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Fancy working at the Guardian?

by Fiona Christie on November 1, 2010

Guardian News and Media recently put on a morning to tell careers advisers about careers at the Guardian. In this post, I’ll try to distil some of the key information. It was a great morning though I did go away with a sense of disappointment with the fact that my favourite newspaper has hardly any reporters based outside London and that given its track record of agitating for social justice, apparently most of its reporters are still from Oxbridge. Deep sigh…If I have got this wrong and you work for the Guardian, do please correct me.

Anyway now I have got that out of my system. Here’s some of the really useful stuff I picked up on the day.

Janine Gibson, editor of guardian.co.uk talked about the growth of Open Platform ideas as well as “mutualisation” which is all about involving users in media output.

She quoted the well known example of Ian Tomlinson – who died in the G20 demonstrations in London in April 2009. Film footage recorded by a passer-by implicated the police in this death and was pivotal in the subsequent investigation of the incident. Paul Lewis a journalist at the Guardian has spearheaded this involvement of users and has become a magnet for such user-generated stories.

There is pragmatism behind mutualisation for the Guardian

  • Our users know more than us
  • They can be in more places that we can
  • They have the same tools and equipment – cameras etc
  • Journalism can be better if we use our users

This is in contrast to recent comments by the BBC’s Andrew Marr who has rubbished the amateurism of some user content and the blogosphere in general.

Not surprisingly Janine said it’s now typical on a budding journalist’s CV to include number of followers on twitter and she would be surprised if someone hadn’t started a blog. And it isn’t just about being able to churn stuff out – it’s about being able build a community around your twitter or blog about something interesting…so gone are the days that working on the student newspaper was the tried and tested way of getting into journalism

Martin Wainwright, the Guardian Northern editor works in more traditional journalism and admitted how competitive the profession is; quoting a report in the Journalist magazine that said that mainstream journalism jobs had dropped by a third in the last 10 years.

He summed up what he thinks you need to have to succeed:

  • Be Curious
  • Have boundless enthusiasm/drive
  • Be ambitious and aim high
  • Don’t be daunted – journalism is not rocket science

Tom Jackson – director of digital agency, Guardian Business and Professional talked about a little known aspect of the Guardian’s work. His agency designs and builds websites and loads of other digital stuff for a range of clients. He employs producers, product managers, designers and front end developers.

Examples of the digital agency’s work include:

Kew ; Great Plant Hunt The Guardian’s quick carbon calculator

He commented on the wider development of data visualisation which is all about using design skills to capture and bring alive data – one example is the “True Size of Africa” map.  This illustrates graphically how massive the landmass of Africa really is – its so big you can virtually fit the rest of the world into it.

Helen Bird, Head of Guardian jobs heads up the media sales team at Guardian Jobs. Slides from her presentation are available here. This is an area in which lots of new graduates work (and is much easier to get into than other media roles) and it’s a spring board into commercial and management roles in media, e.g., events, ad planning, sponsorship, marketing etc.

Roger Tooth, Head of Photography surprised us by saying that the Guardian has only 5 staff photographers who will tend to work on Features. The Guardian has 30 Picture editors who are working on the picture desk – editing, researching and shooting new pictures. Press photography is very much an Agency led world. Agencies are getting bigger and better so that is where most photographers will get work rather than direct from newspapers

Tom Happold, Head of Multi media told us about the Guardian’s production work in the domain of video and audio. As media forms converge the Guardian has responded to this with the aim of having editorial strength with its multimedia output

Staff working at this section of the Guardian tend to come from practical courses in the media in contrast to those working on news reporting who come from more traditional disciplines. Tom predicted that fewer people would be doing specialised jobs in the media in the future; to be successful you will have to be a generalist and have the skills to perform roles across the whole spectrum of media activity – print, online, audio, film etc.

Ruwan Fernando is the Guardian’s Talent and Development manager and concluded the morning with a short presentation with tips for getting in the media. His presentation is here.

Guardian Careers site has some useful content on media careers in general and also links to opportunities for students to enter competitions, get themselves published etc etc.

Go here for the  Guardian careers booklet which includes information on staff who work at the Guardian, as well as how to look for vacancies at Guardian News and Media.

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