Mike cut his teeth in journalism while studying Physics at Bath University where he helped edit the student newspaper, impact. He graduated in 2005 and, after a year doing bar work, enrolled on a 20 week NCTJ course at Highbury College. He went straight into a job at the Andover Advertiser before moving to the Surrey Comet and Kingston Guardian. He became a senior reporter and moved across to the Croydon Guardian sister title in September 2009, where he currently works.
Ready for the cliche about there being no average day as a journalist? Well, it’s a cliche for a bloody good reason, and any wannabe hack needs to think long and hard about how sacred their regular Thursday night poker, Saturday football or Monday night in front of the telly really is.
You’ll probably have heard horror stories about long, unsociable hours for little pay. But it’s the unpredictability of news – such a draw for so many in the first place – which can lead to the job taking over your whole life.
A daily routine’s essential if you’re going to avoid spending extended waking hours trawling about for stories. Mine starts at six with Humphreys and co. on Radio 4 filling me in on the national news as I lurch from shower to toaster while trying to get dressed. Some say a suit’s not necessary any more, but there’s nothing like it for that extra air of authority when you’re empathising your way into the home of a mother who’s just lost her baby, talking down a violent thug you’ve just papped outside court, or persuading that PCSO guarding a crime scene to give you a few tit-bits of info.
Previously a place for flicking through a paper or nosing through a novel, my train and bus trips are now consumed with checking Twitter for breaking news stories and Google Alerts for Croydon-related writings which have made their way online overnight. Calling the police, fire and ambulance is next, where building a rapport is essential if you don’t want the corporate brush-off.
Catching up with contacts during the day is key, but a big breaking story like a building on fire soon puts paid to that. We’ll hit the phones to official bodies (and busybodies), upload some pars to the web, flesh it out with more info as soon as possible, and get a snapper and reporter to the scene straight away to report back. Death knocks often come into these, and I’ve had my fair share of being screamed off the doorstep by the bereaved, but no matter how much your nerves are being battered they’re a hugely important part of the job.
A day’s reporting can regularly turn into a night of council meetings, and the occasional 15 or 16 hour day can be tough, but it’s massively outweighed when you scoop your rivals and the nationals, and watch authorities backtrack on bad decisions because of your stories.
Does Mike’s day sound like it’s for you? Or could you not stand the long hours? Let us know by emailing email@example.com, tweet us at @wannabehacks (hashtag #WHreporting) or comment below the post and we’ll get back to you asap.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look