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Music reviewers: please don’t…

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Friday, June 29 brought some crap news for music journalism. Heavily respected music magazine The Word announced that it will release the last ever issue in August. Famed for it’s excellent writing (go and buy a copy and learn while you still can), the demise is another kick in the teeth for the future of good, quality journalism.

BUT music isn’t going to go away any time soon and we still need people to tell us if we should pay £1o for a CD or not. So to make sure this generation of journalists keep the quality alive and in tribute to it’s death, here are some suggestions of what NOT to do as a music reviewer (stolen from a forum post on the magazine’s website):

– DON’T end a feature like this: And with that, he adjusted his trademark spectacles, gave a conspiratorial wink and disappeared into the Soho night…unless for comedic value.

– You can do without obscure foreign quotes in italics and the name-dropping of impenetrable philosophical tomes you know no one else will have read (this applies to all journalism).

– Do not use the words “sonic cathedral” or Quintessential……unless you’re talking about a record by Quintessence: in which the record will, necessarily and inherently, be Quintessential. Unless they’re trying to sound like someone else, of course.

– Stating that an album that “Demands to be listened to” . How does that work then?

– Or describing something as “Wire jamming with Nick Drake while Skillrex mixes the cocktails and Brian Wilson dozes off in a chair”…nothing sounds like that.

Thou shalt not refer to something as being like something else on (insert drug here).

– The overuse of unnecessary semi-colons to create very long sentences just to prove you’re well educated (this also applies to all journalism).

– Mentioning your drug use, especially drug use with the band. Very hard to pull off without sounding like a weakling trying to appease the schoolbully by laughing along with his joke as he flushes your head down the toilet.

– Thou shalt review the album, or interview the artist, and not review how well-heeled or dirt poor their parents were. The tunes don’t sound any different as a result.

– Stop overusing (and misusing) “cerebral” and “existential”.

– A few others…’Has no right to be this good’, ‘What’s not to like?’, similes ie “Like The Stranglers have been in a car crash with Missy Elliot”.

– “….on acid” is not only lazy, it’s stupidly inaccurate because when somebody is actually on acid they very often just say nothing for six hours and dribble a bit.

– Avoid the word I (Yes. Please, please do).

DISCLAIMER: These rules are not verbatim. You might disagree. But I right like them all.


So you want to be a journalist?

On April the 25th I am helping to put on a daylong event for aspiring journalists. It’s called ‘So you want to be a journalist?’ and it’s your chance to hear how you can make it from top industry professionals.

Tickets cost £40, and yes I’m biased but I’m going to tell you why it’s worth it.

  • How many times have you heard how competitive the job market is in media? How it’s only the really amazingly clever and talented people that make it? It’s this attitude that makes journalism seem like a member’s only club. The people inside don’t want to share their trade secrets in case of competition and those on the outside often feel like they are blindly following a dream they don’t know too much about. You think you want to be a journalist….but you’re not sure. This is your chance to be sure. Hear how some of the top people made it and how you can too. Straight from the horse’s mouth; no myths, no hidden agenda and no scare tactics.
  • Contacts. This is the only time you will be in the same room as so many top journalists. Meet them, say hello, ask some questions – if they remember you they will be much more likely to respond to any future emails. Heard about how so many people get jobs because they’ve got contacts? Start making yours.
  • Stand out from the crowd. Yes there are lots of young people who want to work in media and not enough jobs but by coming to this conference you’ve got the upper hand. You’ll find out how to make your job application stand out and what kind of things you should be doing NOW.
  • Meet each other. I am VERY excited about this. How fun is it to meet people you’ve got loads in common with? You can meet fellow aspiring journos, share tips and get loads more twitter followers. I am very keen to organise a pub party afterwards. Who’s in?
  • Find out the things you really need to know. I have been told by countless people with journalism qualifications that to be a journalist you need skills and the only way to acquire these is to train on-the-job. So what are they? And do you really need that MA, NCTJ qualification and degree? Find out what the best way in to the trade is for you.

A couple of people have questioned the price of this conference.

But putting on an event to this scale costs thousands and it’s not being put on by a charity. It’s been pulled together by two freelance journalists who rely on themselves to make a living and while they are spending time organising a conference like this, they are missing out on paid work.

Most importantly when it comes down to it, it’s a great conference with an amazing line up of speakers.

Still sweating about the £40? Here are forty ways to save/make it.

  1. Instead of buying a sandwich/pasty/burger/coffee at lunch make some sandwiches at home. If you swapped spending £4 a day on lunch, five days a week for a month with homemade lunch you’d save £40
  2. Swap red bull for instant coffee. Saving £23ish
  3. Give up online shopping for lent. Saving ££££££££££’s
  4. Before a night out, instead of having your first drink at the club/pub have a mighty pre drinking session at home, by the time you’re out all you’ll want to do is dance. Saving at least £20 a week
  5. If you do insist on buying drinks when out, take only the set amount of cash you’re happy to spend and no plastic cards
  6. And swap: Jaeger for Corkys (sorry…), Vodka for Archers, Bottles of beer/lager/cider for pints and WKD for VK
  7. Stop buying take away. How much does this cost every time? £5? £10? Cook double the amount of dinner before going out and  save half for when you get back. Frozen pizzas are also very cheap
  8. Get a job
  9. Sell old clothes/books on eBay. You’ll be surprised at what people will buy…
  10. Don’t buy new clothes for every night out, you’ll just throw up on it anyway
  11. Don’t buy ready meals; buy rice, pasta & potatoes
  12. Do a sponsored run. You are a charity, right?
  13. Swap the cinema for movie night
  14. Give up buying coffee/tea out for a month
  15. Swap public transport for walking or cycling
  16. If you do need a lift don’t get a taxi, get a bus
  17. Cancel your gym membership and exercise in the park instead
  18. Buy multipacks of crisps from the supermarket instead of buying single packets every day
  19. Stop buying Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Just for a month
  20. Use your overdraft – that’s what it’s there for. The bank don’t care, they have customers who have millions invested. They won’t come and find you
  21. But do keep account of what you’re spending so you don’t go over any overdraft limits and get charged by the bank
  22. Borrow £40 off mum/dad/granny/sibling
  23. Stop buying cans/bottled water when out, take drinks from home instead
  24. Ditch brands when shopping
  25. Nick toilet rolls from university loos
  26. Shave your head
  27. Girls, stop buying Benefit make up. It’s not good and you are effectively paying for nice boxes and packaging. Max Factor all the way, plus they always have 2 for 3
  28. Cut your own hair. Messy is in
  29. You don’t need the latest iphone/ipad/blackberry, you just want it
  30. Stop going to the shops because you’re bored
  31. Eat roadkill
  32. Nice looking stationary: you don’t need it
  33. Grow your own asparagus
  34. De friend all your friends on Facebook for a month so you don’t spend on social gatherings
  35. Buy in bulk
  36. Write a shopping list and stick to it
  37. Make your own laundry detergent
  38. Shop with a friend and take advantage of 2 for 1 deals
  39. Ask for money instead of Easter eggs
  40. Get a job

See you there.