Name: Donna-Louise Bishop
Degree and university: Creative and Professional Writing from Glamorgan University
Job Title: Junior Reporter
What is it you actually do?
I report on news in the county of Norfolk for the Norwich Evening News and the Eastern Daily Press.
How did you get into your job?
I knew I enjoyed writing from a very early age and decided that a job as a reporter was the best thing to do until I could do creative writing full time. I only heard about creative writing degrees in my last year of college and I hadn’t taken English for an A-Level. I then had to spend a third year at college getting my English in one year and was accepted on the Creative Writing course at Glamorgan.
I was advised very early on (at Glamorgan) to do as much work experience as possible so I kept a look out for opportunities.
I got my first ‘break’ as such working as a researcher for push.co.uk. It was very hard work but I learnt some important skills, such as interview techniques, meeting deadlines, organising myself and most importantly talking with strangers and getting used to dealing with people who did not want to talk to me. It’s very rare that someone won’t talk to me now.
I then started doing placements with local papers, magazines and even radio. By trying out all different types of journalism I was able to confirm that newspaper journalism was for me. I’m still deciding if I’m a news reporter or a features writer but at least I’m in the right place to find that out.
I then started working on the student newspaper and eventually became editor, which was a massive learning curve but it did allow me to build up a portfolio of work. I was very lucky to do this job with the help of Rachel England and we spent many stressful afternoon’s putting the paper together. Another lesson learnt, you can’t do it alone.
I also entered as many competitions as I could and was lucky to win a national one with the British Library (looks great on your CV).
Once I left university I had such a full CV and portfolio that I could concentrate on getting into journalism college (NoSWeat in London) rather than rushing to do all that hard work. I spread it out over three years which prepared to get serious about journalism.
After college I found it easier to get freelance work with magazines and radio and from personal experience I think newspaper journalism is one of the hardest things to get into (although feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong!).
Having a perfect CV is vital. It’s what get’s you the interviews. Glamorgan careers people helped put mine together and then an editor was kind enough to look over it for me. The interview is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do but the best advice is to just be yourself and let your passion for writing shine through. You really cannot go wrong that way and don’t be afraid to give an opinion.
I spent six years trying to get where I wanted to get. Sometimes I thought about giving up on it but then I would do an amazing interview, like the time I spoke to a 17-year-old cancer survivor or the time I interviewed David Cameron. It’s the amazing things like this that kept me going and spurred me on. Write them down so then you can look at them when you’re feeling down.
Funding was sometimes an issue (especially with my NCTJ) and I had to apply for a Career Development Loan. Sometimes I would do work that I didn’t enjoy but if it funded doing the work I loved, then it was well worth doing it.
I eventually got a job working with the NHS answering 999 calls as I thought if I can’t have the job of my dreams I might as well do a job that helps people. It was while working here I was invited to an interview with Archant. I had stayed in touch with one of the editors who had remembered me from a work placement. I went on an informal interview and was offered the job the next day. If you make an impression on a work placement then it will be remembered, trust me.
Why did you decide to go into this sector?
I have wanted to be a published author for as long as I remember so I thought I would go into an industry which involved using my writing talent. I hope I will earn enough money to one day write creatively full time.
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides?
I get to go into work everyday and do a job I love. I live by the rule that if I don’t meet at least one quirky person a day then it wasn’t a good day! I get to find out amazing things about some amazing people. I also like the construction of writing and improving my writing abilities everyday.
The downsides are the long hours and you have to be very thick skinned. There’s a lot of pressure put on reporters these days and you have to be able to have a good support of friends and/or family to support you in your work.
What advice would you give to other graduates?
It might be hard work but stick with what you want to do. You will get there eventually. Take EVERY opportunity given to you, be realistic and don’t forget to say please and thank you and keep a smile on your face.