Young journalists: a lesson plan

What do incoming journalists need to do to succeed? Based on his recent interview with Ed Walker, James Evelegh has some good advice…

By James Evelegh

Young journalists: a lesson plan
Photograph: Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it,” or so the saying goes.

Our latest podcast guest, Ed Walker, is an extremely busy person. He is Audience and Content Director (Regionals) at Reach plc and also Editor-in-Chief of InYourArea and also Leader in Residence for Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, because, he says, he “likes to give something back”, and, presumably had the time to do it.

So, asking Ed to spare an hour for a podcast interview was never going to be a problem.

What, I wonder, does he tell the journalism students at UCLan is the secret to a successful career in journalism? Based on our chat, I can imagine him giving the following advice:

  1. Be responsive: if a lead comes in, via Facebook for instance, then leap on it. Respond quickly to everything.
  2. Get involved; don’t be stand-offish: journalism isn’t only about reportage and commentary; it’s about offering solutions too.
  3. Look to make a difference because “the best days in journalism come when you see the difference you’ve made in a community”.
  4. Keep pushing the boundaries of your craft: learn new skills and never stop experimenting.
  5. Remember, stories are about people. A dry planning application will only come to life when you find out who’s submitted it and who it will affect.
  6. Make and maintain contacts, build rapport and always ask that extra question, because you never know what you might unearth.
  7. Don’t specialise too early. Whilst Ed acknowledged that some thought differently, he saw a lot of value, certainly in the early stages of a career, in doing the general stuff and being a jack of all trades; pushing yourself to do some of the things you might not necessarily choose to do.

The future of news media, he said, is about being relevant and we do that by getting close to our readers. If young journalists follow Ed’s advice, then the future looks bright.