Jacob Granger was a student on the BA (Hons) Multimedia Journalism course at Bournemouth University. He graduated in 2017 and is now a senior reporter for journalism.co.uk
What made you want to become a journalist?
Initially I didn’t want to be a journalist. At college I studied music, mainly drums and piano. Then, realising I didn’t want to do musical performance, I aspired to be a music journalist. But after three years at Bournemouth Uni studying multimedia journalism I decided I wanted to pursue more general journalism.
How did you go about finding that first job?
I didn’t get a job straight away in journalism. It took me a whole year after graduating. Throughout that time I worked at call centres, Wetherspoons, all sorts of jobs I didn’t want to be doing. There wasn’t a lot of time to be working on applications, I just had to do them in my spare time. During that time I lost a lot of confidence. I lived just outside of Brighton and after a while a job at journalism.co.uk came up in Brighton, but I didn’t apply. I was having a crisis of confidence and didn’t think they would want to hire me. When I noticed later that the position hadn’t been filled, I thought I really should go for it, but I let the job application expire again. Then it came up for a third time, and this time I sent in the application. I got an interview, didn’t think I’d get the job, but then got a call saying I was hired. So patience really is the lesson.
Tell me a bit more about that year before you got the job, what impact did it have on you?
For about three quarters of a year I was just working and not doing anything related to journalism. My skills weren’t as sharp as they could be and I was stagnating. I was worried that because I wasn’t doing anything journalistic, nobody would hire me in that area. So I took a week off from my full-time job and did some work experience at a newspaper in Worthing. At least that showed I was trying to get back on the horse and it gave me the confidence to continue applications. But towards the end of that year I was in a rut, and decided I needed mental health support. I was literally walking into the building to begin that support when I got the call saying I had the job at journalism.co.uk. I was so overjoyed I cancelled the appointment. Getting the job changed my outlook on life.
What lessons do you feel there are here for people?
Don’t give up, and don’t talk yourself out of a job – like I did twice for the job I eventually got. You never know what will happen. I had been for other interviews throughout the year where I thought I had done better, but I got rejected from those, so I thought I wouldn’t get this one. Sometimes you don’t know how well you’ve done until you are told. This ended up being the perfect job at the perfect time. So patience really is the lesson.
What placements did you do?
I did two weeks at a local newspaper, two weeks at a community radio station on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, and two weeks with a regional music magazine in Bournemouth.
It was too brief. You are there for two weeks and by the end of it you are starting to really accelerate and get momentum and then the two weeks is up. The first week is quite a grind, it’s new, you’re trying to find your feet, you haven’t got that many stories to work with. The second week you are a lot more comfortable and then that’s kind of it. I didn’t feel like it was enough time. I think placements should be longer than two weeks. It’s such a cost-intensive thing for students, two weeks doesn’t feel like you get your money’s worth. Fortunately I didn’t have to pay for accommodation, the cost was mainly commuting, but I still had to push my student overdraft.
What does your job at journalism.co.uk entail?
At journalism.co.uk we produce content about journalism. I write articles, make podcasts and create video content for the website. That drives traffic to the site and promotes some of our other business streams, like training, our Newsrewired conference and our jobs board. I’m in charge of creating good content and have something of a social media presence as well. I go to conferences and report on panels and speakers. I interview people across our industry, not just in the UK but around the world. There are so many topics to write about related to journalism; from emerging trends and business models, to diversity and artificial intelligence. It’s journalism on journalism.
How well do you feel university prepared you for your this role?
I couldn’t be doing this job without my university studies that’s for sure. It gave me a lot of the basic tools – good writing, audio editing, talking to people, a general news sense. You learn to spot a good story and that’s something that takes time. You also learn to juggle deadlines and think ahead. You learn to pitch stories beyond a press release, which really adds value to any organisation you join. It doesn’t fly well on a placement if you pitch straight from a press release.
But there is a lot you need to pick up afterwards. There is only so much that university can teach you. I have had to learn things like conference reporting and podcasts. I have had to learn how to edit on a mobile phone. The industry changes very quickly, and even in a couple of years, things have moved on from what I learned.
Most larger news organisations are doing a lot of mobile journalism. At the BBC for example, mobile phone footage is incorporated into a lot of social videos. If you are at university, you might not realise that it’s an increasingly important field.
What were the things you found the most useful, now that you have been in the industry for a little while?
Because of the kind of work I do, it would have to be some of my third year academic work. At university I did an assignment on Solutions Journalism which is something we write quite a lot about at journalism.co.uk. It’s increasingly seen as something news organisations are trying to learn about. Because of the assignment I did at university I understood that space quite well. I found the academic side of the course more useful than anything else.
One of the best things Bournemouth Uni did for me was to get us to a conference, where we got to meet editors and others in the field. I’d encourage more universities to do this. I only did it once in my three years, but it enabled my CV to get into the hands of someone at ITV. And I got some feedback on things I could work on. You want to start integrating yourself in the industry at conferences like Newsrewired. The sooner you are integrated into the field the better.
What other advice would you offer to new graduates?
Editors want to know what the next emerging space is. I’m 26 and I’m trying to get my head around TikTok and Instagram. If you are aware of how these platforms work and what drives engagement there, bring that to the table. A lot of people are trying to understand these things. This is one of the industry’s big conundrums. Who are our readers of the future and what platforms are they on?
If you are really fluent, see if you can translate their existing content to something that lives on those platforms. Are there leftover clips they could use and turn them into a story format? Are there things we can do around the newsroom to make a little TikTok? Are there things we can grab for YouTube to build up a little following? It’s always nice to have one platform you know well. Sometimes we spread ourselves too thin, but if you have one platform that is your forté, I’d advise that you concentrate on that.
Don’t just apply for any job that comes up, it generally doesn’t work. I’ve seen now, being on the other side, that you need a tailored CV. Employers get too many applications, they see too many generic ones. Wait for the right opportunity and then put as much into that one application as possible. Be selective.
Keep your skills sharp. Try not to spend too much time not doing anything. Even if it’s just a side hustle; a podcast, a YouTube series, a blog. Keep that going as much as you can. I know how hard that it is when you have a full-time job, I know how drained you are when you come home and the last thing you want to do is put your journalism hat on. But if that’s what you want to do with your life, that drive should be there and you’ll find a way to make it happen.
Every now and again do a week’s work experience somewhere. We hired one of our reporters on the back of him spending a week with us after university.
Conference reporting is something I would recommend. We take on some volunteers to do some writing and interviews for us at Newsrewired. It’s a great way to network. You can spend just one day in London, which is affordable for a lot of people, and get yourself into a £200 conference. From that investment you get bylines, contacts, access to editors where you might be able to get work, or more work experience.
When you are in application mode it can seem like every job is out of your league, but they might be prepared to take a punt on you, like they did with me. Students can always pitch stories to us, and other people. It might be something we can put on the website, which is then evidence of you being a journalist, and is keeping your skills sharp.
There are lots of schemes to help work experience students out there even after graduation, like Press Pad, like the Multitrack Audio Fellowship – really good schemes. Do apply. Don’t let yourself talk yourself out of opportunities, just do it and put in as much effort as possible. Once you are in the building, make the most of it. Seize the opportunity. You are there to make an impression, so make it count. Be proactive. Come with stories, come with pictures, come with everything and make sure you don’t leave without getting what you want – evidence of you as a journalist. When you go for work experience, don’t leave without the stories you want.
Is there anything that has surprised you about the industry?
The industry is a lot more welcoming and nice than it’s made out to be. The impression is that it’s very cutthroat, and it’s true, you need to be extremely good at your craft and good at journalism but inside there are people who are happy to help, editors that will guide you. They don’t have a lot of time, but they will go the extra mile to help. It is a welcoming industry and not as scary as it seems. It’s a great industry to be part of.
What are your next challenges?
I’m really happy where I am. What I do now is almost ideal for a young journalist because you’re getting an overview of the industry, learning about emerging trends, why news organisations need specific revenue strategies, why diversity matters – learning about the key topics. Wherever I move on to from here, whenever that may be, though not remotely in the back of my mind at the moment, at least I’ll go with a little more insight as to the direction of the industry. If someone did work experience with someone like us or our competitors, I think they’d get a sense of that as well. It might help you with ideas of things to pitch to editors.
This article was written in September 2019. To keep up with what Jacob is up to, follow him on social media.
We regularly catch up with our BJTC alumni to find out how they are going with their careers and what advice they might have to offer students embarking on their own broadcast journalism journeys. If you’d like to be considered for the Alumni Spotlight, contact us and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.