Don’t expect to be an expert in a new job

Edited Obama

An edited Obama speech - he certainly wouldn't claim to be an expert at his job

You’re experienced right? You’ve got an internship (or two or three), some work experience under your belt and a little bit of student media (or a lot) so you know what you’re doing. Right?

Or not…

Now, while I might be one to honk my horn from time to time, I like to think such honking is backed up by lots of very hard work, a careful, thoughtful approach to all I do and a tendency to throw myself into things without always checking someone put the safety mat out. (Disclaimer: recommended, but not my fault if you get hurt)

What I have been reminded of during my first full month at the Guardian is that you are always learning. Not a massive revelation I know, but one worth reflecting on so you can make the best of it.

It’s been a while since my copy was properly edited and challenged, since my decision making has come into focus and it has been utterly refreshing and a bit of a shock at the same time.

Let me ask you: How carefully do you consider the wording, meaning and tone of each sentence? How often do you waste words and therefore your reader’s time with your copy?

Read more of this post


The Daily and some fancy apps aren’t going to save journalism

In the last few days we have seen the announcement of some sort of new Murdoch iPad/tablet-only paper ‘The Daily’ and Richard Branson has also thrown his hat into the arena with his announcement.

The Daily

The App icon for the new newspaper

It is good that people are experimenting – I don’t believe in Murdoch’s approach or philosophy towards content and the Internet – but people do have to try things out – news and journalism needs a new business model.

Yet apps, programmes and software are not the answer to the problems that journalism faces, they will not encourage people to pay for a low quality product just because they are on a touch screen. Especially not when we have to suffer the kind of inaccurate and agenda driven journalism that we have seen regarding the student protests of the last two weeks.

What has happened with reporting in the last few weeks, months and years has highlighted the problems that journalism currently faces. Our news is less accurate, rushed and lazy – if the Guardian had not pursued the Ian Tomlison case, would anyone have been held to account? If the New York Times had not pushed the phone hacking story (Wall Street Journal motivations aside) would the police be investigating again?

Read more of this post

The reading list: Week 13

It’s that time again when we let you know what journalists, journals and online articles have been the focus of our hack-ttention in the past seven days.

Reading List Photo

Credit: Flickr user adam & lucy

Please let us know of any other interesting blogs/sites/articles by commenting below, emailing us at or tweeting us (@wannabehacks). Here goes…

I am kicking off this week with something I expect a lot of you will have seen, but if you haven’t you should be reading it (whether you agree with Rusbridger or not) – I am of course referring to Alan Rusbridger’s latest essay / lecture on the media industry: The splintering of the fourth estatea small excerpt below, but it is 5000 words long, so make sure you have a cuppa to hand:

“I want to discuss the possibility that we are living at the end of a great arc of history, which began with the invention of moveable type. There have, of course, been other transformative steps in communication during that half millennium – the invention of the telegraph, or radio and television, for instance – but essentially they were continuations of an idea of communication that involved one person speaking to many. That’s not dead as an idea. But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.”

Read more of this post

It’s all about online journalism. Isn’t it?

City University have recently announced a new Masters degree: An Interactive Journalism MA which offers:

  • Data Journalism | Sourcing, reporting and presenting stories through data-driven journalism
    and visualising and presenting data (databases, mapping and other interactive graphics).
  • Online Communities | Developing and managing online communities including social media – in the changing relationship of journalists with consumers.
  • Content Management | Understanding and using the content management systems that underlie online journalism.

These are all useful skills which will be supplemented by other core modules from City’s offerings, but it left me wondering whether City are ahead of the curve or behind it?

Read more of this post

The reading list: Week 12

Photo courtesy of bravenewtraveler

Photo courtesy of bravenewtraveler

It’s that time again when we let you know what journalists, journals and online articles have been the focus of our hack-ttention in the past seven days.

Please let us know of any other interesting blogs/sites/articles by commenting below, emailing us at or tweeting us (@wannabehacks). Here goes…

This week we are starting with a post on The Moving Media. It looks at how mobiles were used in reporting on the student protests mid week. The site looks at how journalism is being impacted by mobile reporting and the functionality that is granted to us by smart phones on the go. This post is acknowledging how bad ‘old media’ is at covering something as it happens. (Although they are getting better)…

“Nowadays this form of reporting has taken a kick to the teeth. We, as the absorbing public, demand speed, efficiency, accuracy and engagement as prerequisites. Yesterday we were able to watch a new breed of reporting in perfect motion, as eyewitnesses posted minute-by-minute information on Twitter, and photographers uploaded via Flickr. Sky News’ Kay Burley, who made several slapdash reporting bloopers, could have learned a thing or two from the would-be journalists on the streets.”

Read more of this post

The reading list: Week 11

It’s that time again when we let you know what journalists, journals and online articles have been the focus of our hack-ttention in the past seven days.

Please let us know of any other interesting blogs/sites/articles by commenting below, emailing us at or tweeting us (@wannabehacks). Here goes…

First up is a brilliant little tool called ‘Social Collider‘ – it is described as a tool that “reveals cross-connections between conversations on Twitter.” Rather than try and explain it, go use it. I have also included a picture of the Wannabehacks connections below so you can get an idea of how the tool presents these connections.

Wannabehacks on social collider

Wannabehacks on Social Collider

Next up, a bit of freelance advice from Freelance Switch – First Draft Success: A Method for Meeting Client Expectationsit is always useful to remember that managing client expectations from the beginning can save you a lot of pain later on.

Read more of this post

So you want to be a journalist? In response to Martin King

This isn’t intended as a direct response to Martin’s article in the Independent’s blog section

… but I am using it as a jumping off point.

Photo courtesy of greeblie

Martin’s article ‘So you want to be a journalist?‘ provides pointers on some of the key skills ‘wannabe’ journalists will need to be in a position to get themselves a job. What struck me about his approach was the way he divided up the skills. ‘Writing has got two subsections: ‘Spelling and Grammar’ and ‘Shorthand and Touch Typing’, yet, what Martin referred to as ‘Technical‘ was just one broad paragraph on such a wide range of skills I wonder if people have a true appreciation of what is involved.

Read more of this post

Wannabe Hacks do Movember


It’s that time of year again when men can grow ridiculous facial hair without feeling like the only idiot in town. The month of November sees the ‘Movember’ campaign for prostate cancer awareness hit town. This year the Wannabe Hacks have decided they will be participating to help raise awareness and treat the world to our stunning stubble and magnificent moustaches.

The Hacks have seen a mixed bag of performances when it comes to beard / moustache growing prowess: the Chancer has a stunning inability to grow any flowing locks on his face, perhaps in line with his maturity level. The Student has been credited with what can only be called ‘dodgy’ facial hair and the Freelancer is unaware of any ability to produce a goatee or handlebar at all.

Read more of this post

One small step for Hacks…

The Guardian offices Kings Place

The Guardian offices Kings Place

This blog about our journeys into journalism wouldn’t be much use if it didn’t update you about our real life adventures. You have had some patch experiences from the Chancer and some pitching and application insights from the Freelancer…

Now it is time for some news from me, the Intern.

On Monday morning I start a brand new job at the Guardian. I can’t really talk about what I will be doing yet as some of it isn’t ready for the outside world to know – however I will do my best to keep you updated as and when it is appropriate.

Read more of this post

Getting it on with multimedia: Audioboo style

(Direct Audioboo link here…)

Man speaking through meagphone

At Hacks we are always looking to practice what we preach – a couple of weeks ago we introduced our first podcast and today we are continuing our foray into the audio world with an Audioboo. The idea behind these shorter, more informal posts is to allow us to communicate some thoughts, ideas and insights to you in bite-size pieces. No doubt at some point you will hear the Chancer moan about the price of coffee on his patch or the Freelancer giving some impromptu pitching advice.

These ‘boos will be available from iTunes so you can get them on your iPods (or non Apple mp3 players… as you should be able to do with our podcast soon as well). This way you can have the Hacks at your side even when you don’t have access to the Internet.

Read more of this post