Advice to wannabe journalists

There is nothing quite like getting published for the first time. The jubilation you feel after all that effort you put into your article and then seeing your name in the byline of a national newspaper once it is published.

If somebody told me a year ago that I would now be blogging for the Independent, the Huffington Post and the New Statesman I would have laughed at them. But that was when I didn’t realize how journalism works.

Journalism is very much a cat and mouse game you see. As in, the wannabe hacks are the cat and the national newspapers/ magazines are the mouse. To get what you want, sometimes you have to chase them up and when they ignore you – or when they are too busy to respond – you continue to chase them up. And then, finally, you’ll get a response.

But like they say, you don’t get a second chance at a first impression. When you do pitch to the deputy editor, or whoever else you have managed to stalk down, it’s imperative that you come across as professional and friendly in your pitch. Scrutinize your article several times, meticulously checking for factual and grammatical errors before emailing it.

Now one year into journalism, I have interviewed a plethora of big names. Alastair Campbell being one of the bigger ones. He said in the interview that, in order to be a successful journalist, not only do you need “self confidence and inner confidence”, but you need to think you are better than the next person up.

This is why you should never be afraid to pitch above your weight. What’s the worst that could happen if the Guardian, Independent et al say ‘no’. If anything it’s a good thing. It means that your article wasn’t quite good enough and you can keep improving. Sometimes they will even tell you where you have gone wrong.

Also, do not underestimate the power of Twitter. If you catch somebody at the right moment and paste them a link to your blog, not will they read it, but they might even follow you back. Once you are in that position you can even send them direct messages. This is the ideal tool for wannabe journos.

Omar Shahid

Twitter: omar_shahid

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