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How to get a job in journalism

30 Aug

There is no easy answer to the question, “How do you get a journalism job”. I wish there was. I started in journalism 30 years ago when the choices were much simpler. In the early Eighties, the choice was between print or broadcast. I chose broadcast, but ended up working in print and I’m now the TV Editor on the Sunday Express in London. How did I get my first job?

It wasn’t easy. My very first writing job was with a radio station in the central NSW town of Orange. I lived in the nearby town of Bathurst where I was attending college. We were encouraged to seek freelance work as “stringers”. This is a local freelance reporter. I rang the “news director” at the station to ask if I could be the local stringer for Bathurst. He said he would “give me a go”. My job, one day a week, was to buy the local Bathurst newspaper in the early hours of the morning, find the best story, and then write a radio report for the Orange radio station, called 2GZ. I generally had about half an hour to do this, after buying the paper. It was all a bit helter skelter. I would hastily write the story before reading it down the telephone line as a radio report. It was a great experience. I eventually used a reference from this once a week job to get my first proper job.
Initially, the best policy is to think locally. Try to find experience on any local publication, or website, where you can make contact with someone in person. Meeting someone, face to face, is the best way to impress them with your enthusiasm and hunger to be a journalist.
In my course, I write about “determination & dedication”. These are qualities that will make you both a good journalist, and give you the ability to find a job. News editors and editors will see this quality immediately. Success in journalism comes from self-starters, those who can see a story and make it work.
You will be pleased to learn, however, that you can make your own luck in journalism. Persistence counts for much. Do not give up. Keep pushing. But also offer something to those you are annoying for a post, or work experience. Tell them a story you would like to research. Give them a lead.

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How to interview a celebrity

3 Oct

How to interview a celebrity
I’m the TV Editor on the Sunday Express and I interview celebrities every week. In general terms, they are very friendly though it can sometimes get sticky if you roam into areas which they don’t like. Here are 5 ways to ensure you get the best interview from a celebrity every time.

1) Polite and friendly approach
Whether your interview is face to face, or over the telephone, or indeed in a “round table” set up with other journalists, politeness is the key to a good chat. In Britain, we have famous interrogators on the television such Jeremy Paxman. Under no circumstances, should you approach an interview in this way. You will get nowhere. I have seen celebrities in round table situations stiffen up immediately upon sensing an aggressive style. Obviously there is a place for this, but not when discussing a cosy period drama with a young actress. If face to face with your talent, smile and engage the talent and try to strike a rapport before you turn on the recorder. If taking notes, make sure you look at the talent, too, otherwise you won’t connect. And look INTERESTED even if you’re not!

2) Stick to the boundaries
PRs and press agent now listen to most interviews as they take place as a matter of course. On some occasions with noted celebrities you may find yourself with as many as five other staff connected with the talent in the same room. Their job? To protect the talent. Each interview will have some agreed boundaries. The discussion may be very informal. Stick to it or the interview is likely to be terminated. Indeed you may not even get the access unless you agree to disclose exactly what you want to talk about. Don’t get cross about it. Just work with it. PRs and minders are a fixture on the media landscape and you must learn to work with them.

3) Bullet points
It’s that simple. Eight to 10 should do the trick. You should think these up while you’re doing your research, such as looking at newspaper cuttings or reading stories on the Internet. In a way, these are thoughts rather than outright questions. If you like, they are subject headings that you can expect to come up during the course of the interview. If they don’t, the bullet points are there to jog your memory. If it is an audio interview, for radio or for the interview, you can glance quickly at them and move seamlessly to the next subject. So obviously don’t make the points too detailed on your pad. You want to digest it and move on quickly. Try not to ask questions which only solicit a one word answer. This will make it a very long interview for both concerned!

4) Listen!
Again, this is stating the bleeding obvious. Or is it? So many times as an interviewer you can be concentrating on what you next need to ask, and completely miss a new thread to the interview. This is a bad habit of mine. Listen, listen, listen! The best practice for interviewing, apart from doing it over and over, is to do it without questions prepared whatsoever. This is often the case for news interviews, where you are put on the spot immediately. It makes you listen.

5) Don’t be a fan

Difficult not to be too starstruck, indeed nervous when first meeting a celebrity. Thankfully, you have a job to do, which tends to distance you from the star sitting in front of you. The interviewee is simply a person telling you a story, from which you need to get your own story, your own angle. That will concentrate the mind, if nothing else!

Download my journalism books from Amazon. They include an ebook series on How to be a Journalist

Keeley Hawes and Identity

26 Jun

Keeley Hawes and Philip Glenister

It’s never a good idea to schedule the launch of a new drama on the day of the Queen’s Speech. So it was with ITV’s new series, Identity. No celebrity worth their equity card ever takes the Tube in London, and to be fair, the broadcasters lay on cars anyway. Central London is brought to a standstill while the Queen takes a coach to the Palace of Westminster, which meant that Keeley Hawes, star of Identity, and undoubtedly the turn of the day, would be late. She was indeed very late. So much so that the writer of the series, Ed Whitmore, became a stand-in attraction for half an hour. He was in fact terribly interesting, about how he formed the drama and how it has already been picked up in America. Whitmore also has a project with the BBC but was having much less to say about that as you will hear.

Aidan Gillen Courtesy of ITV

After Whitmore exited, Keeley Hawes made her entrance together with the other leads, Aidan Gillen and Holly Aird.
There was another issue with the timing of the launch. It was only four days after the end of Ashes to Ashes, in which Hawes got a farewell kiss from Philip Glenister. How long would it be before she was asked about the end of such a fine series? One insider admitted: “Why do you think we launched when we did?”
For those interested in how these events come together, ITV, for the first time conducted a simultaneous press conference over Ready To Air, the online preview service for journalists who write about TV. It worked rather well but could interrupt proceedings, too. One suspects more journalists will attend these press conferences “remotely” in the future. Monday 5th July ITV

David Stephenson\’s TV blog

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