Careers in Media: The Insider Scoop

The 2013 St Andrews Media Conference this Tuesday was in many ways a success. The members of the University’s Carnegie Club did very well, first of all, in securing two St Andrews alumni to be panel speakers at the event. David Wilkinson, founder of STAR Radio, was present, as well as Julian Calvert, a former student of English here and now Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University. They were joined by Simon Bucks, associate director of Sky News, and Tim Marshall, Head of Events Group of BBC. Here we share their insights and tips on the future of media, and the best ways to break into the industry.

 Mr Wilkinson started the discussion by emphasising that digital media isn’t necessarily taking over: there are still a number of newspapers in circulation and new magazines being published. He highlighted that one of the problems of modern day media is being able to distinguish between ‘immediate’ news and good quality reporting—people are still willing to pay money to read well-written features and reportages.

Nevertheless, the media is facing several challenges; with the rise of new technologies like smartphones and Twitter, there has been a surge of “citizen journalism”, which often makes it difficult to verify the legitimacy of certain stories. The idea that “anyone can be a journalist” was also supported by Mr Marshall, who claims that today no one comes into a media career without some experience, whether it is video producing or writing articles for a University or local newspaper. Wilkinson also explained the difficulties of monetising news, as well as the dialogue that audiences create with their media providers—before, there wasn’t a “conversation” between audiences and the media, and those in the industry could easily ignore reader or viewer responses.

Mr Marshall had a very in-depth viewpoint about what working in big media organisations can be like, drawing from his experiences working as Senior Vice-President for Walt Disney. He explained how, in the past, heavy training was imparted to those arriving to a media organisation for the first time: now, it is assumed that everyone knows how to work with certain technological mediums.

Mr Bucks spoke about the dire “economic landscape” of print media. He argued the main problem of monetising news is that it’s difficult to make people pay for information that can be easily accessed on mobile devices, meaning that other sources of information suffer. However, he added that TV is being watched now more than before, and advertising through this medium is still lucrative.

Finally, Mr Calvert also raised awareness about the difficulty of regulating “immediacy” in the media. He argued that it’s difficult to distance audiences from free information and good quality reporting, a problem that deepens as “citizen journalism” spreads further and further.

The talk definitely gave participants food for thought, and the event ended with some career advice from these experts. In particular, four key points stand out:

  • Be proactive: all panel speakers emphasised the importance of being involved in student media if this is the career path you are thinking of pursuing. Mr Bucks also highlighted that picking up the phone and speaking to potential employers never hurts.
  • A degree doesn’t count: having an undergraduate degree in journalism or media studies is not essential if you can pick up the know-how and experience other ways in our long holidays.
  • Familiarise yourself with different mediums: be aware of the impact that all different information sources have on the way news are made and distributed.
  • Know your skills and think about which specific areas within broadcasting, digital or print media you would fit best. 

Images courtesy of wellphoto and picsfive. Compiled by Kerri P.