Top takeaways from our routes into journalism panel

News Associates invited journalists from all corners of the industry to share their advice on how to work towards your selected career and choose the routes into journalism that are right for you.

Here, first year undergraduate trainee Julius Lawless-Master tells us what he learnt.

The panellists included Andrew Gamble, national sports trends writer for Reach PLC, Asyia Iftikhar, freelance journalist and founder of Young Journalist Community and Jacqueline Shepherd, presenter and reporter for the BBC.

Andrew and Jacqueline both studied NCTJ courses with News Associates and Asyia is starting an NCTJ course with NA next year.

These were their top tips for finding your feet in the media world:

Do what you enjoy 

Each of the panellists had different starting routes into journalism but they all agreed that doing what you enjoy is a great way of getting experience if you’re unsure where to start. 

Jacqueline said: “I’ve always wanted to work in radio or TV in some capacity but didn’t think it was a potential avenue for me. 

“I used to play with teletext on the TV and read the news as if I was an actual newsreader. 

“It was only later on that I realised I should be using that interest for a role in public speaking as a broadcaster.”

Learn a range of skills

The skills you need as a journalist vary depending on your role and niche, but many are transferable and useful in all fields.  

Andrew said: “Match reports require you to be quick because you have to write everything by the end of the match.

“That kind of thinking on the job and being quick at what you do can be translated to news writing and is easily transferable between the two.

“I know people who have worked in sports journalism and then done news writing at the same high standard.”

Jacqueline advised practising a lot and avoiding perfectionism when trying to get better at speaking in front of a camera. 

She said: “It’s about managing your nerves and lots of practice.

“So often we’re striving for perfection, and the moment you give yourself a break and let people accept you for who you are you will feel a lot calmer.”

Pay attention to the news and think outside the box

Consuming a range of news and staying abreast of what’s going on outside your beat can give you inspiration for stories.

Andrew said: “Some people try to say that sport and politics don’t go hand in hand but they really do. 

“I feel like it really gives a context to what is happening in front of fans so it’s important to know what’s going on in the wider scope of the world.”

There is always competition for covering headline stories so it’s vital that you can think of unique angles. This will make your pitches stand out to editors.

Asyia said: “Explain what the angle is, not just the general idea. 

“For example, instead of just saying that you have thoughts on the latest Spider-man, say something like: ‘this is why the ending of the latest Spider-man film was bad.’”

Create a portfolio

Our panellists advised creating a portfolio of your work, something you can use to get your foot in the door when pitching to an editor.

A portfolio also demonstrates extensive knowledge of your beat.

Asyia suggested using Journo Portfolio, which offers a student discount, WordPress or Wix.

She said: “It’s about looking at your body of work and seeing what the best way to split it up is. 

“This will let people who click on it go straight to the place they are interested in.”

Be passionate and don’t give up

All of our panellists agreed that showing passion for journalism can go a long way when you’re starting out.

Andrew said: “Be enthusiastic because people really build off that. 

“If you’re really keen, it’s contagious and people will notice that and chuck pieces your way.”

Asyia added that building friendships with other journalists helps to get through difficult periods. 

Jacqueline said: “Whether it’s for pitching or applying for different roles, just keep going.

“If you are passionate and have a good support network then you will get somewhere.

“Once you’ve made that first step, the second step will be easier and so will the ones after that.”

You can join Young Journalist Community, founded by Asyia, on Facebook here.

Now you know about different routes into journalism, check out our blog on the top takeaways from our social media journalism panel.