Journalists produce content for magazines, newspapers, radio, television, and, increasingly, online publications. As well as producing written content, journalists can be employed to produce other forms of content such as data-sets, images, videos, live blogs and so on. Competition for jobs within the industry is extremely high and enthusiasm and previous experience are highly prized by employers.
The UK has a strong publishing industry, the second largest in Europe. Roughly half of the industry is located in London and the South East. Freelancers make up around 15 per cent of the workforce. Similar stats apply to the journalism sector.
Publishing traditionally referred to the creation and distribution of books, newspapers, music and magazines. More recently, the creation and increased use of electronic media has widened the scope of publishing significantly. Now a huge volume of websites, emails, computer games, software and blogs are published each day around the world and this has increased the diversity of the industry and the roles within it.
Where do I start?
Within the journalism and publishing sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Broadcast journalist
- Commissioning editor
- Digital copywriter
- Editorial assistant
- Magazine features editor
- Magazine journalist
- Newspaper journalist
- Press photographer
- Press sub-editor
- Print production planner
- Programme researcher, broadcasting/film/video
- Publishing copy-editor/proofreader
- Publishing rights manager
- Radio producer
- Web content manager
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- journalism.co.uk – industry news, careers advice, courses and jobs
- The Publishers Association – The Publishers Association is a trade organisation serving book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK.
Getting your first job within journalism and publishing can be tough – more people want to work in the business than there are jobs available and entry level jobs are rarely advertised. Employers, keen to attract the brightest talent, can therefore afford to look for people who have some practical experience as well as relevant qualifications and genuine enthusiasm. For this reason alone undertaking some relevant experience is invaluable. Work experience can be paid or unpaid, undertaken during holidays, through a degree module or as temporary employment alongside studies.
However finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the Careers and Employability Service website. In addition to this the University of Portsmouth Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, in conjunction with the Careers and Employability Service, have developed a Creative Careers guide, an online resource with CV and application information focused on the creative industries.
It is also worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience; the Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability Centre.
If you wish to instigate voluntary work experience during the vacation periods please refer to the 'External sites' on the voluntary work experience section of our website.
Further Getting Experience information in our Media Career Guide may also be relevant to those wanting to work in journalism or publishing.
Internships and organised work experience opportunities
A small number of large publishing companies offer summer internships, which may lead to a graduate position for successful recruits.
Other book publishing companies offer work experience/internship-type opportunities, it is a good idea to research individual companies to identify these; some examples of larger companies offering these opportunities include:
The Independent Publishers Guild’s website is a useful source of information, including a job listings page which includes internship opportunities.
The Guardian Education Centre’s webpage provides useful and updated information on sources of work experience information for aspiring journalists.
Various agencies, including Cision Jobs, advertise internship opportunities in PR and journalism, including magazine internships.
Some of the big, glossy magazine publishing groups, with large portfolios offer much sought-after work experience and internships, such as Condé Nast and Hearst Magazines. Joining Hearst Magazine’s Internship/Graduate Community you will get notified when new internship and job opportunities open. Thorough research into more local or less high-profile options could reveal some useful opportunities.
If you are thinking of gaining work experience abroad One World 365 offers listings of paid and voluntary internships overseas in journalism
Making the most of your experience
If you are lucky enough to secure an internship or organised work experience in the sector, make the most of it:
- Ask lots of questions.
- Be curious and observant.
- Attend meetings, such as editorial meetings, to increase your visibility and help you to understand how editors think. If you are not invited to meetings, ask for the chance to observe.
- Pitch your own stories. This will show initiative and give you the chance to write about something that’s interesting to you, and might allow you to work with people who are not in your allocated work area.
- Find mentors – take advantage of talented colleagues, build as many relationships as you can during your internship, remember working in this sector is all about contacts.
- Create copies of your stories and articles during your internship, these will be useful references.
Speculative applications for work experience
Whilst advertised internships or work experience opportunities may be limited and highly competitive, a good number of students secure work experience in this sector through speculative applications and networking.
Applications to a named individual within an organisation are often more successful in bearing fruit. Use your research into the company to make contact and establish to whom it is best to address your application. Exploit opportunities to network and make contacts by going to industry events and seminars if possible, these may provide opportunities to meet key people working in the industry.
Your CV and cover letter
When applying it’s crucial that your cover letter or email has real impact and really shows the company why they need to consider you. Make sure you convey your passion, enthusiasm, attributes, experience and skills in a well-crafted cover letter. It is essential that you do your research: learn as much about the sector as you can, and about potential specific organisations you might target. Be smart in your researching: don’t rely just on information from the ‘About Us’ section on the organisation’s website - although that is a good place to start! Read what the company is publishing and follow on Twitter.
Seek out blogs and industry news so that your covering letter demonstrates that you are well informed, resourceful, and keen. For example, if you are approaching a publishing company you need to communicate that you are – and have always been – desperate to work on the specific imprint you are applying for, and with their specific authors. If you’re copying or paraphrasing from the website. it will show. If you spell their top-selling author's name wrongly you are likely to end up in the ‘no’ pile. If you are writing to magazines or newspapers, write about the sort of stories you can write, including examples of your work. The less generic and more tailored your approach, the more attractive it will be.
A focused CV and covering letter can be effective in securing an opportunity. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV and a convincing Covering Letter through the Careers and Employability website.
Networking and building your contacts
In this sector a well-executed social media presence is vital in helping to get you close to opportunities and staff at companies.
Twitter is a powerful networking tool and allows you to access important players in the sector who may be impossible to reach otherwise. Many companies post job listings and new openings on their accounts, so it’s important to research and focus who you are following.
Keep track of where the Jobs in Books Roadshow is heading (advertised on The Bookseller’s website) so that you can plan to attend, and take up the opportunity to meet people working in the industry and talk about roles in publishing and benefit from advice.
Think broadly about where you might be able to come in to contact with people working in the publishing world. Book fairs and literary festivals might be an option. Whilst tickets may be expensive attending the London Book Fair will bring you in to contact with publishers from all over the world.
Consider joining The Society of Young Publishers whose online Network will enable you to connect with industry professionals and engage in their ‘Ask an Expert’ forum. Whilst the nearest regional meeting place is London, they do offer a range of events which might help you to make contact with those working in the industry.
Taking training courses or joining seminars focussed on the sector, can be a way of building your network. The Literacy Consultancy (TLC) offers training and seminars on key aspects of publishing, some of which are free. Recent events include What is proof reading? and What is editing?, as well as a two-day Get A Job In Publishing course. Attending these could help to grow your experience and understanding of the publishing process. Most events are London-based, and, if there is a cost attached, there are frequently opportunities for sponsored tickets to these courses and events.
Create your own experience
Producing your own blog will demonstrate your writing and editing skills as well as digital skills that are key in this sector. Just remember, whatever you are doing online, keep it up to date and professional – it’s important to control your online presence – you want to ensure you are presenting yourself to the outside world, as you would wish to be seen.
Joining a local writers' group may help you to develop your writing skills. New Writing South is an active group and offers events, courses and the opportunity to mix with writers and to share writing.
Seasonal and temporary work in the sector
There are a small number of specialist publishing recruitment agencies, who recruit for short term work opportunities in publishing companies, most of which are administrative-type roles. These could provide a useful ‘foot in the door’ to the industry. These agencies include:
Tips to build experience
- Explore the various areas within the journalism and publishing sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
- The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. Think about small and medium size publications as well as major publications.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with publications that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
- News Associates, an NCTJ-accredited journalism school, run free journalism workshops that focus on gaining some practical task-based experience in a newsroom setting. You can register on their site which also provides careers advice, resources and information on their own courses.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers – see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
- Remember to utilise any of your own personal experience that could interest an employer such as a personal blog or any contributions to online publications.
- Working in a bookshop or volunteering in your local library will help you to find out what consumers think/want. You can learn how to write copy, what is selling, and what competing publishers are doing.
Finding a job
There are many different areas within journalism and publishing to work across a variety of roles. From journalism across multiple platforms, to both in front of, and behind the camera, broadcast work and writing and publishing, this is a broad subject area. This means it is worth giving some time to thinking where you particularly wish to specialise within when thinking about experience and jobs you wish to target.
Employers who recruit in these areas
- The main national broadcasters including the BBC, Sky, ITV and Channel 4 are leading employers within all areas of journalism
- Leading graduate employers within publishing include Bloomsbury Publishing, Penguin Random House and Pan Macmillan
- The majority of national newspapers including The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Daily Mail run graduate schemes
- Local newspapers and radio stations are many people's way into the sector and offer a wide variety of positions.
- It is important to remember that many people who work within journalism and publishing will be freelance
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- The Guardian Jobs – Journalism and publishing jobs on Guardian Jobs
- Press Gazette – National and regional journalist and communication jobs
Tips for finding a job
- Keep up to date with journalism and publishing news and trends by following the leading titles, publications and professional bodies on Twitter. This information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden job market.
- Keep your online job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- If you are keen to focus on a specific sector within journalism and publishing check out the specialist websites for these areas for current vacancies.
- Ensure you maintain a strong online presence, showcase your work either through social media, a blog or an online portfolio (clippings.me).
- It is important to note that some publications rely solely on speculative applications and never advertise directly so be proactive and target potential employers.
Useful Twitter feeds
Twitter is a key instrument within journalism and publishing and should be utilised as much as possible. This should apply to both maintaining a strong presence yourself (particularly if you plan to work as a freelancer) and through following key titles and publications within the field. Journalism.co.uk has guidance on how to utilise Twitter effectively.
Check out the following Twitter feeds for news and information about current projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.
If you need more information why not check out some of the resources below to help you to research a sector in more depth.
Working in journalism
- Press Gazette – National and regional journalist and communication jobs.
- Hiive – This professional networking site for creative people provides information on job opportunities, company profiles, funding information and advertising space for freelancers.
- National Union of Journalists – The NUJ represents a broad range of media professionals and includes a section on careers advice.
- HoldtheFrontPage – UK regional journalism news and jobs
Working in publishing
- The Society of Young Publishers – The SYP has news, job vacancies and careers advice (some content can only be accessed by members).
- The Bookseller – Provides the latest news and analysis for the book industry and includes a database of publishing jobs available in the UK.
- PPA Careers – The Periodicals Publishers Association includes a jobs board and careers resources including MagScene, a careers guide to working in magazine publishing.
- Publishing Talk – Online learning community for publishers, authors, agents and others wanting to learn about social media marketing, digital publishing, self-publishing and developments in the industry.
- What's New in Publishing – Features the latest news and ideas for the UK media and publishing markets.
- Publishing Perspectives – Online magazine of international book publishing news and opinion.
Working as a freelancer
- Student StartUp Team – The University's support network for current students and graduates who wish to work self-employed offering advice and guidance, office space and networking opportunities
- PeoplePerHour – The UK's largest freelance community offering work, advice and networking
- Freelance Writing – Provides advice, tutorials, examples and work for freelance writers
Jobs within this field are usually advertised directly and almost never through a recruitment agency but it is possible to work for press agencies, either on a permanent contract or on a freelance basis.
- Press Association – based in London, the Press Association is the national news agency for the UK and Ireland and offers work, training and experience across all multimedia platforms.
- Reuters – The world's leading international news agency with offices in London.
- NAPA – The National Association of Press Agencies has a members directory of organisations all over the country.