5 transferable skills that will boost your career in journalism

5 Sep

Thinking about a career in journalism? You might already have what it takes

When you apply for a position in journalism, there are a number of career-specific requirements that employers will be looking for. A diverse portfolio of articles, experience working in a newsroom and shorthand proficiency are some of the essentials that make for a killer CV.

But if you’re moving into journalism from another career path, don’t despair. Here are five transferable skills you might already have that could help boost your CV to the top of the pile:

Communication skills

This truly is the pièce de résistance. The clincher. The bottom line that any interviewer will want to know: how well can you communicate what you want to say?

The first requirement under this umbrella term is verbal and conversational skills. Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 11.21.25

When you find a story that you desperately want to get published, you’ll need to be able to articulate your ideas to your editor and explain them coherently. Then, when you’re working on that story, conducting interviews and making contacts, you’re going to have to be clear, concise- and preferably, slightly charming- in order to get the information you need as quickly as possible and leave a lasting impression with those you interact with.

Remember- it is always better to ring people for information or interviews- don’t hide behind emails as your main communication channel.

It also helps if you can communicate a degree of emotional intelligence. You’re bound to be working on stories that surround sensitive topics, and it helps if you convey sensitivity and understanding when interviewing people and writing your final piece.

That brings me to the second requirement, which is writing skills. Writing is at the core of journalism, whether you’re looking at a role in digital or print, and there’s no way around the old-school necessity of high-quality fluency, grammar and punctuation.

Touch-typing

As a third of UK bosses say they won’t hire someone unless they can touch type, and 42% of people type with just one or two fingers, being able to touch-type is an invaluable skill you’ll want to flaunt on your application. 

The Telegraph offices, London

The Telegraph offices, London

Journalists are often typing, whether it’s researching stories, typing up interviews or frantically bashing the keys on deadline day, so speeding up your typing time will make you a more efficient candidate.

If you’re still prodding the keyboard with your index fingers, check out Microsoft’s latest #TypingMatters campaign that is offering free touch-typing software downloads, so that you can become more employable from the comfort of your own home.

Data Analysis

Did you notice how knowledgeable I sounded with those typing statistics? Quoting clear and accurate data in news reports is a great way to use solid evidence to support any claim.

As a journalist you’ll receive endless amounts of press releases containing various facts and figures, and it helps if you know how best to use them in order to validate what you’re trying to say.

Multi-media proficiency

In the digital age, not only is it essential to master emails, images, Word, Power-point, Excel and all the other traditional tech programs, but now you’re going to have to show an aptitude for videos, gifs, sound clips, listicles, clickbait, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and so on.  viewpointsheader

But employers don’t just want to see a list of all the programs and media outlets you can use. They want you to show that you know when it’s best to use different forms of media for each given situation, and to be able to explain how a certain type of media will best enhance your particular story.  

Research skills

Often, what makes a news story so interesting to read is the fact that it’s an exclusive. An undiscovered treasure that you got to before anyone else. In order to find a truly unique story you’ll need top-notch research skills to unearth information sources and the persistence to keep pursuing your story, even when key contacts fall silent. 

If you’re having a slow news day and want to impress your editor with a story of your own, try using www.topsy.com to search and analyse the social web, or to find out what’s trending near you.

Dispelling the myths of solo travel: the Trek America trip that changed my life

29 Aug

I’d been living in South Carolina on my study abroad exchange year and was about to leave the East coast for the first time. I’d decided to end my year abroad in the familiar South with a Trek America trip exploring the West coast, and the time had finally come to start making preparations for my Western adventure

It was time to swap the life I'd made for myself in South Carolina for a plunge into the unknown...

It was time to swap the life I’d made for myself in South Carolina for a plunge into the unknown…

In the final days before I set off for California, Arizona and Nevada, I went into over-drive. I bought mini scissors, nail files and plasters. Antiseptic liquid, Savlon and a giant tub of painkillers. Not to mention travel-sickness pills, hay-fever tablets, Gaviscon, Dioralyte and Bongela. I bought snap hooks and bungee cords for my bag, a highly-necessary camping seat and almost every travel-sized item on sale at my local pharmacy.

I thought that stocking up for the travel apocalypse would prepare me for anything. Downsizing one thing and compartmentalising another was all part of managing the anxieties I had about travelling around the West Coast with a group of people I’d never met. 

On the first morning of the trip we gathered at 7am in our hotel lobby and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the overwhelming majority of the group had also booked the trip alone. I was about to start exploring Western America with a group of like-minded Brits, Danes, Swedes, Austrians and Koreans who wanted to see the world and learn about other cultures just as much as I did. 

We spent our first day riding bikes around San Diego

We spent our first day riding bikes around San Diego

Our first road trip from LA to San Diego was spent having enthusiastic and curious chats with each other about our respective home countries. By the time we arrived at Mission Beach, I’d learned about the trials of being a woman in the Danish military, what it’s like to slaughter a chicken for dinner in Kenya, the experience of being an Austrian au pair in Washington DC and how to say ‘Hello, my name is Eveie’ in Korean. The minivan was brimming with interesting conversation and stories from all over the world that made me buzz with anticipation for the two weeks ahead. 

#roadtripselfie

#roadtripselfie

The group only grew closer with every new experience we shared. By day two we were sharing supplies, by day three we all had nicknames for each other, by day six we were having singing sessions in the mini-van and by day eight we’d had our first hilariously blurry night out together in Vegas. Any cultural differences that set us apart were quickly overcome by the wealth of new experiences that we were discovering together each day.

It’s safe to say that when you cook, eat, sleep and travel with a group of people you’ve just met, you don’t remain strangers to each other for very long. It was a good job, too, because while we were road-tripping through the Arizona desert, I caught a vicious stomach bug that none of the medication I’d brought with me could have cured. 

6 hours of road, a plastic bag, and a bad case of gastroenteritis make for a toxic mix

6 hours of road, a plastic bag, and a bad case of gastroenteritis make for a toxic mix

After an entire afternoon launching myself out of the minibus to vomit on yet another helpless Joshua Tree, we arrived in Lake Havasu, Arizona. The sun was setting over the stunning lake and casting an orange glow around the campsite. Weak, exhausted, and pretty delirious, I got out the van and curled up in a ball on the grass. 

Eating that last fateful turkey sandwich with the group, before it all went downhill...

Eating that last fateful turkey sandwich with the group, before it all went downhill…

When I opened my eyes the group had put my sleeping bag over me, brought me a bottle of water and set up my tent. They’d set aside some food in case I got hungry and dug out the paracetamol from the bottom of my rucksack. I’d started to worry that they’d never come near me again after being sick in such a confined space all afternoon, but the gang went out of their way to put me at ease and look out for me when I found myself seriously ill so far away from home. 

I’m not sharing my run-in with gastroenteritis as a cautionary tale. Anyone can catch a stomach bug whether they’re at home, on the road, travelling alone or travelling with friends. I’m sharing my nauseating story because it’s a great example of the unspoken understanding that occurs between solo travellers. It’s a kind of team spirit and a commonality that says, ‘We’re all in this together.’

DSC03060

Playing beer bowling at the campsite in Yosemite National Park

By the end of the trip, we’d become so comfortable in each others’ company that my initial pre-departure anxieties seemed like a million miles away. We’d carried each others’ rucksacks when we got tired, we never moaned about camp duties and we’d created a new Facebook group to keep in touch before we said some painful goodbyes.  

Riding in the Party Bus in Vegas

Riding in the Party Bus in Vegas

American philosopher John Dewey once said, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” It wasn’t until I returned home from my Trek America tour and began to reflect on my travels that I realised just how much the experience had changed me. 

On returning home I started to notice that my social habits had changed. Having learned new things about each of my Trekmates every day of the trip, I’ve come to realise that every person has a unique story sitting below the surface. I’ve become a more inquisitive conversationalist (and journalist) who loves meeting new people and learning about a different life perspective.

Cuddles with Penn & Teller

Cuddles with Penn & Teller

Spending 11 nights camping in American deserts and national parks has also made me less fussy. I’ve become less preoccupied with all the little, insignificant things like what to wear, whether to wear make-up and how many calories are in my food, and more bothered about the bigger things in life, like keeping in touch with old friends, making time for people and keeping my phone tucked away in my handbag when I go to dinner. It’s safe to say that being accepted by a group of people after I’d thrown up in front of them, multiple times, in the middle of the Arizona desert, gave me a kind of inner confidence to know that despite everything, I must be kind of okay… 

The best view I've ever seen in my life, in Yosemite

Enjoying the best view I’ve ever seen in my life, in Yosemite

Finally, being on a Trek tour has brought out a get-up-and-go approach to life that I never knew I had. Having travelled through three states in two weeks with 13 new people, I’ve realised that the best experiences in life are the ones that test you, challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone. I thought I’d be returning home yearning for familiar home comforts- but the Westerner 2 tour has left me feeling open to change and longing for yet more new experiences.

Travelling around some of America’s most renowned tourist destinations- the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National park and Las Vegas to name a few- is a huge excursion in itself. Committing to that trip with a bunch of strangers I’d never met felt even bigger. When it turned out to be straightforward, uncomplicated, safe, secure and of course, the trip of a lifetime, I was overjoyed. But I was utterly ecstatic that I’d departed for the West Coast expecting to gain new life experiences, and ended up gaining 13 hilarious, fun, and interesting new friends along the way. 

I arrived home after a year in America feeling accomplished and confident, with a million stories to tell

Up-and-coming women’s magazine is turning heads in Liverpool

27 Aug

As a long-established blogger and columnist, I’ve managed to pester enough magazines, websites and PR companies to publish my writing over the years. Many students looking to elbow their way in to the blogging world and boost their CVs often ask me for recommendations for who they could submit their work to. I’d like to endorse an up-and-coming women’s magazine in Liverpool that showcases a whole variety of women’s artistic creations.

Heroine Zine's lovable logo

Heroine Zine’s lovable logo

Heroine Magazine, affectionately known as Heroine Zine, was set up just over a year ago by two creative writing graduates, Abi Inglis and Phoebe Dunnett, both 22,  from Liverpool John Moores University. They publish anything that comments on the female experience and explores the history of women’s culture. The duo don’t just publish work from women, though- as they believe that ingenuity and flair are genderless attributes.

Heroine Zine's Issue 3

Heroine Zine’s Issue 3

What started as a Summer project at university and has grown into a print magazine that highlights women’s creativity, ranging from poetry, prose, photography, art and articles. The duo have enjoyed numerous successes over the past year, from holding open mic nights in the city centre, gaining a loyal band of worldwide subscribers and even hosting their very own festival in Chavasse Park, Liverpool One.

Abi said: “We’re so passionate about Liverpool and all the fantastic creative projects that are happening here. We love to support the women involved in these and help provide a space where they can create and perform.”

The magazine even has ‘manifesta’ of principles that outlines the wholesome ethos of its editors. Phoebe explained: “We feature all types of creativity that celebrates women exactly as they are. We want to be the type of magazine that doesn’t feature airbrushing, body-shaming or product placements. Just creative ingenuity.”

Heroine Fest in Chavasse Park, Liverpool One

HeroineFest in Chavasse Park, Liverpool One

HeroineFest in Chavasse Park was a particular highlight for the pair, who brought workshops, discussion groups, stalls and live music to the top of Liverpool One. Many other creative women’s groups from the North West attended the festival, including the Lady Parts Theatre Company, Queen of the Track Zine and a female Beatles tribute band, The Beatelles.

Abi said: “We wanted to celebrate some of the awesome women we know in Liverpool and the North West. It was a great day and we got some fantastic feedback from the public.”

“Having HeroineFest take place in Chavasse Park, a very public space in the middle of Liverpool One, really showed us how open and welcoming people were about the idea of having a women’s arts and culture magazine in the city.”

The editors are now taking submissions for issue 4, which will be published in October. To get in touch, visit facebook.com/heroinemagazine or email heroinemagazine@hotmail.com

Liverpool community helps dying fan’s wish to visit Anfield come true

26 Aug
A couple that launched a Twitter campaign to help grant their dying friend’s last wish to visit Anfield have had their prayers answered by the people of Liverpool. 
Colin Hawes, Reds fan who has 2-6 motnhs to live

Colin Hawes, Reds fan who has 2-6 months to live

 
Erhan Sahin, 25, and Lucy Dance, 27, created the hashtag #helpsidgotoanfield after they found out that one of their closest friends has only 2-6 months to live.
 
Colin Hawes, 51, also known as Sid, is a loyal customer at Erhan and Lucy’s pub in Middlesex, where he never misses watching Liverpool games. He recently suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with a brain tumour and terminal lung cancer.
 
Since launching the Twitter campaign the couple have been inundated with calls, texts, emails and Tweets from the Liverpool community with ticket offers and donations to help the cause.
 
Erhan said: “We’ve had around 30-40 offers from people all over Liverpool. We’re absolutely overwhelmed by the generosity.”
 
“A Liverpool Dad phoned me and told me that he’d just bought four tickets for his family to see a game, and they’ve never been before.”

“But then his 14-year-old son read about Sid’s story in the Echo and told his Dad to give away the tickets. It brought tears to my eyes.”
 
The couple have gratefully accepted an offer from the ticket company @Match_Ticket_NOTOUTS who have set aside three tickets for the Liverpool vs Aston Villa game on September 13.
 
The company have also booked the trio in for two nights at a hotel and have arranged for them to enjoy a stadium tour before the game.
 
A spokesperson for @Match_Ticket told the Echo: “Money isn’t everything. It’s just nice to give something back to someone who will really benefit from visiting Anfield, life’s hard enough as it is.”
 
Since creating a second hashtag, #helpsidmeethisteam, 80-year-old Alex Stewart from Liverpool, who is enjoying his 72nd season watching the mighty reds, has contacted the couple and offered to arrange for Sid to meet the players at the Aston Villa game.
 
Erhan added: “I know how passionate people are about football and it’s touching that so many people from the Liverpool community have been so willing to give up a special occasion for Sid.”
 
“We’re excited and nervous to announce the big news to Sid the next time he comes to the pub.”

I originally wrote this story for the Liverpool Echo, it can be viewed here.

The power of social media: couple turns to Twitter to help grant dying friend’s last wish

24 Aug

A couple have launched a Twitter campaign in a bid to help grant their dying friend’s last wish to visit Anfield.

Erhan Sahin, 25, and Lucy Dance, 27, both work at The 3 Steps pub in Uxbridge and are rallying support in the local community and online to help Sid, one of their most loyal customers, go to Anfield. 

The 3 Steps pub, where Sid goes to watch the Reds

The 3 Steps pub, where Sid goes to watch the Reds

Colin Hawes, 51, is affectionately known as Sid because of his love for the Sex Pistols singer Sid Vicious. He was recently told he only has 2-6 months to live after he suffered a stroke and doctors discovered a fatal brain tumour and terminal lung cancer. 

Mr. Sahin said: “He’s the biggest Reds fan I know. I’ve run this pub for a year and a half and he’s never missed watching a game here, whether it’s the Premier League, the Champions League or a pre-season friendly.” 

“I’m constantly on the internet trying to find people to appeal to. We’ve emailed every address we can find for LFC, but we’ve been told that the next available slot on the waiting list isn’t until March 2015, and Sid doesn’t have that long left.”

Since finding out about Sid’s diagnosis, the duo have created the hashtag #helpsidgotoanfield in a bid to help send the Steven Gerrard fanatic to Anfield before he passes.

image

Colin Hawes, who dreams of watching the mighty Reds at Anfield

Mr. Sahin continued: “We haven’t told him about our efforts because we don’t want to get his hopes up, but we would love it if he could go to a game and even meet one of the players.” 

The hashtag has gathered considerable attention online, including re-tweets from Liverpool MP Stephen Twigg and @BrainTumourOrg, the UK’s leading Brain Tumour Charity.

Ms. Dance added: “Sid is a lovely man. He has no family of his own apart from his brothers. He is highly regarded in our community and very, very brave.

“Even though he has been given this awful news he still comes into the pub to watch his beloved football games.” 

“We understand this is a big ask. But it would make a very sick man very happy and he would be so proud to watch his club play live.”

If you can #helpsidgotoanfield, call Erhan on 07852768221 or email erhansahin1@hotmail.co.uk.

Need a quick, easy & cheap recipe for university? Try Flava-It’s tasty meat marinades!

16 Aug

Flava-It make pretty awesome meat marinades and they have just launched three new ‘Meat Lust’ special edition flavours. The marinades work their magic in 10-minutes- meaning they are a quick and easy way to create a tasty meal-  perfect for students in a hurry!
You can get a free sample of the marinades here.
Flava-It invited me to test out the new flavours and ‘Unleash My Meat Lust‘…sounds pretty racy, right?
Here’s my blog, recipe and review of the GORGEOUS barbecue shredded beef bun. Enjoy!

You will need: 

Screenshot_2014-08-14-21-27-36-1   – Burger buns (Tiger bread warmed in the oven worked perfectly)

- Watercress

- 1 X beef tomato

- 1X red onion

- 250g minute steak  (or 500g to make four servings)

- Tablespoon olive oil

- Flava-It Barbecue Marinade (ONLY around 85p!)

- Optional for sweet potato fries: 2X sweet potato, tablespoon honey

& preferred seasoning.  Serves two.

Method:

- Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 8/ 450 Fahrenheit/ 230 Celsius

- Peel and chop the sweet potato fries and place them in a roasting tin or baking tray. Drizzle with honey and add seasoning. Place in the oven and cook until slightly brown and crispy (around 30 mins) Screenshot_2014-08-14-21-24-40-1

- Slice the minute steaks into thin shredded strips. Place in a bowl and mix in most of the marinade. Save a small amount of the marinade for later, to mix into the mayonnaise.  Screenshot_2014-08-14-21-25-26-1

- While the meat sits in the flavouring, chop the red onion and tomato into thin slices. Wash the watercress.

Screenshot_2014-08-14-21-25-49-1

- Slice the tiger bread buns in half and place them in the bottom of the oven for the last 5 minutes of cooking time to warm and go slightly crispy.

- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and flash-fry the shredded beef until it’s cooked through and the marinade and beef juices form a slightly syrupy liquid. Leave to cool slightly in a bowl and lightly fry the tomato and onion in the same pan, to pick up the rest of the oil and seasoning.

- Remove the sweet potato fries and tiger buns from the oven.

- ‘Spike’ your desired amount of mayonnaise with the remaining marinade mix, spread onto the buns and build your bun with the meat, onions, watercress and tomato. Serve.

Mix the marinade into the mayonnaise for a tasty barbecue sauce

Mix the marinade into the mayonnaise for a tasty barbecue sauce

Review:
Screenshot_2014-08-14-21-26-54-1

I would highly recommend stocking up on some Flava-It meat marinades before university starts! The recipe only took around 30 minutes (and would be less without the sweet potato fries) and would make for a succulent, flavoursome tasty meat treat at the start of the semester before those overdrafts start sizzling.

The barbecue mix was especially on point- it reminded me of that incredible South-Carolinian barbecue taste, and for under £1 I’m definitely going to be keeping a stash of marinades in my cupboard!
I was going to record a reaction video…but I figured I wouldn’t deter my blog fans and follows with a video of me salivating over this ridiculously tasty meal!

Quick ratings

Best assets: Price, cooking time, unique flavour

Other bonuses: Versatility, great for lunch or dinner  and you can use any of the flavours on loads of different meats for any of your favourite meat recipes

Best for: Date nights, having friends round

Drawbacks: Calorie intake/ Wanting more!

Healthy version: Ditch the mayonnaise and use a wholemeal bun

What the $50m BuzzFeed investment says about the modern-day media

13 Aug

Are listicles, gifs, videos and quizzes replacing quality long-form journalism?

What started out eight years ago as a hub of cat videos, listicles, trivia, gifs and quizzes has recently been valued at $850m (£506m) following a $50m investment from a US firm.

            Californian venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has given BuzzFeed a pivotal boost in the form of a $50m (£30m) investment, which now values the internet sensation at more than three times as much as the Washington Post. The firm’s investment in the site has grown from their prediction that BuzzFeed is set to become a top-level digital company.  

News of the investment was released on Monday

News of the investment was released on Monday

            The funding signals another push in the direction of online media and confirms much of what we already know about the digital shift. The advent of digital journalism is well and truly underway and print is fast becoming a sinking ship. While newspapers are sure to become a dot on the horizon in the next few decades, websites, blogs and social media outlets are the new kid on the media block- and they’re here to stay. 

            BuzzFeed is one of the most renowned websites for capitalising on the digital shift. Although the website has recently hauled in hundreds new recruits in an attempt to report on mainstream news and features (politics, the Ebola outbreak, the Gaza conflict) it’s best known for creating breezy content that’s sharable across online platforms. 

Buzzfeed creates material that's easy to digest on laptops, mobiles and tablets

Buzzfeed creates material that’s easy to digest on laptops, mobiles and tablets

            Many of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers share BuzzFeed articles on a daily basis. They’re often posted with a reluctant disclosure that ‘I don’t normally share BuzzFeed stuff, but…’ and ‘This is probably a bit kitsch but I couldn’t resist sharing…’ followed by a listicle that glamourises, romantises, humourises or victimises the daily struggles and predicaments of a particular subgroup. Take, for example, ’27 Incredibly Annoying Things People Do To Bartenders’. It’s irresistible clickbait for anyone, anywhere who has ever worked behind a bar and prompts numerous discussions about which number made them laugh, which number reminded them of that hellish Valentine’s Day shift in 2008 and which number was so accurate they had to copy and paste the link and re-post the article themselves. 

            These articles typify many aspects of digital media and the kinds of things that consumers want to see when they browse online. Aside From A Questionable Tolerance Of BuzzFeed’s Tendency To Capitalise Their Every Headline (each to their own) the rise of BuzzFeed confirms our thirst for sharable, easily digestable, succinct, delightful, humourous, day-enhancing material. We also seem to like multi-media platforms that combine gifs, photos and videos with listicles, quizzes and articles. (BuzzFeed’s ‘Trending’ bar consists entirely of captionless photos.) 

Buzzfeed's header

Buzzfeed's trending bar is image-friendly

Buzzfeed’s trending bar is image-friendly

But I can’t ignore the fact that a website that has a ‘LOL Feed’, a ‘Cute Feed’, an ‘OMG Feed’ and a ‘WTF Feed’ is being dubbed as the next big thing on the media scene. I don’t doubt that BuzzFeed deserves such a title- it has, after all, successfully tapped into digital trends and consumer demands- but I worry about what the potential accession of BuzzFeed as a dominant media company says about the nature of our consumer demands in the first place. 

            Articles such as ’Weird Little Things All Couples Do’, ’23 Things Women Are Tired of Hearing’ and ‘21 Celebrities Who Prove Glasses Make Women Look Super Hot’- besides demonstrating a short-sighted willingness to tarring all couples and all women with the same brush- are simply self-justifying articles that social media users can regurgitate to legitimise how they’re feeling at any given moment. It’s closed-minded material that tells specific subgroups how to feel about other subgroups, and it’s not open for discussion.

            Then there’s the fact that listicles go against every English student grain of my being. BuzzFeed is like a giant slap in the face to everything I was taught at A-Level: it’s taking the numbered paragraph plan from my notes and forgetting to bother with the final product. Writing a listicle is much easier than crafting a nuanced, comprehensive, articulate, well-structured column consisting of those long-forgotten things we call ‘paragraphs’.

            But BuzzFeed is capable of winning over even the most orthodox among us. As a travel writer, ‘16 Encounters That Prove The World Is Smaller Than You Think’ totally got me clicking. As a cat-lover, I’m also lured in by ’13 Iconic Movies Improved By Cats’ and as a feminist, I really enjoyed ’18 Inventions By Women That Changed The World’. BuzzFeed has tapped into the likes and dislikes of just about anyone and is writing irresistibly light-hearted entertainment pieces that resonate perceptively with those interests. 

            We’re yet to find out whether the venture capital investment will bear fruit and BuzzFeed will become the website to reign over all. Perhaps if BuzzFeed is going to rise above conventional media companies it’ll have to ditch its associations with listicles anyway. But here’s a thought for the meantime: indulging in a listicle is great, every now and then, so long as it doesn’t replace an ability to read and write insightful, challenging and cutting-edge debates that don’t start every new point with a number. Call me a traditionalist, but I like to dream that the light-hearted side of the digital shift can move forward without casting a shadow on our good-old friend, quality.

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