Would a career in the media suit me?
How much you enjoy working in the media to a large part depends upon what sort of media organisation you work for. There are lots to choose from. As a general rule, people in the media are bright, sociable and cooperative, but some media organisations are terribly competitive.
One of the key things about working in the media is that the same job title may mean very different things depending upon the organisation. Always read the job description for further information.
Would I enjoy a career as a journalist?
Certain mental attitudes separate excellent journalists from those who are OK. Curiosity is vital – you need to enjoy getting all of the facts and working out what’s important. You should love to ask questions. Boldness and persistence are also required. Are the questions you come up with more penetrating than those that others might ask?
Journalists need the ability to find and to tell a great, true story. News must be true but whether you’re reporting a crime, the launch of a video game or a new law, you need to tell your audience the basics of a compelling story: what’s happening, when and to whom? Where is it taking place and how does it affect people?
Good communication skills are required, both for talking face to face and on the telephone. These include listening skills and empathy. You also need to be able to gauge people’s behaviour, motivations and habits – and to work out what might be left unsaid and get people to say it! It helps if you can create rapport with a wide range of people.
Research skills and accuracy are important, as is the ability to spot inconsistencies and to communicate complicated ideas with simplicity.
Keep in mind that journalism is seldom about righting wrongs – although it’s often about setting the record straight from a particular point of view. Also be aware that the distinction between reporting and opinion writing is blurred – so your editor might ask you to appeal to a certain tribe of media users whether or not you agree with their sentiments. It’s business after all.
Would I enjoy a career as an editor?
There are various types of editing roles, and you can read more about them in our article on your options for jobs in the media. The skills required depend upon your precise role. If your job is solely to check facts, spelling or piece together camera shots the demands are different to what’s required if you’re given overall control for the ‘vision’ and ‘identity’ of a publication, website or programme. In the latter case – as the person who’s given the levers of power – skills in leadership, innovation and commercial awareness are very important.
In most cases there’s a big overlap between the skills required of an editor and those required of a journalist. For many publications and websites the editor also creates content.
Traditionally, on newspapers, there have been journalists who write the original stories and sub-editors (subs) who check them. The subs also write the headlines and often re-write a main story making it longer as more facts are known about it or shorter as rival news squeezes the space given to the original story. These days there is a tendency for journalists on local newspapers to sub-edit each other’s copy. But where newspapers still employer sub-editors, the subs need especially strong writing skills as they approve copy for publication.
For editors of books and academic journals, relationship building, tact and skills in facilitation are vital. You need big-name authors and you need to be nice to them so that they keep working with your publishing company rather than going to a rival.
Would I enjoy a career as a copywriter?
Copywriters need to be good with words. It really helps if you enjoy writing about whatever topic you are given, rather than wanting to focus only on subjects that particularly interest you.
A lot of copywriting these days is ‘content marketing’, which is writing useful articles that sit on a company’s website to attract customers. In this respect the job is not dissimilar to being a journalist, writer or blogger with the following exceptions:
- Being in a corporate communications team can be less stressful and less highly competitive than working in a newsroom. And it can pay better.
- Many businesses won’t ask you to write articles which only sound like adverts as those types of pieces are trusted less by audiences. But some businesses take a different approach, and if they ask you to write ‘advertorial’ that’s your job. Some writers don’t like writing any information for companies even when the subject matter is more general and the tone more objective.
Another type of copywriting is advertising copywriting, which can be great fun if you have the skills and temperament. You’ll write short pieces: advertising slogans, posters, bus shelter ads… so you need to write snappy, creative bits of copy that get people to do things. You will need to be able to come up with ideas very quickly and you should have a bit of an ego as you’ll be expected to come forward with your best ideas. But you shouldn’t be too sensitive as your ideas will be dissected and sometimes criticised in public by teams of clients and fellow creatives.
Would I enjoy a career as a researcher?
Researchers are mostly found in TV and radio. In this context, your job is basically that of a journalist but with one important distinction: your research/story isn’t published as you write it. It’s likely your work will be used like an enhanced set of notes used by presenters in their final scripts.
If you think being a journalist would suit you then you would probably also enjoy aspects of being a researcher. You’ll need the curiosity to investigate your topic, confidence to ask people you don’t know for things you need and the ability to provide accurate information. However, while you may have the delight of being listed at the end of a broadcast you’ll never have the glory of being named as the writer of an article.
Think about what you’d be happy to research. Some researchers are asked to investigate public policy on obesity. Other researchers have been asked to identify members of the public who A) have the surname ‘Chance’ and B) are overweight – so they can appear on TV as ‘Fat Chances’. This has happened, so – as with any form of ‘journalism’ – you’ll need to consider what topics and approaches you’d feel comfortable with.
Would I enjoy a career as a photographer?
There are two main types of photographer in the media: those that make things look attractive in publications and a smaller number of photographers who are photojournalists. The skills of the latter are very similar to those of any journalist although you may need greater patience, endurance, fitness and bravery to get the perfect shot. You may need to be able to switch off to negative events to an extraordinary degree if you find yourself photographing the killing of people or animals.
Product and model photography is different. You’ll enjoy it if you like being creative, precise and following a brief. Photographing fashion models takes advanced people skills but even if you’re photographing cider vinegar you’ll need to liaise with someone. It will help if you have some affinity with the industry your subjects work in.
Would I enjoy a career as a presenter?
Presenters are usually trained journalists or need to function as such – because they may have to react to live events and investigate them in real time. Many presenters write their scripts; some are given scripts to read.
Apart from the fact that you need to enjoy thinking quickly in front of a large audience, in most UK broadcasting you’ll need to aspire to seeing a story from all sides. The very obvious thing about being a presenter is that you are in the spotlight – more so than a published writer. You’ll need a thick skin as some members of the public may love what you do and but others may dislike it and say so.
Would I enjoy a career as a producer?
In broadcasting a producer is a bit like being the overall editor of a magazine or website. You make creative decisions, financial and business decisions, you help with marketing and you are quite often involved in hiring and managing staff. Being a producer is a demanding job. You won’t last long in the role if you don’t deliver the results.
Would I enjoy a career as a designer for a media publication or website?
Design is a massive part of the look, feel, functionality and experience of a publication or a website. It can make or break the success of the product. It is possible to design beautifully for a product and not understand a word of what’s published but it generally helps to have some appreciation of the subject.
Digital skills are really important as is the ability to be able to work to deadlines. You’ll need to know which parts of the project require quick, urgent and regular work, and which parts you can lavish some time and creativity upon.
Would I enjoy a career as a broadcast runner or having a technical career in broadcasting?
A broadcast runner is an entry-level job – you do whatever tasks the creative team need done, such as picking up props, filing, and meeting and greeting guests. So it’s for you if you enjoy being busy, sociable, organised and juggling tasks.
Technical roles such as camera and lighting work should appeal if you like the idea of being in a team and contributing to a creative project. Needless to say, to do the job you need to like the technical side of the work too.