Youth mag to give journalism hopefuls the chance to shine

A new youth culture magazine is seeking to provide for aspiring young journalists what Jamie Oliver's restaurant training academy does for would-be chefs.

Catch 22 is offering up to 40 students a year the opportunity to experience making their own magazine and open a possible gateway into the industry. The quarterly youth culture title will be produced by an academy-style group of 10 students on a voluntary basis, in return for training across editorial, production and sponsorship.

Catch 22 has produced a pilot edition and is set to launch in March 2007, covering travel, social commentary and politics as well as the traditional youth fare of music, sport and fashion.

It will be a free publication, targeting a readership of 18- to 30-year-old undergraduates and young professionals, and will be available free in select locations and as an online digital edition.

Its founder, freelance journalist Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa will oversee the editorial process with two other full-time staff. They will select the team of 10 journalists for each issue, but Ajasa-Oluwa said he hoped to see the graduates eventually become paid staff. The magazine is a Community Interest Company, formed as a social enterprise, occupying a space between a charity and a private company.

Ajasa-Oluwa, who has worked on The Voice and African Times, said the idea came about from his work managing the accredited journalism programme for the Children's Express charity, a national news agency that sells its output — produced by young people aged eight to 19 — to the national and local media.

He said that Catch 22 would look to work with would-be journalists from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

"We'll be looking for young people from different ilks — whether they're graduates or people who haven't gone through the traditional routes but have a talent. They've all experienced that frustration of having a talent but lacking the confidence or experience to showcase and develop it."

Ajasa-Oluwa said those without access to previous journalism training would be prioritised, but added: "We do appreciate there's much more of a richer output when you mix people from different backgrounds. So rather than trying to pigeonhole those that may fit into a neat "not in education, employment or training" [category], we like to have a mixed bag of people, because we think the output will be a lot more meaty."

The founder said that the project was in some part a response to the difficulties faced by young people trying to get into the industry and that Catch 22 would hope to foster links with the big magazine publishers.

On the challenges facing aspiring journalists, Ajasa-Oluwa added: "It's a combination of experience and contacts, and obviously having a traditional academic background supports that. There's a lot of talent out there that might not have those three things, and it's a lot harder for them, so we're trying to compensate for whatever they're lacking, if that's the experience, the essential contacts or the traditional academic background."

Catch 22 is seeking both student applications and sponsors. Call 020 7587 3664 or visit www.catch22mag.com.

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