How the JDF and its mentoring scheme has helped me

Posted: 19 Mar 19
Categories: Blog

I’ve entertained the idea of being a journalist since secondary school but, distracted by visions of being a graphic designer, working in publishing or becoming a lecturer, I didn’t settle properly on a career in journalism until the latter end of my undergraduate degree.

I decided that I wanted to write and be creative, but that it was also essential for me that my work had some kind of progressive political drive, just as the best journalism does. Through working on my university’s student newspaper I realised how much I enjoyed the process of journalism; I loved developing a story from the first tip-off of news to the finished article, working with a team of people who were similarly passionate.

I’m currently studying for an MA in news journalism at Nottingham Trent University. After some hiccups with previous plans for postgraduate study, NTU was an affordable option that was also offering great facilities and teaching.

I still needed some extra financial help though if I was going to be able to make the most of the course and not have to spend every moment of my free time in a part time job, rather than getting work experience and writing stories (and occasionally having a social life too). So I applied for the Journalism Diversity Fund, totally not expecting to be successful – surely other people were more accomplished or had more need of the money? I did get accepted though and as such would encourage anyone who’s considering applying to just go for it, because you might be as lucky as I was.

It’s encouraging to have the Journalism Diversity Fund acknowledge my potential. As a working class woman the desire to make newsrooms better represent their readers and the country really drives me, especially as I would love to be a political journalist, a field still dominated by men with private education. I’ve gone from a school where the focus was simply on getting five GCSEs to being a MA student on a well-respected course, proving people of any background can succeed if given the opportunity. 

Being paired with a mentor has been incredibly useful. The journalism world can seem daunting if you have few contacts in it, so a mentor can be another window into the bubble you’re desperately trying to penetrate. Dan, my mentor, is also closer in age to me than any of my tutors at university, so whilst he’s clearly a number of steps further into his career than me, he still has quite recent experience of getting an MA and looking for first jobs.

It’s been really helpful to get his feedback on job applications I’ve made and to have another voice reassure me that I’m not making steps in completely the wrong direction. He’s also made me aware of places to look for opportunities and when I was coincidentally doing work experience where he used to work he arranged for me to spend an afternoon with the Westminster lobby team, which was a great if slightly bewildering day.

After I finish my course – which is excitingly only a few months away – I’d love to get a trainee job at a local newspaper or get accepted onto a graduate scheme of some kind. Some day, far in the future, I want to work on a national paper, perhaps covering politics or the environment. But whatever I end up doing I’m stubbornly determined it will in some way be helping to make our world a fairer and better place.

Lucy Pegg