Monthly Archives: November 2009

How to become a journalist (BETA)

Yesterday a 22-year old graduate impressed me more than anyone has in a while. Wondering into the Guardian offices (where I am drafted in semi-frequently as a freelance writer on the Travel section) a smartly-dressed Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski handed me a small business card printed on thin paper. He did the same to every person who passed through the revolving doors on York Way and into the Guardian.

The card introduced him as an “unemployed graduate” looking for “work experience and employment”, and included his email address, his blog address, and his phone number. I sought out Graham Snowden, who edits the Guardian’s Work and Graduate sections, and suggested that it could be a decent story for him. I wasn’t the first. Graham dashed downstairs and walked him into the building, and by the end of the day Tom had written his first blog for the Guardian. Good on him.

I get a lot of emails from people asking if I have any tips on getting into professional journalism, and Tom’s chutzpah has nudged me into writing this post. The following will by no means guarantee entry into a profession that is currently firing a lot more than it is hiring, but hopefully it helps someone.
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Wikipedia is a danger to bagpipe enthusiasts

Wikipedia is possibly the best thing the Internet has produced. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a propagator of false information concerning nontraditional bagpipe usage.

Here’s a story. A few years ago, me and my buddy Hugh were busy working towards our degrees at Manchester University. As is the habit of students busily working towards degrees, we decided to write a song, hoping that it would be considered as Britain’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. It was entitled “Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow” and was quite the hit in our flat.

Hugh decided that our smash should be anointed with the Wikipedia seal of approval, editing the List of nontraditional bagpipe usage entry to include our smash as the sole item in the rhythm and Blues section, reading:

The rhythm and blues band BenjiHugh’s 2009 song “Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow” featured a large bagpipe solo towards the end of the second stanza.

Hugh has been updating the entry each year, as in many ways the song was timeless. For reasons that will soon become clear, here’s a recent screengrab:

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