Guardian Northern Editor, Helen Pidd, visited JMU Journalism today to talk to students about her career and the advantages of being a journalist in the North of England.
Helen has been working at the Guardian for 10 years, having studied German at Edinburgh University, where she contributed to a student newspaper and conducted numerous celebrity interviews.
She explained to students that despite getting started as a journalist being challenging, anyone can do it if they have the tenacity and curiosity.
“Nothing should stop you from being ambitious. You don’t have to be sitting in London to do cracking journalism,” she said, adding that Northerners will “chat their ears off” off to reporters during interviews.
Having had a stint earlier in her career as a foreign correspondent in India, Helen described the task as “very superficial”, due to the difficulties in getting a grip on a whole country in a short period of time and the inevitable language barrier.
Helen, who hails from Morecambe, highlighted the importance of regional news and how many local stories dominate national newspapers. Ms Pidd, who also edits ‘The Northerner’ on the Guardian, stressed the importance of pitching suitable stories, saying: “Don’t pitch ideas that you wouldn’t read yourself. The perfect pitch, you can tweet it… it needs to be distilled, short and snappy.”
She believes the key to being a successful journalist is being “humble and keen”, urging our trainee journalists to find a niche subject to cover in an under-reported field. “Find the stories you love and don’t have enough of,” she said.
Despite suggesting that a Master’s degree is unnecessary to enter journalism after an undergraduate qualification, Helen insisted that two crucial subjects to study are NCTJ shorthand and media law, describing those who don’t have it as being “a liability”.
Helen concluded: “It’s all about people and finding great stories – they’re everywhere, especially in the North.”