I’ve neglected my blog since starting at The Sun but I’ve noticed that people have landed on my home page by searching for “david woode + city”.
Something tells me it’s City MA students having a nose so I’m going to write a post about getting the most out of City with regards to work experience.
1. CUTTINGS V NAME
I did the Magazine MA and 99 per cent of my cohort aspired to be feature writers, reporters, junior editors and subs. We hoped to rock up to the best glossies, newspapers and supplements - the newsrooms of many being very close to our base in Angel – and make ourselves known.
BUT having trawled through the previous year’s work placement logs on Moodle (hat tip) - and listened to my course leader talk about the importance of cuttings -I decided to side-step consumer mags and head somewhere smaller.
For me, going to City was about removing myself from my comfort zone – I had one year to write as widely as possible – and I took that pretty seriously.
It’s an open secret that ‘workies’ at big magazines (and national newspapers) are there to ‘get things done’ – be it transcribing, sorting the post, organising magazines and newspapers in to neat piles (true story) and other mundane duties… but I decided to see if I could prove this theory.
I undertook placements at The Voice, The Sunday Times – News Review, Dazed and Confused and Grazia. Out of all these titles – The ST was the only place where I didn’t write.
The Voice was fantastic – because it is a small operation I was encouraged to pitch. I landed three front pages during my time there and wrote a raft of features, print and online news stories and gained lots of picture credits. Also, they were keen for my input and feedback as I represented a key age group they wanted to engage with.
Dazed was brilliant because it’s a mag I grew up reading - and being an independent title there was room for new writers and fresh ideas. I was prompted to pitch to both print and online platforms. I was able to see how the production process works too, which was great.
Grazia was way out of my comfort zone but hugely enjoyable – it’s a slick and professional outfit and the team were so welcoming. I spent a week on the news desk and picked up a few bylines in the mag and on Grazia Daily. The biggest thing was understanding the behemoth that is celebrity and how important it is to know your audience and the people you write about.
Going to a smaller publication (local newspaper, B2B, some desks of nationals, minority publications, indie magazines, real life weeklies, customer publishers), or somewhere with a strong online output will give you a better platform to learn, pitch and get published.
This carries on from my earlier point. PITCH AND GET PUBLISHED!
When you’ve secured your placement make sure you’ve read the publication you’re heading to. Order back copies if it’s a hard-to-get B2B and depending on which department/desk you’re on, look at the subjects they cover and recently published features.
Work up three strong pitches. Send out emails, file FOIs, start digging and form a pitch. When you arrive on work experience, find the commissioning editor/news editor/relevant person and when they’ve got a few minutes free ask if you can email over your ideas or grab a chat.
Also, pictures, strong case studies and exclusive material will get you noticed – and published.
There’ll be times when you’ll be given a less than desirable task to do (I once had to transcribe an interview that lasted for 70 minutes and the interviewee spoke as if he’d just dropped a pill) but it’s important to do it with a smile on your face. Sometimes it’s a test – a test of your attitude and how meticulous you are when faced with difficult or dry tasks. Word gets around newsrooms if the intern’s got an attitude or is wearing a ‘screw face’ – don’t let that be you!
4. PICK IT UP
D0n’t be afraid to answer the phone.
5. GET TOOLED UP
Be armed with two notebooks, a dictaphone with spare batteries, a telephone pick up/microphone, five pens (I lost a pen every day without fail), a small point-and-shoot camera, a USB stick, a phone charger and a small umbrella. If you’re doing a lot of field reporting, make sure you take your laptop battery charger.
I got so much out of my work placements and it helped me figure out the kind of journalist I wanted to be and I got to hone the skills I gained before and during the course. More importantly I got to write – to really write – and build a strong portfolio which I was able to take to my interview at News International and speak confidently about my experience.
City has a great rep and editors know that they can put some amount of trust in a City MA student because they’ve got the basics under their belt.
OBVIOUSLY there’s no right or wrong answer… but observe the journalists and how they work and get to know them (contacts), offer to help out where appropriate, take all feedback (constructive and otherwise) and build on it.
Don’t be cocky but be confident - you might not be there for long, but you’ll want to be remembered as the intern who went the extra mile.
Best of luck!