At Up To Speed, we believe that an ability to ask good questions is one of the key skills in journalism.
We will train you to ask good questions while you are with us, but we would also like this site to be useful for you before you join us.
If you have a question you would like to ask us about journalism, then please submit it using the question box on the right of the page.
We will do our best to get back to you with an answer and if enough of you ask the same question, then we will devote a page on our site to that answer.
We have already done that with some questions. Simply click the links below for more information.
How Do I Become A Journalist?
Start writing. If you aren’t writing stories, reviews, match reports or features already, then make a start. And do it now. There’s no time like the present.
You should keep everything you have written, particularly anything which has been published or aired in any format and start to develop a portfolio.
There are a number of opportunities for freelance journalists to make their mark. You could write for a school or university paper. You could send your work into websites covering sports, music or a particular community.
However, if you are considering making a profession out of journalism, you need to acquire professional skills and recognised qualifications.
You can learn these skills as part of degree courses at BA and MA level, but you can also take the country’s most highly regarded qualifications here with us at Up To Speed. On our accredited course you take external exams set and marked by the National Council for the Training of Journalists.
What is Broadcast Journalism?
Broadcast journalism is a hugely rewarding, exciting and demanding round-the-clock career.
News can happen any time, any place, live on air. Reporters and presenters tell huge numbers of people about something which is happening now in their back yard or on the other side of the planet. Producers and editors make split-second decisions while millions of people are watching or listening.
But sometimes broadcast journalists have to work long and hard to find and explain stories, which are destined to disappear into the ether after their appearance on your radio, television, computer, or mobile phone. The industry needs performers, but it also needs writers and thinkers. It needs people who are prepared to spend minutes crafting scripts which will be read out in seconds. At Up To Speed you can learn Video Journalism and also audio skills. We also teach you how to find, research, write and produce news. Our NCTJ qualifications are highly sought after in Broadcast Journalism.
The television journalists who read the news are referred to as presenters, newsreaders, newscasters, or anchors. Nearly all presenters have worked as television reporters or journalists. Their job is to read out scripts and to conduct live interviews. The words for their scripts scroll down on the front of the cameras they are looking into. It may sound like an easy job, but looking, and sounding, natural on camera while you have people shouting instructions into a hidden earpiece can be surprisingly difficult.
The television journalists who you see on screen talking about individual stories are known as reporters and sometimes have other titles such as Political Correspondent, or Foreign Editor. Their job is to find stories, to interview people and to work with camera crews and picture editors to produce video news pieces known as VTs, VTRs or packages. It is the reporter’s job to suggest images for the story and to write and voice the script to go with the finished package. Reporters also work live on air, sometimes carrying out interviews and sometimes being interviewed by presenters about their story.
There are also television journalists who you do not usually see on screen. A group of producers, led by an Editor, work in teams to put together news programmes. These teams decide the running order – the order in which the stories should be presented – and also how much time should be given to each reporter or package in their programme. Careful planning and organisation is also required in television news.
There are journalists called News Editors, news organisers, or fixers who ensure the smooth running of the operation. Many television news organisations employ video journalists. VJs film and edit their own stories.
Most young journalists entering the industry are now expected to have these skills. In the UK, most national television journalists work for the BBC, Sky News, ITV News, Channel 4 News, or GMTV. Regional journalists work for either the BBC or TV. Senior editors who have run all the major television news organisations have started on NCTJ courses themselves and so they value the skills we teach you at Up To Speed.
As with their colleagues in television, there are some radio journalists who are in front of the microphone and some who work in the newsroom, but do not broadcast.
In larger radio newsrooms, teams of producers, reporters and editors will work together to produce programmes. However, many small radio stations, particularly FM independent stations, have small teams of reporters who produce their own programmes and read the news. Radio reporters are expected to work live on air and to edit interviews together to form packages. And as with television, a way with words is essential. A good radio reporter can use words and recorded sound to paint a vivid mental picture for their listeners.
Radio journalists work for the BBC on its four FM stations, on its AM station Five Live and for its network of local radio stations. There is one national commercial FM station, Classic FM and two national AM stations, Virgin and talkSPORT. There are also 326 full-time commercial local radio stations. The advent of digital audio broadcast, or DAB radio, has seen the BBC develop 11 UK-wide radio stations and there are 46 local DAB services around the country.
The NCTJ qualifications we offer at Up To Speed are highly prized in radio where young reporters are often given roles requiring sound editorial judgement and knowledge of the Media Law.
Bi-Media and Multi-Media Journalism
Traditionally, most broadcast journalists either worked for radio or television, and while this is still the case in some sectors, and for some individuals, many
broadcast journalists are expected to be able to work for both radio and television. This is known as bi-media reporting.
In the BBC, correspondents are required to produce reports for television, radio and the BBC news website. This is known as multi-media reporting. And with increased access to video and podcasting on newspaper and magazine websites, broadcast journalism skills are increasingly valuable for journalists working in those areas.
Conversely, many journalists working in radio and television will have a background in print media. This overlapping of skills in different sectors of the industry is known as
If you are considering a career in broadcast journalism, then you may well find that learning some print journalism skills will help you to land a job and to move around within the industry. You can learn those skills at Up To Speed and our latest courses provide you with a grounding in both print and broadcast enabling you to work in any news environment.
What is Print Journalism?
There is nothing quite like seeing your name in print, on the front page or cover, and preferably under a banner headline.
And to add real spice to the experience, the story should be one you have found on your own initiative, or through a special contact and which no other newspaper or magazine is carrying.
Reporters dream of these “scoops” or of hearing the words, “hold the front page” shouted across the newsroom, as their sensational story is finished just before the deadline.
It is a moment of glory to be cherished and it should make up for all the unanswered calls, brick walls and closed doors every reporter has to negotiate at some time in their career in print.
In newspapers, these opportunities for glory come every day or sometimes every week. In magazines, you may have to hang on for a week or a month between issues, but for many magazine journalists, the sight of a well-crafted piece gracing glossy pages is well worth the wait.
Reporters writing for newspapers and magazines are either assigned to stories, or they come up with their own ideas or leads.
Freelance reporters, sometimes working for independent press agencies, pitch story ideas to magazine commissioning editors and newspaper news desks. In both newspapers and magazines, stories produced by reporters are submitted to a team of sub-editors, who work on each story before it appears in print.
Sub-editors check the story for accuracy, for grammar and punctuation and for length.
On some occasions a sub-editor will make significant changes to the way a story is written and on other occasions the editor may decide that there is only room in the next edition for a much shorter version of the article. Sub-editors also have to decide where the article will sit on the page and to ensure that it fits in the assigned space. In both newspapers and magazines the role also includes writing and selection of headlines, deciding on whether the story deserves a by-line and page design.
On newspapers, the subs’ desk is run by the Chief Sub while the team of reporters and writers work under the News Editor, Sports Editor, Foreign Editor or Features Editor. The Chief Sub and the section editors all report to the Editor, who has the final say in deciding on the front page lead story and the distribution of other stories in the newspaper.
On larger magazines, section heads typically cover specialist areas such as Health or Beauty and can be in charge of commissioning regular features, subbing them and designing their pages in the magazine.
The United Kingdom has a remarkable newspaper tradition with eleven national newspapers and twelve national Sunday newspapers to choose from. There are regional dailies, regional evening papers, weekly newspapers and free sheets. There are also news agencies such as Reuters or the Press Association. Any visit to a supermarket or high street newsagent will show you that there are dozens and dozens of magazine titles to satisfy every interest, age group, hobby, or pastime. And there are many titles, which are not carried by most newsagents.
There are specialist trade titles, consumer magazines aimed at shoppers in particular supermarkets, or magazines aimed at train and air passengers. If you are considering a career in magazine journalism it can often be a good idea to consider some of the less well-known titles, or to find a niche market that interests you.
Print journalism is no longer purely confined to news print or glossy paper. Most titles have an online version and they are increasingly looking for news staff who understand both web journalism and some video journalism so that they are able to provide coverage for the publication’s website.
If you are starting out in journalism, you can never have too many skills. And there is nowhere better to learn all those skills than here at Up To Speed where we offer the country’s first fast-track course covering both new and traditional media.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Journalist?
The Hollywood screenwriter Cameron Crowe was writing cover stories for Rolling Stone magazine in his mid-teens. As his film, Almost Famous explains, it helped that young Cameron was well ahead of himself at school, that he had talent, and that nobody at Rolling Stone actually realised that they had a schoolboy on their books.
It is possible to become a journalist straight away and a sound piece of advice for
anyone who wants to break into the industry is to start writing straight away and try
to ensure that it is either published, or goes online.
It doesn’t matter whether you are writing for a school newspaper, covering your favourite football team for a fanzine or website, or reviewing new music releases or computer games. The main thing is that you start to build up a portfolio and establish a reputation and contacts. It is also a good idea to try to find work experience or a work placement in journalism.
All of these things will help to pave your way into journalism, but you also need to consider training and education.
Traditionally, young reporters, or cubs, were taken on by newspapers as school leavers aged 16 or 18. These trainee reporters served an apprenticeship and when they qualified they became senior reporters. In the second half of the Twentieth Century, it was increasingly common for these trainees to be graduates with a BA or BSc in any subject.
In Twenty-first Century Britain, the job market is almost exclusively for graduates and it is almost exclusively open to graduates who have some kind of training in journalism. At Up To Speed we offer that training to graduates with a good degree in any subject, giving you a cost-effective and swift route to your first job.
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