NCTJ graduates now working in a range of roles.
Niamh Campbell studied at Ulster University and now works at business news website Sync NI. She also freelances regularly for BBC News NI and BBC Sport NI.
Tell us about your job, what does a typical day entail?
I currently work full-time as a technology journalist for a locally based online and print magazine in Belfast.
My typical day could be anything from editing press releases, to organising our new podcast series; reporting on tech events or conducting various interviews with interesting people within Northern Ireland’s tech sectors.
However I also freelance regularly for BBC News NI and BBC Sport NI – so again my typical day varies quite a bit!
How did your NCTJ training prepare you for a career in journalism?
My NCTJ training is the most practical training I’ve ever received. Everything I learned on this course has helped me in my journalistic role, particularly in regards to media law and editing.
Media law is so important, especially in today’s world of social media and fake news and I don’t think any well-respected publication would hire a journalist if they weren’t up-to-date with their video law.
I also never would have learned how to edit for radio and video so efficiently if it weren’t for the NCTJ.
I also have a BA Hons degree in English but I wish I had just done the NCTJ sooner!
I also came top of my class and got the highest mark in shorthand so received the NUJ media award and Belfast Telegraph shorthand prize too, which was so rewarding after all the hard work I put in and it’s really helped me with career prospects.
Why did you pick your course?
I always wanted to be a journalist, but never knew about the NCTJ until I met my boyfriend. He had gotten onto a BBC apprenticeship scheme whereby the BBC sent him to Wolverhampton college and put him through his NCTJ.
He told me it was the only way I could really advance in a media career. He was right!
I picked my specific course as I have met so many journalists in Northern Ireland and the majority of them seem to be alumni of the NCTJ-accredited MA course at Ulster University.
Obviously there are lots of ways to get into journalism or do the NCTJ but I just felt like this was the best route for me as every successful journalist I have known seems to have gone through this course.
Why did you want to be a journalist?
I have always loved writing and literature since I was a very young child. I’ve always wanted to write. As I got older I realised that real people’s stories were more interesting than the fiction I had been reading.
I loved talking to people and meeting people from different backgrounds and hearing their stories. I always believed journalism would help me meet people that I would not meet under any other circumstances, and give voices to them.
I always adored documentaries – particularly those of Louis Theroux and Stacey Dooley – and my school offered a GCSE in journalism, which I did (and got an A in!)
Although I still love writing, I love all the other multi-media aspects of journalism – radio is probably the most fun! I’ve appeared on BBC Radio Ulster quite a few times and have a weekly slot with our local youth station here in Belfast, Blast 106 FM.
What advice would you give to aspiring journalists?
The advice I would give to any aspiring journalists is to believe in yourself (as utterly cheesy and cliché as that sounds)!
I kept putting off pursuing a career in journalism because so many people told me that it was too competitive an industry, and that there “are no jobs in journalism anymore”. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I have had so many opportunities opened up to me since completing my course. It is never too late to pursue your dream career – I was 24 before I started my course and had been working in financial services for two years prior!
It is a lot of hard work, but it definitely pays off and for a lot of people saying the industry is so competitive, I am yet to meet a journalist who hasn’t helped me or offered me career advice in some way or another.
Go for it now and get your NCTJ as soon as you can, because there’s nothing worse than thinking “what if?”