Only a handful of women have edited a national newspaper in the UK, and Alison Philips, who is also WIJ deputy chair, is one of them. She talked frankly about her career path and the challenges facing women in the industry with Eleanor Mills, WIJ chair, editorial director of the Sunday Times and editor of the Sunday Times magazine. They shared some brilliant advice with 85 WIJ members and guests at Cision, the leading communications and PR company, who, thanks to Cheryl Douglas and her term, very generously hosted the event.
Here are their eight top tips that every journalist needs to know:
1. “It doesn’t have to be like it was before. I feel sorry and admire the crusading generation of women.”
The journalism industry has had a long history of male dominance and many female journalists have to navigate the difficult process of combining their career in a male dominated industry with having a family. But the future of women in journalism will be more tolerant of male and female journalists balancing work and family life.
2. “The best way to interest people in news stories is to humanise them. Tell a story of a particular person. The best journalists tell the most amazing human stories.”
The best journalism always prioritises what the reader wants and how they can relate stories back to their audience. Choose a person to humanise your story, people will always find time to read something that they can relate to.
3. “Just be clear about what you want. If you can’t make the yes or no decision you are in the wrong industry.”
Alison noted that as an editor you have to constantly make big decisions. If you aren’t one to make fast decisions under pressure, then maybe journalism isn’t the industry for you.
4. “It doesn’t matter what you write about, you just need to be consistent and believe it yourself.”
Though being a columnist can be difficult and expose you to criticism, if you are consistent and believe in the work you are doing, you will succeed.
5. “It is my responsibility to create news that people want to be interested in. Journalism isn’t about us; it is about the reader.”
Journalists are communicators of the people and though some journalists make it about themselves, Alison stressed how important it is to remember that journalism is for the reader first and foremost.
6. “The one quality that will always be rewarded is persistence when applying for jobs because that is what they want to see when you’re on the job.”
For young journalists who are applying for work experience and aren’t getting a response, keep emailing because being persistence is what will make the difference.
7. “Always negotiate. Don’t be afraid to haggle your way to a bit more value.”
This was Alison and Eleanor’s advice to younger female journalists who may go through the industry without taking risks. Even if you haven’t got the confidence to ask for more just pretend you have and do it anyway.
8. “It’s about resilience, hard work and picking yourself back up.”
Not only is this great advice for journalists, but also great advice for life. Continue to push yourself and if you get knocked down, get back up and keep trying.
Next event at Women in Journalism:
March 11 at University of Westminster, Regent Street
Award-winning journalist, author and WIJ committee member Yasmin Alibhai-Brown chairs a discussion to support women of colour and International Women’s Day. Panel includes Nikki Bedi, BBC; Kasia Delgadotheipaper; Hannah Pooljournalist and artistic director; Rabiya LimbadaBBC; Zing Tsjeng, ViceUK and Forgotten Women books.