Oxford Today is part of The Community Media Group-a social enterprise that publishes hyperlocal newspapers across communities in Oxford, Berkshire and London. We offer people who are interested in working in the media the chance to take part in free training schemes and volunteer with us as community journalists.
In this article, George Scotland, who is one of our volunteers and has gone on to achieve a nationally recognised professional qualification in journalism, shares his thoughts on breaking into the media industry, and is determined never to give up on his dream job.
For a working class lad from Berinsfield leaving school aged 16 with four GCSEs maybe the odds of success were stacked against me to achieve a respected career.
However six years later I sit here writing this knowing exactly what I want to do with my life…become a professional journalist and one day in the near future a broadcaster recognised as a household name (it’s good to dream and why not).
I’ve come a long way since school and where other people my age might have ‘fallen off the wagon’ after leaving school with little or next to no qualifications, I’ve always dreamed of bettering myself and proving people wrong with a true underdog type attitude.
I’m halfway there to achieving my dream. Well to be honest more than half way there. I am now on paper a qualified journalist after completing an NCTJ Diploma Fast track course and have come a long way since volunteering with the Leys News less than three years ago.
I have passion for the media
In that short space of time I’ve had work experience at local television, BBC, announced programmes for Channel 4 and most recently had an interview at ITV. I have such a passion for the media but believe the system is flawed and schemes like ‘work experience’ or ‘internships’ generally favour people from middle class backgrounds who can afford to work for free and travel to locations without being reimbursed by the organisation.
Work experience and internships are invaluable in terms of gaining hands on skills and getting a taster of the media environment however, often these organisations are more than happy to use enthusiastic, budding individuals as a form of cheap labour while a member of staff is away on holiday. I think this leaves many job seekers with a false sense of security because they are out to prove how much of an asset they could potentially be for say example, a newsroom, but are fundamentally being used as an ‘extra pair of hands.’
If you are unemployed like myself currently and have been previously, it is particularly challenging to find the money to get together to attend traineeship placements if you will not be reimbursed.
Earlier this year, fresh out of journalism college I went for a job interview with a local newspaper where the Editor was extremely impressed with my enthusiasm and passion for journalism offering me a one week placement that could lead to a permanent paid position.
I am not the finished article…yet
I came in that week eager to impress and write as many articles as I could, probably totalling about 20 articles but it seemed as if I not done enough to land a job. For me News Editors need to understand I am 22 years old and not the ‘finished article’ in any way shape or form but I have potential to succeed in this industry, I am a qualified journalist so maybe give me a chance.
Editors do not like taking risks and understandably want reporters with experience, but where does this leave someone like me trying to make my way in this industry? I can be left feeling rather frustrated when I spent a vast sum of my own money paying to live in Portsmouth while I undertook my journalism course and sometimes it can make you think of giving up all together.
Despite all this, why on earth would I give up now? I’ve come so far and am only a few steps away from achieving my goals. For example just last week I was rubbing shoulders with Fred Dineage and Sangetta Barbara from ITV Meridian which was unthinkable just two short years ago.
Statistically if you went to a private school you are more likely to become a journalist than say someone who went to a state comprehensive because of the fact you are well connected and mix in the higher social circles. For me this is ludicrous, because if as a journalist you are meeting people of all different backgrounds and if you say you had a fairly privileged upbringing how are you meant to feel sympathy or empathy for someone who has lived a less fortunate life than yours with all the tragedy involved.
Resilience and persistence
To succeed in the media you definitely need to develop resilience and persistence like myself because you are entering an incredibly competitive industry that thousands of other people are trying to get into. I have learnt to be resilient because even after all the knockbacks I am still attending interviews with the biggest media organisations in the country namely BBC, Channel 4 and ITV which is spurring me on. Most of these organisations will reimburse your transport fare even if you haven’t been successful which is great.
There are some great local media outlets are which offer work experience like Leys News who helped me settle on a career choice.
Leys News is a social enterprise that gives local people the opportunity to get hands on experience of writing for local papers and Sarah Edwards, the editor was so impressed with my work she encouraged me to pursue a career in the media.
As the Leys News is a social enterprise that relies on grants to operate they have always been severely underfunded, but in my opinion have always over delivered in terms of papers produced and the quality of content.
Supporting local people
Volunteers give their free time to write for the Leys News, however I can’t help but wonder how great the project could become if it was able to be run as a business which employed local people who want to break into the media and what a fantastic stepping stone it would be. Leys News has created the benefit of supporting local people in the community through giving them the opportunity to develop skills essential to becoming a journalist.
Leys News is unique in what it does but if we had more organisations like it around then people from working class backgrounds would feel confident and be inspired to undertake a career in the media. Which is a gap currently missing as journalism is still very much a middle class profession that needs the voices for people of all different backgrounds whether they be of ethnic origin, disabled or other minority groups. More equality and diversity is needed so these people are represented across the media which is historically and is still currently an ‘elitist’ industry.’