Cultivate Your Specialist Subject

After more than 30 years in journalism Greg Hadfield  (pictured above) left as head of digital development at the Telegraph Media Group earlier this year to joinCogapp, a leading digital agency. He said he believed it was smaller companies such as Cogapp that were shaping the future, rather than repeating the mistakes of the past. He said the most exciting innovations would continue to emergy from remarkable individuals working alone or in small groups, not from ‘monolithic media’. Greg visited Brighton training centre Journalist Works to share his experiences with students.

By Louisa Hannah

There has never been a better time to be a journalist according to Greg Hadfield even though the traditional route into the profession is becoming increasingly difficult.

Talking to students at Brighton’s Journalist Works Greg said they might find it hard to see a structured route into journalism – but they could be successful by looking beyond the norm.

“It may be difficult to get a reporter’s job on a local weekly, so think about other ways of getting your journalism funded. A great example is to work for non-governmental organisations – Greenpeace, Christian Aid or charities which have communication channels. Look at organisations that send people to disaster areas to report the stories of real people. It might be print, video, audio or first person accounts via websites, often these organsiations do it better than other news providers.”

Greg advised students to cultivate a specialist subject to write about to create a niche in the market.

“The future of journalism resides in the creation of premium content. Get your foot in the door with a passion for a subject, either as a team or alone. Young people these days are interested in journalism, they don’t want to be told by editors what the news is, they want to engage in news and help to shape it. People now want to be partners in news, have conversations about it, before, during and after events happen.”

Students should understand the different forms of the digital era, it’s potency and what it offers. Referring to the impact of online journalism on print, as debated in a recent intelligence squared discussion called “The Future Of News”, Greg said journalists have always been citizen journalists.

“We have never pretended to write beyond ordinary people. We have no more right than anybody else to write news or have special access. Online news means we are now closer to our consumers and if that means getting more comments and feedback, good or bad, I would rather hear it.’

He pointed out that the boundaries between people’s personal and professional personas were blurring because of networking sites such as facebook and twitter.

“This might result in dual personalities, but you have to embrace the tecnology. Don’t undersell yourself, know what you want and don’t blame the world for not accomodating you. Cultivate an outlet for your journalism while you are looking for a job.”

Greg’s final piece of advise for students was to get out there and just do it.

“Don’t be scared of failure and error. Accept that you will make mistakes — it’s better to make them now than later when you are a shining star.”

* Log onto http://www.intelligencesquared.com to hear the debate on “The Future of News” as discussed by Andrew Neil, Turi Munthe, AA Gill, Claire Enders, David Elstein, Matthew Parris and Jacob Weisberg. The debate was held on March 24, 2010.

 

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