Starting a media career? Stay north, not south

In the past few weeks I’ve read a number of articles that have labelled the north second rate to the south for work, education and everything in-between.

In the past few weeks I’ve read a number of articles that have labelled the north second rate to the south for work, education and everything in-between. As a proud northerner there are not enough words to describe how angry these articles have made me feel.

Yes the North, and in particular the North East, has problems with unemployment – it was the only region to see an increase in the latest unemployment figures – but does that mean you have to leave to prosper as young adult?

Far from it and it pains me to see people advising otherwise. The north from Newcastle right down to Manchester has great opportunities for young people as long as you can be bothered to put the effort in.  Of course times are hard and for every job application there are at least four or five people battling for the same position but would moving to London really make your prospects any easier?

Again, I have to say no. There was a particular piece on from a budding journalist from Lancashire who argued that if you want to make in the industry you have to move down to London.

Endless opportunities

I hit the roof. She argued that the best opportunities are in London and the positions that stand out on your CV are in the big smoke. Again I disagree. While I don’t debate that if you aim is to get into Sky or national papers – London is the place you need to be, but to claim that the best advice is to ‘come to a university down south,’ is frankly ludicrous.

Of course the author of this advice is only going off her own advice, but look around the north and you’ll see why it offers some of the best opportunities to aspiring journalists. Out of the top ten universities ranked by the Complete University Guide 2015 – nine are above the ‘Watford Gap’ that the Journograd’s article recommends you go below to be a success. The other one is Southampton University.

Three of the universities I consider northern – Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle – are ranked 2nd, 3rd and 5th respectively. Sheffield was also voted number one in the Times Higher Education Student Experience survey.

Personally I’m at University of Sheffield. It’s a great course and I’ve learnt that simply saying you’re on the MA course at this university impresses potential employers and opens doors.  

My work placements have all been in the north. My last one was at Metro Radio in Newcastle. The claim of the north being less glamorous is again ludicrous. I found my three weeks there exciting, stories I reported on were interesting and I have no doubts that it’ll be the same for any major northern city.

The ball is in YOUR court

The big cities have huge stories—Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool for example always have stories that need to be covered. You’ve the BBC in Salford, ITV local, Liverpool Echo, Sheffield Star, Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Manchester Evening News plus a whole load of local radio stations that will all have opportunities if you make the right impression with your cover letter and CV.

Lack of news or opportunities isn’t the problem but the lack of journalists in that area is.

Guardian Northern Editor Helen Pidd responded to Andy Beckett’s article in the Guardian, saying that the lack of national media coverage is the reason the north gets looked on so badly. I agree that there is a southern bias towards media but it can work in your favour as an aspiring journalist. Most major northern news rooms will be glad to take you on as long as you put the effort in.  

The lesson is that newsrooms in the north are a stretching point and have no time for students who sit there quietly twiddling their thumbs and aren’t confident enough to act on their own initiative  – they need someone who can do the job without needing to be shadowed for the whole week. 

They need someone who has done their homework – who knows the audience they’re working for and can pick it up the style and methods instantly. The best advice is to turn up with your own ideas, present the editor with potential stories – they’ll soon remember you.

The opportunities are there for student journalists and most newsrooms across the north will take a student on but what you’ve got to remember is that there are tens of people emailing in every week for work placements, and you’ve been lucky enough to get this chance.

Don’t sit on your arse being a burden but go all out to impress so much so that asking you to make the brew is the furthest thing from the gaffer’s mind.

What do you think? Do you have to move to London to pursue a career in media? Have your say in the comments section below.

Image: Lindsey armstrong / Wikimedia Commons