Finding a job in journalism

Any student contemplating a vocational course to become a journalist is bound to ask “will I get a job?”

It was the question at the heart of a recent panel discussion held by the Online News Association and the BBC Academy – which included me and former JOMEC graduate Ellie Wright (along with Aron Pilhofer from The Guardian, Blathnaid Healy from Mashable and the BBC’s Steve Herrmann). A full account (and video) of the discussion is here. 

Two key issues to come out of it were whether in the digital age journalists need to code and whether other specialisms are helpful.

On coding, it was no coincidence that last week the Head of Visual Journalism at the BBC, Amanda Farnsworth, told us the number one thing her team needs is journalists who can code. That’s because the visual journalism team are undertaking some of the most cutting edge production in BBC News. Not all journalists should, or need, to code but – and I can’t emphasise this enough – if you can, you become hugely employable. Every media organisation I talk to is looking for people who can bridge between the newsroom and technical development. It is one area of journalism and media where there are more opportunities than qualified candidates available – and the same is true globally.

That’s why at Cardiff we launched our MSc in Computational Journalism and why we encourage other students who are interested to join the Code Academy for free tuition.

But coding is not the only specialism that can help. Any specialism will set you apart from the crowd – look for the areas of growing interest and importance. Currently Business and Economics journalism offers a lot of opportunities for journalism graduates with a good understanding of how the markets work. And, as the recent Wincott Lecturer, Luigi ZIngales, pointed out, Business and Economics is in need of good old fashioned investigative, muckraking journalism to keep it healthy. We only have to look at the stream of stories over the last few years to recognise it is an area rich in journalistic opportunity – with specialist employers looking for graduates with the right expertise. (NB: The Wincott Foundation offers scholarships for students pursuing Business and Economics Journalism at JOMEC)

Again, that’s why in Cardiff we have added a further specialist elective module in Business and Economics reporting alongside other specialisms like Politics, Sport, Data, Lifestyle and Motoring with more to come.

So how do you get a job in journalism? Be well trained, look at the areas of news and media that are growing and get the specialist skills that employers are seeking.

There are jobs out there for the taking.