Becoming a Magazine Journalist

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So…you want to be a magazine journalist? I won’t bore you by mentioning how difficult and competitive it is, you already get that so often from everyone you meet that your eyes are about to melt so I’ll just stick to how you can make it happen.

Number 1: you need to complete a course to be an accredited journalist. With the best skills in the world you can’t phone up magazines and say, “Hi, yeah, I totally know where next season’s fashion is heading and I’m way better than the girl you have writing for you now (another tip, never insult their staff under any circumstances).”

The course has to be NCTJ accredited (National Certificate of Training for Journalists), and you need to be good at making tea because while you do your coursework you should also try to fit in some intern placements. I sent an email to Bizarre magazine and they’re very accommodating, you get experience (I even did some interviews and writing for them) and they get someone to type up endless hours of interviews.

Number 2: don’t complain as an intern…ever. It’s such a simple, obvious rule but I’ve done it. Yes, they get you to do the boring crap they don’t want to and they cackle evilly as they pile it into your arms, but they are doing you a favour and it’s good to learn you’re not going to instantly be a superstar wherever you go. Learn from my mistakes; I got a placement at one prestigious magazine and proceeded to lose my temper with the editor at every available opportunity. Don’t make an enemy of anyone. This is one reason my true place is in fiction writing, I’m kept away from society.

Number 3: The course is hard. It’s not just dreaming up the perfect article and writing it at your leisure; you’ll need to complete roughly one a week and pass Media Law and shorthand, but all of those things are completely possible if the proper attention is paid to them. You can do it, just imagine me standing behind you singing 80s montage songs (“You’re the best, around, nothin’s ever gonna keep you down…”).

Number 4: There are different areas of magazine journalism. Do the best you can in all of them because most people in the office end up writing at least one article but you could focus instead on sub-editing. These are the folks who design the layouts and covers and make the whole thing look pretty.

Number 5: Finishing the course is terrifying. Reality hits that your intern placement isn’t going to suddenly give you a job and you’ll probably need to look around for somewhere fairly small and modest. My advice (given to me by a teacher) is to look for B2Bs (Business to business). They’re written for professionals in a specific area and most people start off in one of those. It’s easy to think you can’t do it because you’ve no knowledge in their areas but if I can write an article on new technology for hip replacements you can write about plugs for electricians. Just remember the 80s montage, you can do it! You’re the best, around…

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