One Year On: The Journalist
Updated: Mar 2, 2021
There aren't too many places where you can lie in the sun sipping award-winning Shiraz whilst writing an essay on defamation, but the University of Wollongong is one. Studying on the beach sounds great, but it has its disadvantages - sand gathers in your laptop, sunscreen smudges your lecture notes and it is easy to fall asleep, textbook in hand, only to wake up with a sunburnt forehead.
I graduated with a 2:1 in media studies and Swedish from UEA where I'd spent three years writing for the student newspaper 'Concrete' and enrolling on every available photography and writing course. I knew I wanted to study journalism and I wanted to go to Australia, and thought: why not combine the two?
As my backpacking contemporaries were picking berries in Queensland, I was turning up to university barefoot and in board shorts. Despite the relaxed atmosphere, the course was intensive. The tutors were experienced journalists with high expectations. I spent endless nights in front of a Mac designing, writing and producing a magazine for assessment. We had 8am lectures on ethics and law, and afternoon classes in different news writing techniques.
Part of the MA involved an internship at a regional daily newspaper. In my interview the editor asked which area of reporting I was least interested in and I told him sports. This probably wasn't the best answer for a "pommy Sheila" to give a redneck newspaper editor and on my first day I was thrown in the deep end as he handed me a cricket story. It might sound macabre, but I was relieved at lunchtime when I was sent to cover a drowning story. That story made the front page, while my cricket report was on the back. In the following weeks I covered everything from September 11 to rugby league, and I wrote weekly education supplements.
I completed my MA in seven months and graduated with a distinction, a suntan and a taste for New World wines.
What can I do to get into journalism?
My advice to anyone trying to get into journalism is to do as much work experience as possible to build a portfolio. The key is not to give up!
Write blogs online, volunteer to write content for charities and keep going until you have a portfolio. Then it is time to charge!
This article was first published in The Guardian Newspaper