RECAP: ‘How To Become a Journalist’ masterclass with Elizabeth Day

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Credit: Von Sprout

Last week Observer/Guardian features writer, Elizabeth Day, came to Rife magazine to give us one our best masterclasses so far, on how to be a journalist. She spoke to a packed-out audience who were hanging on her very word.  Jon rounds up everything she had to tell us.

Elizabeth Day has an impressive list of interviewee names under her belt – Snoop Dog, Emily Blunt, Tinie Tempah, Clint Eastwood to name a few – but behind her resume is an extremely talented journalist, which is why we asked her to come to Bristol for the evening.

She started the masterclass by reading out – and laughing at – recent hater comments she’d received on her articles, and pointed out how quickly and nastily people reply to online content, which in turn led to her telling us that we:

1. …shouldn’t ever be intimidated.

Credit: http://pussypolice.tumblr.com

Credit: http://pussypolice.tumblr.com

This applies to a lot of situations as a journalist, from not being scared to approach famous people to being persistent in trying to get an answer to that awkward question your subject doesn’t want to respond to. Also, don’t be scared of people who have more training that you – it’s about what you produce, not which qualifications you’ve got.

2. …always consider the reader.

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Remember that whatever article you’re writing, it’s meant to be read by somebody else, so always keep them in mind. They might not know all the basic information about the person being interviewed/issue being explored that you do, so make a point of asking all the obvious questions to give them that understanding.

3. …listen.

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If you’re doing an interview with somebody then you’re there to listen to their side of the story. Try to get any previous assumptions out of your head and really understand what they’re saying, and why they think that way.

4. …be prepared.

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The more you know about a situation the more you will be able to talk about it – do as much research as you possibly can before meeting someone because then you will be able to compare what they say to you now to what they may have said before – don’t be afraid to call them out it’s different! (That’s when the best stories happen.)

5. …sell yourself.

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Elizabeth explained that there’s nothing more impressive to her than smart enthusiasm. If you’ve got an idea, send it to the people you want to work with regardless of how big they are, and explain why you’re so passionate about it (and therefore the single best person in the entire world to write about it ). Don’t be shy, get your name out there and be proud of your accomplishments – shout about them!

Credit: Vanessa Bellow Sprat

Credit: Vanessa Bellow Sprat

The ‘How To Become a Journalist’ masterclass was a massive success with people tweeting their thoughts throughout and afterwards.

Feeling inspired? Pitch an idea to Rife magazine and you could be a published writer before you know it. It looks fantastic on your CV as well as giving you the chance to share your opinions, news or stories to our growing Bristol audience. Want to read more stuff by Elizabeth Day? Follow her on twitter and check out her Guardian profile.

Our next masterclass is brought to you in partnership with Ideastap, an arts charity helping people get to where they want to be. It will be led by video journalist/ presenter Dekan Apajee, and takes place on the 16th October at 6.30pm We’ve already got people signing up, so make sure you grab a space fast.

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