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Journalism student Alice turned work experience into a front page story

Quizzing shifty politicians. Rubbing shoulders with celebs. Reporting from crime scenes, murder trials, war zones, red carpets and Premier League football grounds … a career in journalism promises a thrilling blend of deadlines, headlines, bylines and adrenaline.

But how do you break into the news industry? First you need to learn the ropes. Then you need to start climbing them.  

Here, in the last of our mini series on savvy students at De Montfort University’s Leicester Centre for Journalism, Alice Gibbs explains how she got involved in the real world of news - while still studying for her degree.

‘I landed a joint byline on the front page of a major national newspaper’

INSET Alice Gibbs

Studying journalism is something that can rarely be done in a classroom alone, writes Alice (pictured above).

De Montfort University’s a three-year journalism course offers experiences as close to the real-world as possible - encouraging the writing of stories from day one, running news days and holding students accountable for writing to a certain standard. But it is impossible to replace the practical experience of being within the industry.

I approached a contact at the Guardian to see if there were any graduate schemes or internship opportunities available for after graduation. The response was to put me forward for two weeks experience on the Observer’s news desk in their London office.

The first week involved a great deal of getting my head around things. From getting into the central office in London’s rush hour to working out when news meetings were held and how the Observer operate to create their weekly paper.

I spent time in news meetings with the Guardian too, and attended meetings about content and story allocation for the Observer throughout the week. I was tasked with research and spent some time interviewing and working on nibs for the paper that Sunday.

During the second week I was placed on a story by the editor who was keen to pick up on a story from the week before and run extra content about data mining firm Cambridge Analytica and their inner workings with Trump’s presidential campaign and the Leave campaign. I spent the week working on this with Observer journalist Jamie Doward. This involved profiling the people and businesses involved, looking into accounts and finding evidence to back up the theory.

Following a meeting with the editor toward the end of the week we decided there was enough to place the story on the front page on Sunday and offer it considerable space within the paper also.

While at the Observer I settled quickly and soon fell into the everyday whirl of life of the news desk, experiencing the pace of the weekly national paper and being trusted to work to their industry standard.

The Observer front page Alice
I was given a byline for the Cambridge Analytica story which will heavily support where I go next.

Without the skills and confidence I have gained from studying journalism for the last three years I would not have found myself able to work to a standard that the Observer would be interested in, and the experience further cemented my goals to go into industry when I graduate in July.

Alice Gibbs is a third-year joint honours journalism student at De Montfort University. Follow her on Twitter @alicetgibbs.
Read her work at The Observer here and here

▪ De Montfort University runs single and joint honours journalism degrees, with an emphasis on practical, hands-on experience.

The Leicester Centre for Journalism boasts industry-standard facilities and is staffed by a range of respected and award-winning professionals and academic experts, including several former newspaper editors.  

Journalism at DMU earned 100% satisfaction in last year’s National Student Survey.

Fancy following in the footsteps of Alice, Mollie and Chris? Find out more about studying journalism at De Montfort University by clicking here.

Posted on Wednesday 19th April 2017

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