Frequently Asked Questions.
I’ve always loved FAQs on websites so thought I’d have one too! Here are some of the most frequent questions I get asked.
Q) How can I become a journalist?
A) Read around this site and you’ll find plenty suggestions plus an explanation on how I got into it. There’s also more further down this page so stay with it!
Q) Do you just send those articles off to magazines and newspapers?
A) No, you send pitches – usually by email – and wait for the resounding silence.
Q) Do you write under your own name?
A) I’m always amazed by this question – why wouldn’t I write under my own name? It’s one of the best things my parents gave me.
Q) Where d’you get all your ideas from?
A) From whatever is around me and sometimes ideas literally just pop into my head. Occasionally they’re the result of a particularly vivid dream I’ve had. And sometimes kind people suggest ideas to me. Needless to say, if the piece makes, they’re very well taken care of and bought half a pint of their favourite tipple.
Q) Did you get a degree in journalism? You need one, right, to become a journalist?
A) There weren’t any degrees in journalism when I started. I still think it’s best to get a degree in something else first then become a journalist. You’ll have more to offer. But don’t despair if you’re already doing or have a degree in journalism. Make sure you widen your experience and knowledge as much as you can.
Q) Should I take a Masters degree in journalism?
A) Only if you have lots of money to spare and want to do it anyway. I don’t wish to endorse anyone or anything here but City University and Cardiff have traditionally been good places to study journalism. I also believe Goldsmiths in London runs excellent courses. My former college Kingston has several courses in media, communications and writing, Bournemouth has a good media school as does The University of Roehampton.
See also National Council for Training Journalists. The National Union of Journalists runs various courses and has lots of advice for new and established journalists. The former London College of Printing, now the London College of Communications part of University of the Arts, London, is worth a look. (Please let me know if you think other colleges or courses deserve to be added.)
If it’s fiction you want to write, or something less news-orientated, everyone I know in or around writing speaks very well of Arvon and I’ve heard good reports about the Writers Bureau. There are in addition two excellent magazines Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine. If you fancy writing short stories for women’s magazines womag is a brilliant place with lots of advice, expert tips and guidelines.
None of the above have paid or asked to be included here. The list is far from exhaustive.
Q) Any other courses I could take? You need qualifications don’t you?
A) If you want to go on a course, there are thousands of people eager and willing to take your money. But buyer beware. Only go on a course that’s run by a professional, working, regularly by-lined writer or journalist. Ask questions about what they’re offering. Ask them to direct you to those who’ve successfully completed their courses. If you want to be a journalist, better get used to asking awkward questions!
And no, qualifications matter a lot less in this business than experience, aptitude, tenacity, persistence and lots and lots of luck. Being able to network successfully and make contacts is also vital. Worry more about this than getting a piece of paper.
Q) But blogging is replacing journalism isn’t it?
A) I think there’s room for both. It can be frustrating when you’re starting out – or when you’ve been in the business years – to get knock backs but editors are a necessary filter. Blogging may bring you the attention of editors but it’s much more likely not to. Millions are after their eyeballs and there’s only so much time in their busy busy day.
Q) Do you blog?
A) Yes I’ve just started one called Giant Aunt Diet blog which, initially for 28 days, will be about my progress on something called the Paleolithic Diet. I think blogs work best when they’re actually about something specific, a daily diary of a new venture. Which is what this will be. First time I’ve blogged.
Q) So why isn’t it open for comments? Are you frit?
A) No, I’d like to open up the comment facility – I just haven’t worked out how! Yet.
Q) Do you think there’s any future in journalism?