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Any freelance journalists? Advice please

(11 Posts)
princessx Tue 30-Jul-13 11:48:21

Hi there, I'm considering a career change into journalism, and I'm looking for some advice on how to start.

I have a ma degree and 10 years in magazine publishing and I'd like to move across into editorial if possible.

I'd like to do a course to learn how to write properly before I try to move. Should I do a post-grad diploma somewhere? Or an Nctj qualification?

Any advice gratefully received!

Punkatheart Tue 30-Jul-13 13:56:23

I am self-taught. It may not be the ideal route into journalism but it worked for me. You already have a degree and experience in magazine publishing. In regard to the latter - in what capacity did you work? If you were writing articles, then you can write.

Where do you feel are your weakest areas?

princessx Tue 30-Jul-13 15:11:16

Thanks for your reply. I work in marketing and I'd like to stay in the company and just move over into editorial. I have a lot of contacts there for placements etc, I just want to go in a course first so I actually know what to do. I'm not sure what course is best and was just trying to get a feel for what people think.

I want to sound like I know what I'm talking about before I start asking editorial for a placement. I'm on mat leave at mo so free to start a course now.

That's great you are self taught. Did you not do any training at all?

Punkatheart Tue 30-Jul-13 15:49:17

No training whatsoever. Which may sound shocking but I was always pretty good at English language and literature. I have made my way by pitching ideas and winning writing competitions for both fiction and non-fiction. I have been published in The Independent on Sunday, The Sunday Telegraph and lots of magazines - by sheer force and determination. I also assistant edit a conservation magazine and I am deputy editor for a new literary website. I still need to earn more but that will come in time.

But yes - I see that you want to feel confident in yourself before you take another direction. I will ask some writer friends for you and see if there is a suitable course that has a good reputation. I know The Guardian do a lot of excellent, if expensive, courses. I don't think I have seen an editing one - but I will check.

GirlWithTheDirtyShirt Tue 30-Jul-13 15:54:51

I'm not a print journalist (in fact, I now work in internal comms, not journalism at all) but I did the BJTC MA and worked as a Broadcast Journalist for some time.

In my opinion you can either do it or you can't and the course will probably only help with contacts, some legal type stuff and hands on experience (we ran newsrooms for community radio stations and produced documentaries for competitions). If you can get that through contacts you already have then I wouldn't pursue a course - the cost is huge.

Punkatheart Tue 30-Jul-13 16:35:30

Good point, Girl.

I have been recommended this one though:

WilsonFrickett Wed 31-Jul-13 12:18:48

Placement before course, always. What if you hate it? You've wasted loads of money on a course you don't want plus you may find you don't actually need to do a 'full' course, just some bits and pieces.

My belief is if you can write, you can write - no course can teach you that. Of course there is a lot of journalism that isn't simply writing, but you could probably pick that up from short courses or experience.

At the very least ask around a lot (as you are doing here) and ask your colleagues, there are a lot of poor very - and very expensive - writing courses out there.

Punkatheart Wed 31-Jul-13 13:56:32

I would agree with the very expensive (and poor) courses. Writing has become quite an industry. I think you can learn the basics from reading and perhaps reading a book about the 'rules' but journalism isn't difficult - it's the industry contacts that are difficult.

princessx Thu 01-Aug-13 13:42:51

Great - thanks for all your advice. I was hoping a course could teach me the basics about how to structure news and feature articles etc. you're right I could also look at some books for that info too.

Yes there seems to be loads of courses around, and I want to make sure I do one that people respect, and that actually teaches me something.

You are right about doing the placement first though, that's probably the best way to start.

cooper44 Thu 01-Aug-13 18:50:30

I totally agree you will learn tons more working than on a course - I've never done a course and I write for pretty much every national newspaper and glossy magazine. I was an ok writer when I started and I don't think a writing course would have made me any better necessarily. What did make me better was working alongside really great editors who I have learnt tons from over time. I agree with above posters that you can either write or you can't but equally if you have a bit of talent to start off with you also massively improve over time.
The other thing I would say is choose a niche if possible - I think general features writers find it really tough freelance unless they are really well connected and established. If you have a specialism it is generally but not always much easier to have a constant stream of work.
I saw the Guardian's list of courses the other day and they looked really good. Arvon courses are also supposed to be great and I am pretty sure they have a feature writing course. Maybe an intensive course like that is a good way to do it alongside a placement or similar?
good luck - I love my job and thank my lucky stars daily that it's what I do for a living.

Wednesbury Thu 10-Oct-13 12:28:54

Hi princessx I realise this thread is rather old now but in case you're still checking, I do online news editing/writing with no formal training (English degree and creative writing MA, and I am a production editor and copy editor) but I found this book very helpful for a background to journalism some basic principles on how to structure a news story and it has some of the grammar basics as well. I would really recommend it:

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