Guest Post – Jamie Smith: news agencies
November 2, 2010 4 Comments
Jamie Smith had always wanted to be a journalist but he couldn’t get a job for several months after finishing his degree at the University of Sunderland. After six months of unhappy hunting – during which he wrote for the Guardian – he got taken on by online news agency Adfero…
It could be the right move for you.
Working at a news agency had honestly never crossed my mind.
After realising at a quite young age that I wasn’t going to be the new Andy Payton I set upon a path that would ultimately, I hoped, lead to a job in sports journalism. If I couldn’t play the game I would watch it and criticise those who could. It was going to be perfect.
A year and a bit after finishing my degree and I’m nowhere near where I originally thought I’d be.
But I am better off than many of my peers and that’s because I found news agencies.
When I left university I stupidly thought it wouldn’t be too hard to find a job: the recession was coming to an end, I had lots of work in my portfolio and a year’s experience editing the Students’ Union quarterly magazine.
It turned out that it all counted for nothing: I’d failed to finish my NCTJs so no local newspaper would touch me. I also didn’t have a driving licence, a major barrier to my dreams of joining such papers as the Congleton Chronicle and the Nelson Leader, two of the publications at which I had interviews.
Several months later an ad caught my eye for writers in Manchester. The advert was for at Adfero: a national online news agency.
Despite plenty of horror stories posted online from former Adfero staffers I didn’t think it sounded too bad and got the job. I still wasn’t really sure what I was letting myself in for.
Joining Adfero was probably the best thing I could have done at the time. It’s hard work – I write more than 4,000 words every day and often push 5,000 (that’s a whole book, every week!) – but my knowledge base has expanded beyond belief.
At Adfero, we handle the news feeds for various corporate clients, using SEO to improve their rankings in search engines. I’ve written about carpets, savings accounts, green jobs, Brazilian property, health and safety, business debt, payday loans, the Isle of Wight and a whole range of other baffling and beautiful topics.
Before starting here I considered myself reasonably intelligent, well-read and knowledgeable. This year alone I reckon I’ve become 100 per cent cleverer. I know what the interest rates are for now. I understand the concept of mortgages.
I know where the Isle of Wight is.
A straw poll of my old classmates from Sunderland and Twitter followers revealed news agencies are not on their radar (as they weren’t mine) and whilst it isn’t particularly creative work and your flowery prose has no home here, it does give you the chance to sharpen your news angle sniffing skills.
What a job in a news agency like Adfero won’t do is hone your newsgathering. Although some of the writers in our office do carry out interviews, we have researchers for that purpose and traditional journalism like going out and finding things does not come into it.
But if you’re struggling to find your dream role, I would still heartily recommend you consider news agencies. The work improves your writing, you learn about a vast range of topics, you don’t take your work home, you don’t have the horror of death knocks and you don’t have silly 15-hour shifts.
Getting a job at a news agency probably saved my career. It could do the same for yours.