“One thing you have to be in possession of is a thick skin”

By Christina Johnson, bursary recipient 2008-2009

Extremists, murderers and a few outright nutters are just some of the less desirable subjects I’ve had to deal with through my work. The one thing you can say about journalism is that it’s not boring.

I work at the Luton on Sunday and Luton & Dunstable Express and they cover one of the newsiest towns in the entire country. I’m grateful for this as it means I have cuttings in my portfolio I could never dream about getting if I worked somewhere else.

It has its ups and down – like any job of course – and I have to admit doing three death knocks on a Tuesday morning (it had been a particularly eventful weekend in the area a few days before) is not something I’d want to do on a regular basis.

One thing you have to be in possession of is a thick skin. I’ve been screamed at, called a lot of names, and pestered over the phone on a regular basis. It’s normally from people who don’t like the story I’ve written about them, but something they are yet to understand is that if it was said in open court it’s fair game. They still vow to sue me of course.

This is not a job for the faint-hearted and those who do it do so because they love the excitement and the drama. Every now and again I get a call or a letter thanking me for my work and how it has made a difference to peoples’ lives. This makes my job worthwhile.

I will be ever thankful to the Journalism Diversity Fund for allowing me to do my training and pursue my ambitions. It gave me a chance to get my foot in the door and allowed me to compete with the hundreds of other wannabe hacks out there.

So what are my tips to get into the profession?

  • Get your NCTJ qualifications – editors will rarely look at candidates without them
  • Put yourself out there and hound anyone you need to to get the stories
  • Follow your instinct. If you think something smells fishy, it probably is
  • No matter what anyone says, you’re entitled to ask questions and no-one should make you feel guilty about it. Whether they want to answer the questions is up to them.