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The Job Of An Investigative journalist

investigative journalistAn investigative journalist researches and exposes the truth, often when someone else is trying to keep it hidden.

Investigative journalists are brave, resourceful and tenacious; they need to be to get to the truth. They can work for newspapers, television and radio programmes or online news sites and they will expose wrongdoings. An example of this is the Panorama programme which uncovered the abuse of patients at the Winterbourne View in Bristol.

Because investigative journalism often exposes criminal behaviour it is very important that the investigation is conducted ethically and not in any way that could make it impossible to prosecute someone. There are also issues with how and when the results of the investigation are presented to the public as anything that led to a criminal not being able to receive a fair trial would obviously be bad.

How about?

Contacting your local newspaper’s offices and finding out whether they do or are willing to take on an apprentice junior journalist

Worth bearing in mind

Many if not all employers will expect you to be able to use shorthand as a journalist and getting a shorthand qualification can be useful for many other jobs too (just as being able to touch type is).

The different types of journalists

There are lots of different types of journalism, including:

  • Broadcast Journalism
  • Foreign Correspondent
  • Investigative Journalist.
  • Newspaper Reporter
  • Photojournalism
  • Social Media journalism
  • Subject specialism journalism (such as sports or fashion journalism)
  • Data journalism

A sports journalist for example might commentate of sport or they might research and write about sports. We spoke to Mike Carter, who actually did some interviewing and writing for Moving On back in the day – here’s his story about getting into sports journalism.

investigative journalism

Mike is an assistant producer for BT Sport TV. He talked to Moving On about his journey from school to the successful position he is in now. Mike has worked on ‘Boxing Tonight’ and ‘Kicks Extra’ managing guests, directing edits for inserts and features and directing shoots amongst other things. He has worked with the likes of Paul Dempsey, Michael Owen, Joe Calzaghe and Amir Khan.

What route did you take to get into the job that you are in now?

When I left school I knew I definitely wanted to work within the media industry and I joined a BA (Hons) Media Production course at college. I honestly believe this was a major factor in being where I am now. College really threw me into industry practices, made me more mature and gave me the confidence to believe I could go on and achieve good things.

“After college I realised that I really wanted to specialise in sports so I took a Sports Journalism course at Staffordshire University. This was a big change as the course was very focused on working in the newspaper and magazine industries but I felt gaining more skills would only be beneficial. It was studying the module on broadcasting where I found my passion.

“After University I started job hunting and I found a year’s paid internship in sports production at ESPN, the rival TV Channel to SKY that had a range of sports rights including Premier League Football, Premiership Rugby & European football.

“When ESPN were taken over by BT Sport I saw it as a great opportunity to make my name in a new company. I couldn’t land a production job straight away as many of the applicants were more experienced than me, but I managed to get a job in the archive team as archive assistant. Within three months of working in the archive a boxing show was added to BT Sport’s schedule. As a big fan of boxing, my name was passed on to be an assistant producer on the show and I got my chance. This was only a temporary job title at first but after working hard I was given the full assistant producer title.”

Is the job you have now the one that you wanted when you were 16?

Not exactly, but it isn’t far off. When I was 16 I had a passion to be a sports journalist – I enjoyed writing, I loved sport and I thought there would be nothing better than to be working at big sporting events. I soon realised though that video work was my real passion and luckily I was still able to combine my love for sport with my skills in broadcasting.”

How did you gain the skills that you needed?

Gaining skills away from qualifications came from a passion of watching a lot of sport, doing a lot of reading on how to get into the role and always practicing with equipment. For example, my friends and I used to have a video camera and we made short films in our spare time. This was great to learn more about camera shots, editing and making a finished product.”

What work experience have you done along the way?

I was always emailing companies trying to get any experience I could because it looks great on your CV and also it shows that you’re very determined. I managed to get work experience at local newspapers such as the Worcester News, Hereford Times & Birmingham Mail. In my last year at University I also worked unpaid for Port Vale FC writing articles, doing match reports and also doing video work. Although this was unpaid this was such a great experience to build a portfolio, make contacts and make a name for myself.”

What advice can you give to young people wanting to succeed?

My advice is that anything is possible if you’re passionate, determined and willing to learn. Don’t give up if you get a rejection. Keep fighting until you get what you want. Try speaking to as many people in the industry you want to get into as possible, try to get as much work experience as possible and choose the right courses to match your ambitions.

“Finally, if you do manage to get work experience or an internship, work like your life depends on it! There is no point doing the hard work to get a chance and then not making the most of it. You need to do everything you can to make an impression, even if it’s making cups of tea. A lot of this advice will sound very generic, but it’s generic for a reason…because it works.”

To read more about all sorts of journalism roles and how to get into them – including interviews with those who’ve been there and are doing it – visit our journalism page.

About Lynette Daly

Lynette is the publishing editor of Moving On magazine. Moving On is devoted to helping young people make good choices for their future – education, qualifications and careers. Moving On really wants to motivate you! Our articles cover a range of topics to inspire and give ideas. Our magazines are delivered free to all schools, colleges and sixth forms in England and is also available online.

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