“Being a sub-editor can only make you a better writer” said Euan Ferguson of Time Out magazine today at Brighton Journalist Works.
Euan, who is now deputy sub-editor for the London magazine, told us about how he got his position at Time Out as well as giving us some tips on how to stand out on work experience.
The former Journalist Works student, said “Taking the fast-track course was one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
He said the hands-on experience is viewed very highly in the industry, and it shows employers that you’re willing to make a commitment in terms of time and money.
Euan had a complete career change when he decided to go into journalism. He came to Brighton from Edinburgh and didn’t know anyone – which he said was a bonus as he wasn’t distracted by people constantly calling him to go to the pub!
He arranged a lot of work experience for after the course, including Time Out where he had a month’s placement. Here he worked quite closely to the chief sub-editor so would ask him for help as much as possible.
His hassling seemed to pay off though as he was offered a freelance position which eventually lead into a job at the magazine. Over the last three years he has worked his way up to his current position as deputy sub-editor.
Euan said that to be a good sub-editor you need to be:
1) Meticulous – spotting the smallest of spelling and grammar mistakes
2) Creative – being able to turn something dull into something polished and exciting
He said that sub-editing is an excellent extra skill to have, as it gives you a better grasp of tone and style, and will make you a better writer.
Euan told us 10 ways to make work experience memorable, for us and for those we’re working with:
1) Get to know the publication inside out – know the regular sections, writers, features, staff and style.
2) Arrive with ideas – even if they’re not used, your enthusiasm will be noted.
3) Make the tea! – break the ice and talk to the people around you, getting the balance right.
4) Act like one of the team – arrive early, work late, attend meetings and go for drinks – ask people how they got to where they are.
5) Every placement is useful – be open minded and apply to as many places as you can.
6) Ask for feedback – compare the copy you submitted to the printed version and ask the pros what they think while you can.
7) Carry out every task with enthusiasm and precision – whether it’s fact checking or interviewing Beyonce, treat them equally.
8) Treat it like an extended job interview – if editors remember you, it gives you a huge advantage over other candidates.
9) Remember you’re there to learn, not to impress – overconfidence is more unattractive than overcaution – ask questions and don’t take on more work than you can do well.
10) Try to extend it – before you finish, ask it there’s any chance of coming back or lending a hand in a different department – if you’ve shown your worth you might be welcomed back.
He then gave us a few tips on feature writing. Euan said: “Everyone’s got something they’re interested in, so write about what you know.
“The feature has to have a hook – it needs to be current. If not, be creative with the angle – even if it’s just an anniversary of an event.”
He said that you could even take past stories and put your own angle on it by interviewing someone different to get a getting a different perspective.
Overall an engaging and insightful talk and by the end I knew I wanted to get a work placement at Time Out, for sub-editing, editorial or both if possible!
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