How to become a journalist – follow these steps to employment!

Since the age of 14, when I realised food critics get paid to eat in restaurants, I’ve wanted to be a journalist. Every task I’ve done up until that point has only made me want it more. I’ve had my fair share of free food, haircuts, gigs and stash from just penning my thoughts in student papers.

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It’s a notoriously tricky business, and when you reach the end of university you find yourself at a crossroads: Do you take on unemployed internships for months until someone gives you a job? Do you do a masters? Do you start your own blog? It’s a tough call.

Over 8 years of trying to get into the business, this is the advice I’ve been given.

  1. Shorthand is the single most important thing you will ever learn.
  2. Shorthand is pointless.
  3. Make sure you take part in student journalism.
  4. Don’t bother with the student paper. Employers care more about work experience.
  5. Work experience isn’t that important. You need to show your own initiative. Write a blog and stick to it.
  6. Forget the blog. Most editors have no idea how to use the internet.
  7. Do a masters.
  8. Don’t do a masters.
  9. Making tea for the office is beneath no one.
  10. Whatever you do, don’t start making tea for everyone in the office. They’ll just think you’re a kid.
  11. Print is dying.
  12. Print is sacred.
  13. Be aggressive with interviewees.
  14. Be nice with interviewees.
  15. Be more dog.
  16. Be more cat.
  17. Stay away from the Daily Mail. It’s where the integrity goes to die.
  18. Every editor in the country respects journalists from the Mail.
  19. Start on a local paper – you can work your way up.
  20. Local papers are a death sentence.
  21. Don’t get sued.
  22. Take risks.

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Maybe there is one true path to a job in journalism. Over the course of one year at City University, we’ve been to a lot of talks from people we admire, who “made it”. Their success stories almost always go like this:

‘Well I’d just finished uni and I was at a bit of a loose end. I did a bit of work experience at a local paper and someone had a heart attack while I was there. I called an ambulance. They gave me a job after that.’

OR:

‘I was at a loose end at uni. I was doing summer work painting my neighbour’s house. Turned out he was the editor for Vice. He gave me a job.’

So basically: piss about for a bit, move to a wealthy neighbourhood, do some chores and work at a paper where the average age is well above 60.

Ok, so there are some valuable things I’ve taken from this.

Take Advice With A Pinch of Salt

The scary thing is, every last piece of conflicting advice I was given is absolutely right, but only for the situation it’s given in. Listen to your betters, they’ve been through it before. Think about how the advice you’re given relates to your situation.

Do You

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You don’t always have to listen to people’s advice on how to get a job. Journalism is a really broad industry, and different things work for different people. When you’re 18 and desperate to know the secret to success that’s not really what you want to hear, but it’s true. Do what you think you can get the most out of for yourself. Don’t worry about how it makes you look to employers. You will only end up miserable and stressed beyond measure. You’re doing this because you love writing, or you love talking to people, or you love debating ideas. Do what you love, not what you think is correct.

Don’t Panic

It’s ok if you haven’t got a job straight after uni. It’s ok if you haven’t got a job in journalism a year after graduating. It’s even ok if you haven’t got a job and your coursemates are all doing grad schemes at the Times with company cars. To quote Baz Lurhman: “Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself”.

Make Friends, Not Rivals

If there is only one thing I’ve taken away from my degree, it’s that your friends are the most important part of your career. There’s a lot of practical reasons for this: you’re all working on different papers and stories. you can share contacts, leads, tips and advice. Once, while doing freelance work, I forgot to hang up a call before interviewing someone. My friend on the other end overheard the interview and took the time to record it all for me so I wouldn’t lose my notes.

Having friends in the biz can also motivate you to do more than you would on your own. With a close group of people always telling you what work they’re up to it’s hard to be complacent.

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But mostly, they let you know you’re not alone. Everyone’s scared. Help each other. The friendships you make in your early career will stick with you forever. They’re important.

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How to become a journalist – follow these steps to employment!

Hot Takes – what people are saying about #IVoted

You might’ve missed it as it’s barely been talked about(…), but today is the polling day for the UK General Election. This means a number of different election-based hashtags have cropped up on the top trending bar today. These are the most used in order:   1. IVoted 2. Dogsatpollingstations 3. GE2015 4. UKelection2015 As fun as a curation of the best dog photos outside polling stations would’ve been, I decided to have a look at the most commonly occurring phrases attached to #IVoted for two reasons. Firstly, it was by far and away the election hashtag with the most reach today. At the time of publishing #IVoted had been posted by users over 102,000 times. Twitter was so impressed with it’s traction that they did their own visualisation to show peak vote-bragging times. Second, some interesting variations on the Twitter-promoted topic were cropping up on my feed. I wanted to know which voters were most vocal about their decisions today. Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 20.05.18 Unsurprisingly, Labour features prominently in today’s tweets. Despite reports that this yearwill be even closer than the 2010 elections, voter turnout looks stronger than ever. Betting agent Ladbrokes has paid off bets estimating less than a 70% turnount. Web-savvy millenials are gearing up to lock horns with conservative incumbents. “Labour”, “Miliband”, and “NHS” were some of the most mentioned phrases. Interestingly, however, the Twitter battle was not against the Tories, but UKIP. Phrases such as “VoteUKIP”, “SouthThanet”, “NigelFarage” and “pint” were getting equal attention from Twitter users. This could mean a number of things. For one, we know that UKIP have been working on their social media strategy since the MEP elections last year. We also know that UKIP have been targeting rural Labour constituencies. From the other phrases cropping up (“pot”, “age”, “young”) we can guess that the Twitter users most actively engaging with this hashtag fall into the millennial category.   Data reporter at the Telegraph Jonathan Frayman believes that despite their average age being significantly higher than the Labour voter, UKIP are a naturally vocal party: “UKIP have a very active Twitter presence on their own, it suits their party’s persona. They’re opinionated, they have controversial and they have a very strong sense of pride in their party membership.”   Indeed, many UKIP supporters used the hashtag to point towards their own voting preference.

Many young voters seemed to feel like their post to Twitter was as much a part of the election as the vote itself. Nicola Slawson, a results taker at Press Association, said: “I think it’s really important to encourage and remind people to vote. I decided to tweet for that reason and also because I’m proud that I live in a country where I can vote.” The democratic process was a big part of the agenda with #IVoted. “Everyone”, “democracy”, and in particular “women” featured highly with all hashtag users.

Hot Takes – what people are saying about #IVoted

Almost 100 candidates this year are under 24 – why are they running?

The word “politician” is rarely associated with anyone below the age of 30. The average age of MPs in this cycle is nearer 50 than 15. This year, parties have sensed a mix of apathy and revolution in the air. The new faces of UKIP, Greens and the Liberal Democrats are new faces in their own right, determined to remind young voters that they have more in common with politicians than they believe.

Enter Joe Jenkins, the 21 year-old politics student at the University of Dundee. He’s been parachuted into Sheffield to campaign for Hallam, the seat held by Nick Clegg, on behalf of the UK Independence Party. The pint-wielding, rugby-loving student advocates immigration crackdowns alongside free tuition fees and legalised cannabis.

Young candidates in general elections aren’t a new phenomenon. In 2010, Emily Benn was selected to be Labour’s candidate for East Worthing and Shoreham at the tender age of 17. But this year, fringe and opposition parties are dropping eager young career politicians into seats to raise profiles and offer exciting alternatives to mainstream politics.

The candidates database Your Next MP estimates that 88 candidates up for election this year are below the age of 25. 10 were barely starting school when the World Trade Center was attacked, and many more saw the results of the last election before their 13th birthdays.

Jenkins, who before coming to UKIP was a member of his university’s Liberal Democrat Society, spoke a great deal about betrayal; something that resonates very strongly with student voters. Even more so in Sheffield, where five years ago students queued for hours to vote for their champion Nick Clegg.

“I never forgave Nick Clegg for going back on his promise. As a Lib Dem councillor I felt personally betrayed and embarrassed because I was telling all my friends and family to vote. Since then, UKIP has been the party for me.”

Young candidates like Jenkins have more to bring to the campaign than their common hatred of the coalition. Of the 32 candidates representing newly-formed Cannabis is Safer Than Alcohol (CISTA), three are under 23. Even UKIP’s Jenkins was in full support of legalising the class B drug:

“Instead of the current situation, there could be businesses and taxes which could benefit from the selling of marijuana, and a small economy could be based on the drug.”

“Obviously that’s not UKIP policy so it’s not something I’d include as part of my own personal manifesto, but I’ll happily come out and say that’s what I believe.

Joe was keen to show what he and younger members of his campaign team were doing for UKIP’s social media presence locally. There is a definite divide between the older generation of leafleting campaigners and the newer, younger fans of social media.

“It sounds lazy but you reach far more people on things like Twitter than you do in the street.”

When asked what they thought the 21 year-old politics students could bring to the party in Hallam John Lowcock, chair of UKIP Sheffield, simply replied with “the face”.

Jenkins and his team were fully aware of why he’d been parachuted into the constituency. He was a big personality in a high-profile seat that he’s unlikely to win. Sheffield Hallam is being tipped as one of that could swing the election as Lord Ashcroft polling shows support has gone to Labour by a swing of nearly 20%. UKIP holds just 7% of the voting intention in the area.

How does Joe Jenkins fancy his chances as Sheffield Hallam’s next MP? “If I’m honest, I don’t think we’re likely to win this year but that’s not the point. It’s about raising our profile.”

Right now Sheffield is full of students running for seats in the 2015 general election. Thom Brown, another 20 year-old politics student, will be running for the very new Above and Beyond party, formerly known as None of the Above. His course-mate at the University Sheffield, Drew Carswell, 19, is running for the same party in his hometown of Cheadle.

Carswell, who was on his way to a hustings in his home constituency, was confident that being the youngest candidate in Cheadle by a wide margin was his biggest strength.

“I think I will be able to represent members of my constituency that usually feel like politicians don’t speak for them.”

Above and Beyond, founded during the 2010 general elections, campaigns on a single issue – to introduce a “none of the above” option on ballot papers. Ask any young candidate why they think this is important and they all have share one grievance:

“There is a sense of betrayal amongst students with regards to the Lib Dem’s policy on tuition fees”, explains Carswell. “We’re targeting those disenfranchised people who don’t usually vote.”

The majority of young candidates are representing the Green Party, and with nearly 20% of their votes coming from 18-24 year-olds in 2010 it’s not hard to see why. The Green party offers an alternative to mainstream politics with liberal policies that reflect student concerns. Meanwhile in Scotland SNP candidate Mhairi Black, 20, is poised to become Parliament’s youngest member with an 8% majority in the Lord Ashcroft polls.

On the other hand, Clegg’s party will not let go of the student vote without a fight. At 19 The Liberal Democrats have the second highest number of candidates under 25, standing for election in attainable seats all over the country from Lewes to Liverpool. With Clegg avoiding hustings in his own constituency and sending student councillors to fight on his behalf, it is clear that the party wants to put water under the bridge with the student vote.

With so many young politicians standing in swing constituencies this year, desperation for the student vote has never been more apparent. Let’s just hope that the strength of that desperation doesn’t put them off.

Almost 100 candidates this year are under 24 – why are they running?

My Brinner at the Porridge Cafe Opening

Last night, I went on an impromptu journo outing to Hackney’s latest hipster creation.

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The Porridge Cafe, brainchild of former IT management consultant Nik Williamson, is the healthy side of London’s booming brinner trend (read: breakfast for dinner).

In true brinner fashion, we were greeted with complimentary asti before sampling five of the cafe’s grain-based dished.

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To start, a parsley, aubergine and caper risotto – not exactly porridge, but warming and light all the same.

I couldn’t really taste the capers and the parsley seemed to add nothing apart from colour, but the dish itself was well balanced and refreshing without being over-seasoned – something surprisingly hard to get right with risotto.

I would’ve happily paid for a full bowl at up to £6.50 a throw.

Next a tomato and chorizo quinoa bowl – possibly the most Hackney dish on the menu.

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Both savouries are available at the swedish-style eatery on Tuesdays 7am to 6pm. This one was definitely not oatmeal – the grain was cooked through but the overall texture shared more common ground with paella than porridge. Highly recommended for anyone who feels compelled to throttle someone when they say the word “brinner”.

The Porridge Cafe, astonishingly, also does actual porridge. Pity, then, that the two dishes presented to us containing oats, that gave their name to the establishment, tasted disappointingly just like porridge.

For all the metjool dates and agave syrup in these pots, they were just that bit too fibrous, too bitter, too healthy-tasting. I’ll pay for good food, but not if the only thing good about it is the moral high-ground.

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The saving grace of the sweet selection was the cherry and white chocolate pot made with rye.

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Chocolate hides all manner of virtues.

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The venue itself was very well executed. Vintage posters from a local retailer added a tiny splash of colour to the otherwise minimalist design inspired by Williamson’s travels to Copenhagen, where he first fell in love with grain courses. “We’re not going for the novelty side of things”, he said. Certainly, the cafe is a lot mellower than many of Shoreditch’s US-inspired eateries.

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This isn’t about novelty, it’s a labour of love for the team at Porridge Cafe. Their only regret of the whole evening was not offering recipes alongside the free bags of rolled-oats.

Incidentally, I have an oaty recipe of my own coming up soon. Watch this space.

My Brinner at the Porridge Cafe Opening

A Canadian, a drug addict and a journalist walk into a bar…

I need a new name.

In a lecture last week we were told that the key to social media success is an original online presence. This means having a name unique to everyone else on the interweb.

You would think with a name like Edith this shouldn’t be a problem. I am a young digital journalist, fresh out of uni with a knack for online. How many Edith’s can there possibly be?

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Ah.

Here’s a sample of those featuring above me in the google race:

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huh.

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Wait, what?

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Oh right.

Nowadays, it’s expected that future employers are going to google your name. However, if your future employer is a journalist you want to be in the top two search results. Otherwise you’re not working hard enough or no one likes you.

Sure, my linkdn and twitter profiles do come up in the first page, but that’s a pretty small gain considering who’s beating me to it: A canadian real-estate broker and a heroin addict.

So how am I going to beat my demons? The easiest way would be to start calling myself Edie. All my friends call me Edie anyway. It’s a seamless link between my public and personal lives. Edith is stern and distant, Edie is friendly and reliable. Let’s try it.

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How are there still so many!?

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GODDAMN YOU CANADA.

So this is my problem: I’m battling for internet fame with a woman who sells houses in Nova Scotia. She’s dominated the scene and stolen both of my names.

What happens next? Our tutor Ben Whitelaw suggested we stick a middle initial in there. Studies show it makes you look smarter and journalists have been using the middle initial as a quick-fix for decades.

My twitter handle is @Edith_L_Hancock. This is my little experiment to see if adding a middle initial not only makes me look distinguished, but gives me an identity. Plus I don’t have to have thousands of numbers after my name. Let’s try that on google search.

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So far so good. Even though I don’t even show up on the first page, all my competition is dead.

But this doesn’t really fix anything. My wordpress account username is still ediepeadie (In my youth I started a baking blog but it was never meant to be), and apparently there are a lot of Edith L Hancock’s in the world because the gmail address is already taken. I’ve had to go for edithlhancock21@gmail.com, which is a bit more Bebo than journo.

There are of course other options. I could completely switch and start using my middle name: Lily.

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More search results than any other name. Perhaps not.

Or I could do an F. Scott Fitzgerald. E. Lily Hancock has a nice ring to it, but I’d be betraying all the Ediths in the world. Despite what google search says there isn’t that many of us. I’m proud to have a uncommon name and I’ll be damned if I’ll let google envy take it away.

For want of time to really tackle this issue, I have left the blog address as edithandedith for now. I think it sums up my first world problem pretty well. Until I can hack into this woman’s website and change her name to Susan, I am in the shadow of my fellow Ediths. Be they into real-estate or hard drugs.

Any suggestions for identity ideas, drop me a line!

A Canadian, a drug addict and a journalist walk into a bar…

LidlAldi vs Big Four: What you need to know

Who are the Big Four and what’s wrong with them?

The so-called Big Four are the most influential, highest grossing supermarkets in the UK: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and ASDA. They’re fighting the Great Price War against German discounters LidlAldi**.

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The big four are having a pretty tough time. This year Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s share prices have reached 11-year lows. Some of you will remember Walmart’s takeover of Asda and the aggressive comparison marketing that followed. Now even that isn’t enough to keep customer’s interested as Asda is falling behind in Yougov’s BrandIndex value rankings. Asda didn’t even get a look-in in the mid-year Buzz-rankings, showing that consumers are caring less about brand loyalty are more about cost effectiveness.

And of course shareholder confidence isn’t helped by Tesco’s drunk-clown-at-a-children’s-party approach to financial planning. Not only did execs overestimate profits by £250m, but just days later a very conspicuous delivery of a  Gulfstream jet worth £30m came in the post. A jet they now have to sell back along with the four others to make ends meet. The supermarket’s share prices have plunged by nearly 50% so far this year.

How does the price-war work?

The price-war has been going since September 2011, when Tesco pledged to slash the price of 3,000 household goods by up to 20%. The war was started in response to Asda’s (then newly annexed by Walmart) aggressive cost-centred marketing campaigns. Since 2011, prices have fallen year by year. The price of fuel is now at it’s lowest it 4 years and the rapid expansion of LidlAldi is forcing retailers to cut costs even further. This is becoming an increasingly high-risk strategy for major players like Tesco and Sainsbury’s as their overheads are naturally higher than their German competitors.

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Alongside roll-backs, price slashes and 2-for-1 offers, the superstore chains are opening more small outlets closer to each other in an attempt to corner the urban market. As an example, in the one mile radius around the University of Sheffield’s main campus five Sainsbury’s local stores have opened in 2 years, monopolising the student shop.

The growth of the discounters has hastened the price war as sales declined at Morrison, Tesco and Sainsbury, causing their shares to drop to the lowest in more than a decade.

Where did LidlAldi come from?

LidlAldi entered the UK market in 1994 and 1990 respectively. They have a huge advantage over the big four for a number of reasons. Firstly, they’re privately owned. This means that the suits at Aldi and Schwartz, which owns Lidl, are not held to account by shareholders whims. Secondly, their overheads are dramatically lower than at UK retailers, meaning LidlAldi can afford to go a lot lower in the price wars. If the major retailers try to compete in the same way as Morrison’s, they’re likely to land in more hot water.

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Why are LidlAldi getting popular now?

Simply put, LidlAldi are spending more money on their businesses. Local papers in the UK are filled with stories of the German discounters invading Big-Four territory and opening stores. This means they’re easier to get to than ever. Most customers will still choose convenience of location over price, so moving into communities could spell disaster for Tesco and Morrison’s bigger stores.

This summer, discount grocer Aldi Launched an ambitious “like brands” campaign to target their least loyal customers. Their message is more “selling stuff cheaply” than “selling cheap stuff”. Sales in-store have increased by 32.7% in the 12 weeks to September 15. Aldi’s score on YouGov’s BrandIndex has shot up , boosting it’s ranking against others from 12th to 7th, and over the past moth the discount superstore outstripped Asda in value for money ratings.

But will it last?

Not necessarily. The story at the moment is that LidlAldi’s customers have started to include far more members of the middle-class, mainly because you can get good-quality foreign supermarket foods for much less than the stigmatised Tesco Value equivalent.

What makes LidlAldi so cheap though is it’s lack of overheads. Food is brought out on palettes and the tills only open when the queue starts looking ridiculous. As the discounters’ popularity increases with middle-class shoppers, so will demands for better service, ultimately ending in prices having to go up again to afford more staff. There’s an argument to be made that either their success won’t last, or they’ll become indiscernible from the Big Four.

 

** LidlAldi
noun – Collective term used to describe German discounters Lidl and Aldi
note: Contrary to myth, Lidl and Aldi are not related. Lidl was founded by the Schwartz family in 1930, while Aldi was born in 1946 and                                                        owned by  Karl and Theo Albrecht. Aldi actually stands for Albrecht Diskont (Albrecht Discount).

 

 

LidlAldi vs Big Four: What you need to know