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10 October 2011

First Day in a Newsroom

Today's the day my Postgraduate Broadcast Journalism trainees at Leeds Trinity start placement. It's the culmination of an intensive course, and the first chance they have to prove they have what it takes for a career in news.

They're entering the industry at a difficult time (DQF, anyone?); the current financial crisis is not of their making, but they're bearing the brunt of its effects.

I know we have a great team teaching on our course; it's a privilege to work alongside them, and to see the trainees develop their skills from January to September.

October and November are when those same trainees have to prove themselves actually working in a newsroom (or, more normally, several newsrooms).

So I had to think of something to say this morning; something to stiffen the sinews, to inspire without being trite, hopefully channelling Winston Churchill rather than David Brent.

Having agonised over what to say, I thought I would share the result more widely here.

What follows is what's just landed in the inbox of my 13 trainees about to enter the world of broadcast news on October 10, 2011.

It's a filthy morning in Leeds, but don't let the weather dampen your spirits as you start wowing employers with all you have learned over the past nine months.

Remember; on day one it's all in the eye contact and the handshake. Let them see your competence and your confidence. Go into any conference with ideas, be ready to participate but never seek to dominate.

When you see an opportunity to offer more than you're being asked to do, take it; subject to the golden rule that you will always, without exception, deliver what you have promised by the deadline set 

Never forget that journalists in 2011 are not observing life from a cloud.
Get into the heart of the story you're covering, look for new and original insights, find the human detail that illustrates the bigger issue.

Don't be scared of performance; you are the eyes and ears of the listener or viewer, you are a friend who's privileged to be in the front line of something interesting; your reactions can be important to help their understanding.

Remember Sir Robin's Rules, especially the one about not being overawed by a powerful person. That applies inside the building as well as when you're on a story.

Make the most of your placements; they are the final link between your life as a trainee and your life as a working journalist. Network for England, and ask everyone you impress for advice on who you should approach for work; often they will pick up the phone or dash off an email on your behalf.

It's not going to be easy finding that first break at the moment; there are dark clouds over Leeds and dark clouds over quite a lot of newsrooms, especially at the BBC after last week's DQF announcement. But there will always be a need for fresh talent, and editors more than ever want the right people who can hit the ground running and get it right first time.

You need to believe that your Leeds Trinity training puts you in the best possible position to take advantage of those opportunities which do arise.
The rest is up to you.

All the best,


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