Student journalists: Want a job? Get a blog!

It used to be the case in journalism that if you wanted to get into the top jobs, good connections were key. Now all you need is a decent blog and a lively twitter account.

This was the theme of a seminar I organised at City University journalism department this week in my capacity as a visiting fellow.

Guardian media and technology reporter Josh Halliday, BBC World Service website journalist Dave Lee and Daily Telegraph data mapping reporter Conrad Quilty-Harper (pictured below left to right) joined me for a seminar entitled ‘how to blog your way into a job’.

The idea of the evening was to drum into journalism students early on that the best way to learn journalism is to do it and that nowadays nothing is stopping them getting their names out there and noticed right now.

Halliday studied for a degree in journalism at Sunderland University, but made his mark editing an ultralocal blog called SR2. He used Twitter to hobnob with folk like former Guardian digital director Emily Bell to help him get a foot in the door at Guardian News and Media. Since June this year he’s been a trainee reporter there.

Dave Lee started blogging about journalism in 2006 when he was studying at the University of Lincoln. In 2007 he rather cheekily said one of the greatest journalists of his generation, Philip Knightley, was an “old-fashioned dinosaur” on his blog because he suggested in a lecture at Lincoln that print journalists should stick to print.

In his talk Lee now admitted that his comments were a little ill-judged. But they got him noticed and linked to on Roy Greenslade’s blog. He later got paid to write a student journalism blog by Press Gazette. He bagged a job at the BBC internet blog and now works for the World Service. He still blogs here.

Conrad was refreshingly candid about the fact that his personal blog was largely ranting, complaining and “boring essays”. But it’s also jolly amusing and well put together and helped him to get his current job at the cutting edge of new journalism.

All three of these guys are under 25 and all managed to get into a great job thanks to the opportunities opened up by digital media.

The big ‘take-home’ from me from the seminar was the fact that whereas before you perhaps needed to have the right educational background or family connections to get on in journalism – today it is all about the connections you can make online using blogs and social media tools like Twitter.

All three agreed that the best blogging platform to get started on his wordpress.com which is free to set up on and can be easily migrated to the more professional wordpress.org version.

(WordPress for dummies is a pretty good primer.)

For the less technically confident Blogger.com is another free blogging platform which is less versatile than WordPress but easier to use.

Last month five recent graduates set up a blog about trying to get into the journalism industry via different routes called Wannabe Hacks. They describe themselves as: the student, the chancer, the intern, the freelancer and the detective.

Two of the Wannabe Hacks were at my City Uni seminar on Tuesday night and revealed that Guardian News and Media has actually contacted them with a potential job offer. One of them, ‘the intern’ Nick Petrie, got back in touch and on Monday he starts work.

More proof, if it was needed, that even in these straitened times student journalists really can blog their way into a great job if they believe in themselves and go ahead and do it.

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