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November 13, 2014updated 18 Nov 2014 3:09pm

‘There are two big myths in journalism: that it is dying and that it is very hard to get into’

By Dominic Ponsford

"There are two big myths in journalism at the moment. The first is that journalism is dying and the second is that journalism is very, very hard to get into and they both aren't true."

So said Sun social media editor James Manning at a panel discussion about new journalism jobs held at City University in London.

Manning explained how after studying politics at university he "fell into business" which he said "I was absolutely awful at".

He decided to try to break into journalism by setting up his own blog to cover the last London mayoral election about a year before the May 2012 polling day.

He went along to all the press conferences, events and live debates and covered the action extensively on social media: "I carved a small space in which I was able to give my take on it."

He said: "I was doing doing that with in mind that someone might start paying me to do some journalism."

Soon after the election he successfully applied for a job on the social media team at the Telegraph and then a year later was appointed by The Sun to set up and lead a new social media team there.

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He said: "There's no decent evidence that journalism is dying. The only people who say it is are the people who are used to only being in print. They are seeing print numbers dying off and thinking that in five years time or ten years time journalism will be dead. It's just migrated to a new place. Print is still very important for some of us.

"Journalism is hard to get into but find a decent job that isn't hard to get… If you want to be a footballer you will find it a darn site harder to get into than a social media team somewhere."

He advised aspiring journalists to "prove your interest". He said: "We were hiring a couple of weeks ago. There were hundreds of applications. Everyone had some experience of social media but how do you differentiate yourself? That means setting up a blog or getting some work experience."

He said that part of The Sun social media strategy is to be on as many platforms as possible: so as as well as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram it is on a new social media platform called Sportlobster.

"We are really keen not to end up just doing our social on one or two platforms, you end up being the victim of any changes on those platforms with algorithms and things like that."

Founder of Barcroft Media Sam Barcroft explained how he grew his company from a tiny news agency in 2000 to where it is today: a multimedia content company which employs more than 50 staff. Its Youtube channel gets more than 55m views a month is one of the top five news channels on the paltform in the world. As well as selling news stories, photos and video to a number of news websites around the world, Barcroft Media also produces its own TV programmes.

He said: "My story is a pretty simple one. If you really want to do something you just get on with it you can achieve it. If I can do it pretty much anybody else can.

"If you're lucky enough to have a passion for something then go for it because you are lucky enough to be in the best situation in this industry than anybody has been in for the last 100 years. Because you can self-publish, you can do what you want.

"You have big organisations that have got no ideas that are absolutely in editorial crisis all over the place and they are looking for young enthusiastic eager clever people to come in and sort their shit out for them. You are in a great space, so go for it.

"Just do it all the time every day, tweet, write, shoot, edit, take pictures, go and meet people."

Founder of the Popbitch email newsletter Camilla Wright explained how her business started in 2000 when, along with a colleague, she started emailing friends and other journalists stories that weren't getting covered in the press.

"It was never really intended to be a business. We thought we might get better jobs out of it. We wrote some stories that we knew that were things that weren't being printed in newspapers. The news that they didn't want you to see, things in interviews that were cut out by your editor and that sort of thing…

"About six months in we had a story about David Beckham having an affair. We found ourselves on the News at 10 that night and on the front page of every tabloid. Thousands started to subscribe and we thought we've got something of a business here."

In 2004 Diesel approached Popbitch with a sponsorship offer and Wright took the plunge to go part-time.

Today Popbitch remains mainly an email newsletter, going out to more than 300,000 a week. But following a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign last year it is also publishes a fortnightly digital subscription-only magazine for mobile and tablets.

Asked for her advice for aspiring journalists, she said: "Make things easy for yourself. We still get applications from people that say I want to be magazine journalist, I want to be in newspapers, I want to be on the web… forget all those delineations, you just have to be a journalist.

"You have to know how websites work, get to grips with what a content management system is, get some basic Photoshop skills. It's really hard to go into any kind of publication now if you can't set up your own posts and manage your own photos.

"Do things quickly and to deadlines. It's much better to stick to a deadline and say this could be better if you give me more time than to not do it.

"Do things on your own, set up blogs, interview people. The more you do, the more people will think of you when you are looking for work experience and jobs.

"Get some basic skills and try it, you might like it you might hate it – but you'll never know until you try it."

Gaz Corfield, currently a sub-editor on technology website The Register, explained how he attracted some 1m web hits in 24 hours when he started live-blogging the London riots of 2011 while still a post-graduate student.

Despite the huge success of his blog, it still took him some time to get established in journalism by taking a succession of internships and then a job that was stepping stone to his current one.

He said he spent a day composing the covering letter for his current job at The Register before eventually starting from scratch, having a beer and sending in a frank and opinionated letter which won him the job. His advice to aspiring journalists was to show some personality to prospective employers and show that they have interests outside journalism.

The New Journalism Jobs panel discussion by me in my capacity as a visiting fellow at City University Journalism Department.

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