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?

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Too proud to write for “The Daily Fail”?

When you’re looking for something, you’d be amazed how quickly your standards lower. We’re talking about jobs here as opposed to that desperate 4am scanning of the dance floor…

On Sunday Giles Coren wrote a column much like those he publishes in varying parts of The Times of a weekend: witty, touching, cleverly structured and a delight to read. Except it appeared in Femail: The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday’s girl-friendly colour supplement. The flocks of @gilescoren fans (myself included) sycophantically tweeted their appreciation hours after ‘Oh my God, I’m turning into my father’ appeared on Mail Online.

Daily Mail

A 'typical' Daily Mail front page

However, it was clear that many of these compliments were more than a little backwards. @henweb tweeted: “Nice. @GilesCoren’s article in the Daily #FAIL is literally the first good article I’ve read in the DM for… well, ever!”. I was alerted to the piece by @samparkercouk, advising that “If you only ever visit the Daily Hate once in your life, make it for this article by @gilescoren.” Even if he wasn’t such a candid tweeter, it’s obvious why Coren took the controversial commission: it’s his job.

Daft as it sounds, it’s all too easy as a young and/or wannabe hack to imagine ourselves taking the Guardian offices by storm, rather than realising that writing for a living is as much about paying rent as it is ‘changing the world’. When I was job-hunting a fellow intern scoffed, “Gas and Power Magazine? Seriously?” It’s easily done, until you see what journo job listing sites really look like and your specifications broaden considerably.

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GSMA – Kingston Uni: we won “because we took risks”

Lara O’Reilly is former editor of Kingston University’s River newspaper + now a reporter at Marketing Week…

Winning is sometimes far sweeter when you are not expecting it at all.

Hours before the event two nights ago news was spreading around Twitter that there had been an apparent leak of the Guardian Student Media Awards results.

According to the rumours a press release was sent to current editors of the nominated student publications asking if they would like photos of the event – oh and revealing the winner and runner-up of each category.

Kingston Uni Team

Lara O'Reilly and Callum Hornigold

We didn’t know the result for sure; everyone on Twitter was respecting the embargo, but there were plenty of smug-sounding tweets from certain students who seemed to already know the result.

We practiced our gracious losing smiles on the tube to the Guardian offices, still overjoyed that we had been nominated at all.

The ceremony was small, fun and informal – more like a networking event than an awards show, with everyone chatting to students from other publications and introducing themselves to a few of the journos associated with the event.

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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.”

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Debate: blogging – is it actually worthwhile?

Paul Bradshaw, who runs the Online Journalism Blog, has suggested that not writing a regular blog could have an adverse affect on your chances of securing a job in the media. With that in mind, The Student and The Chancer go head-to-head about whether blogging is as worthwhile as everybody makes out.

The Student

FOR: The Student

When it comes to keeping a regularly-updated blog, it’s more a case of ‘why wouldn’t you?’.

Let’s start with the financial implications (or indeed the lack of). Blogging is free through popular Content Manager Systems (CMS) WordPress and Blogger, which allow web users to produce a blog without having to shell out. It’s possible to buy hosting and custom-made themes to expand but this is by no means essential – the content is the key.

Next up is the misconception that having a blog is a time-consuming process. In fact, the beauty of blogging is that it’s a wholly flexible medium, which you can dip into whenever you want. You can do a post every day if you have time but equally there’s no problem with leaving it a week or two between posts if you’re busy with work or studies. And a post doesn’t have to take hours to write either – it can be a ten minute ‘this is what I discovered/found interesting today’ or even a video clip that made you laugh.

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On the prowl in my patch. But how do I start my hunt for news?

So, a busy first week at City University was concluded with an exhaustive and contemplative Friday afternoon. The previous day, myself and The Student, along with our other classmates on the Newspaper Journalism MA, had been given our patch to report on for the coming term. The deal; the group was split into pairs and assigned a ward in either Islington or Hackney. The remit; to compile a ‘Patch File’ of between 30 to 40 pages including six news stories and three key interviews.

The Student got lucky by landing Clerkenwell, the ward closest to the University itself, or in fact the ward the University is in (both of those statements could be wrong, my London geography still isn’t top-notch). Either way, he wouldn’t have to worry about travelling to his turf. I on the other hand was assigned Queensbridge ward, in Hackney, not the furthest of the wards from the University but a decent trip.

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The reading list: Week 5

Reading List Photo

Credit: Flickr user adam & lucy

So, it’s Sunday and that time of the week where we let you know what journalists, journals and online articles have been the focus of our hack-ttention.

Please let us know of any other interesting blogs/sites/articles by commenting below, emailing us at or tweeting us (@wannabehacks). It is a bumper list this week; here is the run down:

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