5 top tips for budding tech journos
So you’re interested in pursuing a career in journalism, and you’re wondering what life as a technology specialist might look like?
We spoke to Stephen Pritchard, an experienced business and technology journalist and broadcaster, to ask for his top five tips for students keen to make a living as a reporter.
1. You don’t need to study journalism
These days journalism is almost entirely a graduate career, but you don’t need to study journalism for your first degree. Mine is in political science, and I’ve worked with great journalists who studied English, history modern languages, economics, computer science and even medicine. Studying a more traditional academic subject keeps your options open, and might also help you narrow down what you want to specialise in, if you do go into the media.
2. Build up your portfolio
Writing for a student newspaper or magazine is a great way to build up cuttings. Employers will want to see your byline on a well-structured piece of work, even if it’s on a totally different subject. Don’t overlook the local or regional press either, for work placements or for a job after graduation. The experience will stand you in good stead, whether you end up working in magazines, a national paper or broadcasting.
3. Consider working in the industry before specialising
Technology and cyber security are complex and fast-moving fields. If you have hands-on knowledge of it, it will make you more credible as a potential journalist. There is nothing to stop you taking a graduate job in technology, and moving to the media side later if it appeals to you.
4. Gain professional qualifications
I do recommend postgraduate journalism courses: they provide a solid grounding before moving into a career as a journalist or producer. There are too many courses to list here, but they cover the basics you need to know: media law, structuring news stories, investigative techniques, sub-editing and production, and of course, working to deadlines. They can even cover Content Management Systems (CMS), audio production, video, and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).”
5. There’s more to journalism than writing, or working on a magazine or newspaper
These days, journalists work in a wide range of outlets. As well as the media itself, they can be found in government, media and PR companies, not-for-profit organisations, events businesses and even the military.
Nor is it just about writing. Writing is the core skill, but journalists today work with video, audio and interactive content too. Data journalism is a growing discipline in its own right. Anyone with experience in these areas will have an advantage, if they are applying for content creation roles.
Super valuable advice from Stephen there! Develop your core skills essential to any industry specialism first, do it with focus, and have fun at the same time. There’s plenty of time to specialise later, and who knows, you might end up having more than one. Either way, your experience supporting the CyberCenturion VII National Finalists is certain to open your eyes to the opportunities in cyber security – remember: it’s not all hackers in hoodies!
About Stephen Pritchard
Stephen is a journalist specialising in business and technology. As a writer and broadcaster Stephen has contributed to the FT, the BBC, The Independent, The Times, The Guardian, and the Daily Telegraph. He has also written for Information Age, IT Pro, CNBC Magazine, Computer Weekly and a range of trade and professional titles. He runs a cybersecurity podcast at securityinsights.co.uk