A career in journalism often begins with a role as a staff writer. Staff writers are responsible for providing standard content, such as news reports, reviews and features. In comparison with a newspaper journalist or reporter which requires traveling, a staff writer for a magazine or website is an office-based role.
There is a wide range of magazines and websites employing staff writers, from sports, to consumer goods, to science. An interest in the subject is vital as you will be researching and writing news, features and anything to do with the subject of the magazine.
The duties of a staff writer generally fall under the following categories:
- Carrying out research
- Writing content for publication
- Attending conferences, events or seminars
- Communicating with other staff and people in the industry
Content could fall under the category of news, reviews, features, or columns. Reviews make up a big part of electronics, music, video games and movie magazines, whereas news and features are the bulk of science, academic, art and travel magazines.
Depending on the company, administrative or clerical duties may also be part of the job. The key thing, though, is writing. Producing interesting, well-written content that is in keeping with the style of the publication is paramount.
Although having a degree in journalism is not absolutely necessary, most journalists are graduates. If you do not have journalism-specific qualifications, you will be offered a pre-entry training course to allow you to enter the profession. It is possible to do this course via distance learning. These courses are usually run by the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).
Competition for places on graduate schemes is so intense that you will need to have a lot of work experience (for example, on a student newspaper or any voluntary work that has been printed) in order to be considered.
It is possible to enter journalism without a degree if you have considerable work experience that shows talent. You need to create a portfolio of your writing to show potential employees that you have good ability. Contacts in the industry and enthusiasm for the job and the magazine will also help you secure a position.
Salary and Other Information:
- Average salary of a journalist in the UK is around £22,500
- Entry level salaries vary depending on the employer, location, and magazine
- Expect to start off at around £12-16k
- Deadlines drive the work, so expect to work unsociable hours on occasion
- A period of training is common at the beginning of a career in journalism
- Freelance Journalist
Journalists can develop their career in a variety of ways. Some go on to become freelance journalists for the benefits in terms of freedom, variation and, sometimes, money.
Others follow a more traditional route and progress from staff-writer, to sub-editor and eventually to editor. Another option is to make a sideways move and take your journalism skills from magazines into the field of media, news, or another branch or journalism.
An experienced journalist also has the option of teaching. Professional experience is important for getting into lecturing in media and journalism at college and university level. A good place to start looking for jobs lecturing in the field of journalism is the jobs.ac.uk website.
- Haymarket Publishing
- Future Publishing
- Other major publishing houses
- Web-journalism is a viable industry
- Many jobs can be found by word of mouth
- Contacts in the industry and helpful when looking for a job
- Check local press and magazines for vacancies
- Freelance journalist
- Reporter/Newspaper journalist