How to Get a Head Start in Media while still at College Part 1

Jaime Riley

Jaime Riley is a final year student at The University of York, hoping for a career in television after graduation. She’s been involved in all sorts of media activities whilst at University and has found them to be very useful when applying for jobs and placements.

What are you studying at university and why did you choose that course?

“I’m a Linguistics student at The University of York – I chose not to study a media degree because I’d been advised it would be more useful to have a specialist subject, if I could manage to get plenty of media experience whilst studying. I took that to heart and have spent many hours on placement across the country!

What media clubs does your university offer?

York, like most other universities, offers the opportunity to get involved with a multitude of media activities including journalism, TV and radio. We have two newspapers, a TV station, a radio station, and many magazines including a satirical publication. York also has a busy and successful theatre scene, so getting involved with productions on or off stage in that way could also be useful.

How did you get involved in University media?

My first student media experience was at my university newspaper elections. My flatmate and I had turned up (after seeing posters in freshers’ week) with absolutely no idea what to expect, and ended up delivering speeches about our journalistic ambitions to a lecture theatre packed with second and third years. We were absolutely terrified, but both agree it turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve made since going to University. We have made some of our best friendships within the newspaper team, and also recruited many flatmates from our halls of residence to write too. A huge percentage of the editorial team is now from my first year accommodation!

It was never really my intention to join a student newspaper, but I’ve found that the skills involved are very transferable to TV. I edited the arts supplement of the newspaper for a year, and in this position I co-ordinated various teams, organised content, and met with each section editor before each edition to discuss ideas. I set the section deadlines, edited text and layout and secured interviews. Learning to manage regular team projects to strict deadlines, under pressure from the Editors, whilst producing creative content and balancing degree work has proven a very useful skill, and I’d say is closely related to juggling crews and shoots in TV.

Whilst at the newspaper, I got a real taste for creating my own output and decided to join the radio station, presenting my own show and reading the 6 o’ clock news, as well as signing up to do the odd OB for student TV. Being part of a radio news team is brilliant as everything happens so quickly, with stories and schedules suddenly changing whilst on air. My favourite exploit was doing a feature about security services at the university. I was sent out to shadow a security officer on patrol and ended up being rushed out to some campus accommodation that had been reportedly set on fire! It was so exciting to be at the heart of the story, following staff into parts of the accommodation, recording reactions and interviewing students. Everyone was evacuated safely (most of them in pyjamas/towels/dressing gowns) and the girl who had left her straighteners on was suitably embarrassed.

After nearly two years at York, I was elected as Chair of York University Media and will continue in this position until I graduate next year. The role involves co-ordinating the activities between the five media societies and acting as a point of contact and liaison for the media group. Now I understand a little more about the running of broadcast and print media. We also have our own university media awards; I organised the black-tie ceremony last term and it was one of the most fun (and challenging) things I have ever done! I’m also about to start co-producing my own TV programme on student TV which I am very, very excited about.

Do you think this experience may help you in getting the job you want later on and if so why? 

University media gives students the opportunity to learn the basics of their chosen field in a realistic micro-environment. Getting this kind of practice is something you can’t really do elsewhere, and no doubt useful if you come to work in media later on. You get a taste of what goes on in the industry whilst you’re studying, and have the freedom to create whatever you like, learning from your mistakes as you go. There are deadlines, offices, production teams, leaders, endless negotiations and tricky, logistical arrangements to get your head around. York Student Television often set up the night before an outside broadcast, and have to work around university room booking timetables and lectures to do so.

You can also narrow down which sort of job you’d like to do – if you aren’t sure about print or broadcast journalism, you can try out both and see which you prefer, without realising when it’s too late! It’s also good to be able to juggle university work alongside hobbies, as no doubt juggling various projects will be a part of TV life.

Emily was Deputy Editor of campus newspaper York Vision last year and says: “There really is no better place than student media to learn the basics. You have a small patch all to yourself, a captive audience and the freedom to make mistakes, luxuries you won’t find elsewhere. With no-one to hold your hand you learn quickly, and you have the opportunity to build up a really impressive portfolio. On all the interviews I’ve been on, the interviewers have been most interested in the work I did for York Vision. As news editor I ran my own section; managing a team, subbing copy, laying out pages and writing headlines. You don’t get that range of experience on work placements. I have just got on a graduate scheme at a national newspaper, and I’m certain I would not have done so if I hadn’t thrown myself into student media.”

There are also many awards for student media which you can enter (such as the National Student Television Awards or the Guardian Student Media Awards). If you win one of these awards, you are often awarded with a work experience placement or some professional equipment which can again help you in furthering your career. Awards also act as a bit of a CV builder!”

Thank you, Jaime. Coming up next, part two of Jaime’s article in which she provides good advice for anyone about to embark on college life, some useful and how she hopes to be prepared for finding that first job in television. Don’t miss it!

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1 comment

  • How to Get a Head Start in the Media while still at College Part 2 « So You Want to Work in Television? says:

    […] In our last post Jaime Riley wrote about her experience of getting involved in campus television and journalism while at York University studying Linguistics. This is an ideal way to give yourself a head start if you hope to work in the media after your further education. In this second part she offers specific advice to anyone currently embarking on their college or university education. You can find part one of her article here:… […]

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