An A – Z of Journalism


I wrote an A- Z of cycling in a previous blog about a year ago after reading Boris Johnson’s hilarious A-Z of cycling in the Times. I think its time some of the great industry of Journalism was quantified alphabetically.

A – Alcohol. Self explanatory in these straitened times.

B – By-lines, without one of these under your headline then what’s the point? Nobody knows you wrote it!

C – Court, always a breeding ground for little stories. Stan at the Manchester Mags says the best stories are guaranteed on a Friday as it’s ‘Domestic Violence Day’. Just remember to be polite to the wiggies and the mags and not to write anything that isn’t privileged otherwise you’ll be in real trouble.

D – Deadlines, the only thing that can’t change with an article is when it has to be done by – everything else is a potential variable. A good journalist is not somebody who picks over the details, they are a person who knows that the copy needs to get out before the competition.

E – Editors, on a lot of money and do a good job at impressing their tightly-wound anal retention on anybody within the same four walls. To be feared and respected.

F – Freelance, code for ‘unemployed’ if you’re under 25 really.

G – Grizzle, its not glamorous or Hollywood being a journo, the hours are long, the pay is poor, the public are generally very unhelpful and the stuff you have to witness, do, ask about and then write up is not always cushy and cutsie like school fete fundraisers. Grizzle is all in a days work and it rubs off on you.

H – Humour, an essential quality for a journalist. If you have no sense of humour and can’t laugh at yourself then everybody will think you’re a cock and you won’t get very far. Some of the funniest moment of my life so far have been in the company of other journalists and newsrooms tend to be a hotbed of sarcasm and self deprication. Its a wonder there aren’t more newsroom-based sitcoms.

I – Interviews, sometimes you get real stiff who won’t want to talk, you just need to learn how to butter them up. Some aren’t susceptible to buttering at all which is their loss – they could have been in the paper!

J – Job-hunting, relatively fruitless unless you want to go into marketing or have had at least 5 years editing experience at the moment but chin up, there’s always PR (ugh!).

K – Knowledge, knowing a little bit about a lot of stuff can help. Also having the sense to do research and develop a specialism can make you a valuable asset to a news team.

L – Law, the bane of the journalist’s world. Often opposed by the Human Rights Act, right to freedom of expression however it doesn’t always stand. Its there to protect those who are vulnerable at the end of the day but should be questioned if at all doubted.

M – Money, not much of it in the life of a reporter but its always a factor in sleaze and scandal. Money makes the world go round and helps keep the newspapers rolling through the printing press.

N – Nosiness, another important natural quality in the journalist. Probing to the point of rudeness sometimes yields the best stories and you can’t be afraid of being told to tit-off if its going badly.

O – Oxdown. NCTJ candidates will need no further explanation.

P – PCC Code of Practice, the Journalist’s Jiminy Cricket. Tells you what a good journalist ought to do. Disobeying it could reduce your standing in the eyes of peers but defending it to the death like in maintaining the anonymity of a source could rocket you to Journo-Stardom… as long as you jail sentence isn’t too long.

Q – QuarkXpress, the Sub’s plaything. Quite a lot of fun once you’ve got the hang of it, you can even make a shopping list look sexy!

R – Romp, a great word in Tabloid-Land. Sex, death and money sell stories and keep the media machine well oiled. Romp is possibly my favourite world of all time. Politician caught in  vice-girl drug romp. You want to read that story, don’t you!

S – Subs, they ruin your copy, mess it up and put in jokes where they’re really not needed. They love puns and hate publishing anything remotely creative unless they did it themselves. Fun job to have though!

T – Teeline Shorthand, essential print journalism tool. Essential in life once you’ve got it cracked. It does take over your life though. A good skill to know but you have to keep doing it, you can rust up after just a weekend of neglecting the outlines.

U – Urgency, the thing that keeps the blood pumping at breakneck speed around the body. There’s always something to be urgent about. Deadline, catching a defendant for a cheeky photograph, beating your rival to the press. If you don’t understand urgency you’ll be a rubbish hack but probably an ok columnist.

V – Voicers and Voice-overs, the journalist’s chance to love the sound of their own voice in radio and television. Just think Moira Stewart and John Humphries and tell the world what it needs to hear! Slightly self-indulgent and a lot of fun.

W – Work experience, sitting at a desk trying to be helpful but really you’re just getting under all the real journalists’ feet. We’ve all been there and its awkward as arse but make yourself indispensible and its a week that may culminate in a not-so-shit reference. Don’t expect a job though.

X – Exams, you need to do a lot of them to be NCTJ qualified. Law, Public Affairs, Newswriting and Shorthand. Then there’s the NCEs and passing your driving test helps too!

Y – “Yes, I’ll get that done now”, the sentence most commonly spoken when you;ve got enough to do and have just inadvertently added something to your intray even though you don’t really have the time.

Z – Zzzzz, we don’t get many of them but its nice to know you’ve done a good year’s work.

With the above wisdom now you can be a journalist too!

One Response to “An A – Z of Journalism”

  1. 1 blissalexandria

    so, so true. yikes. especially law, lol.

    ~ Bliss

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