I’ve spent today being a guest at the University of Central Lancashire’s CJAM event. I graduated from UCLan, which is in Preston, in 2007 and it was a pleasure to be invited back. The event featured a number of talks from alumni of decades gone by, and more recent young upstarts like myself. We also had students pitch stories and ideas at us during a speed-dating style session.
I was asked to give a 10-minute talk as part of the event, so I thought I’d focus on things young journalists, or journalists in training, should be thinking about AKA what I’d wish I’d known when I was 20!
1) Know your phone as intimately as your girlfriend/boyfriend. Know every trick in the book for getting content using it, editing on it and filing on it. And always have it fully charged, with a spare battery/USB cable in your bag. Alongside your shorthand it is the primary tool for capturing content. Don’t sit and wait for training, youtube or Google it and learn by doing. It’s also becoming the primary place people read your content, for the majority of the hours every day on Trinity Mirrors regional websites more than 50% of readers are on a smartphone, the Mirror, Guardian and BBC have also released similar figures. But don’t just gawp. Think about what that means for how your story should be presented.
2) Keep an ideas book. Both online and offline. Have a place to save interesting stories, documents, social links and what could become a story. And have a notepad for those times you don’t have online access
3) Every story could now be the splash and lead the website (and the papers) because audience analytics/trends now sit alongside old-school editorial judgement. Make sure you’re ready for the ask to add something to your story, anticipate the need for pics, video, extra quotes, fact boxes, stats. Your idea on your way to work can be leading the web/social/TV by lunchtime.
4) Follow up. Keep a good diary. The launch will take place on? The next step in the plans is an appeal on June 20? The family said he would be out of hospital by x date. You’ll always have a follow up and therefore another story. What’s the next action from your story? Invite comments, should readers send you their pics?
5) Don’t be afraid. There are no rules anymore. No one has the perfect answer. All major media organisations are pursuing different strategies. Digital levels the playing field for all sectors. It is creativity, focus and speed which win out. Learn from those around you, learn to work as part of a team because a newsroom that succeeds together is one of the best places you can ever be.
6) Think about the reader and work with them. The best journalists I know have authority and empathy in equal amounts. Do not talk down to your readers, they are people. It is easy to dismiss them as commenters, trolls, unique users, busy bodies but they have a right to express an often passionate view. It’s what journalism boils down to, the people. They make the stories, you are a way to get them out there through whatever means you have.
7) Write every day. And never stop. I write 2-3 pieces of content a day for either Blog Preston or getreading. Why? It keeps you on your toes, it gives you discipline. No matter how high up the food chain you end up, it keeps you in touch. Do you have a blog? When did you last update it? Are you consistent? Can you keep readers coming back day in, day out? You’re in a city, a great one, there are stories to be found around every corner. Make use of your time here and don’t leave with regrets about what you might have done.