News Associates presents JournoFest 2020: Working for a news agency panel

Often unknown to the public, news agencies are a great route into the profession, as we learned from the JournoFest 2020 ‘Working for a news agency’ panel, writes part-time News Associates trainee Gaelle Legrand.

News Associates conference: news agency panel

L-R: Ferrari Press Agency director and journalist Adam Gillham, South West News Service executive editor Euan Stretch, Solent News news editor Justin Menhenett, PA Media reporter Jess Glass and Triangle News founder and director Benjamin Howe

The panel kicked off with a presentation from each agency represented, covering the ins and outs of working at a news agency.

Solent News news editor Justin Menhenett said: “It is probably the quickest route to get where you want to be.

“We like having students and graduates, it’s something we take great pleasure in, to see young reporters grow and witness their journey.

“We have been covering mainly the south of the UK for the past 60 years and we are blessed with the space where we are located. This enables us to do military stories, we cover Salisbury and Bournemouth.

“We also have the freedom to go wherever we want and cover these stories.”

Ferrari Press Agency director Adam Gillham spoke about the range of stories journalists at news agencies can expect to cover.

He said: “We recently reported the inquest which uncovered a series of deaths in the NHS.

“It’s a diverse day-to-day job. One day you are talking about a murder, the next day about social media. No two days are the same.”

For Jess Glass, reporter at international newswire PA Media, working for a news agency is not about the glory of having your name in print, but it’s a great way to report on stories that matter to you.

“Agency reporting is the backbone of the industry,” they said.

“It is such a great way to get access to all the news. For example, I attended the first cabinet meeting after the General Election, with Boris Johnson.

“I started working at Central News, I also work a lot with the American agency AP, and I cover the royal rota and court cases too.”

Jess, a News Associates 2019 graduate, pointed out how useful their NCTJ qualification has been.

They said: “You need great reporting and shorthand. I’m actually on my way to the 120 words per minute exam very soon.”

Moving on to the qualities needed to be a good agency reporter, the panel emphasised drive, enthusiasm and determination.

Triangle News founder and director Benjamin Howe said: “It’s about having a good attitude, being open to do anything. 

“In an agency, we want to encourage you to progress but you have to be hungry.”

Adam agreed, adding that a desire of genuinely wanting to be in the industry and the ability to juggle between the stories was necessary.

He said: “The business has changed so we do a lot of social media and increasingly video production.

“But if you can hack it in an agency, you will hack it in a national.”

For Euan Stretch, executive director of South West News Service, the key is self motivation, practical skills, and above all a love of the news.

“What frustrates me the most is young people coming to us but they don’t even read the newspapers or online news,” he said.

“Either way, you need a good ability to write, to conduct an interview, and that can apply to any media.”

Finding stories is one part of succeeding at a news agency, Benjamin explained. 

He said: “We have a journalist at the agency who is really into data and we love it as long as you can turn it into a good story.

“On the other hand, a reporter working on a really good real-life story will go for publication in a magazine. 

“In the end, it’s a skill to have someone trust you to tell their story. Empathy is at the heart of what we do.”

Did you miss JournoFest 2020? Check out our round up video below! And learn more here.