By Madeleine Collins
As many people are finding out, it’s increasingly difficult to do anything without mentioning Covid-19, especially if your job involves social media AND journalism. Megan Baynes’ job title is a “social media journalist”, and it’s exactly what it says on the tin: a journalist searching for news worthy stories using social media platforms. The company she works for, Press Association, is a news agency, which provides articles to a variety of newspapers. Chances are you’ve read an article from Press Association without realising it’s by them. Often, Megan tells me, the paper will remove the byline, replacing her name with one of their own journalists, whilst everything she has written remains exactly the same. Press Association are often the first place to receive news, for instance they were the first to be told of Meghan Markle’s pregnancy. An article is then written by their journalists and given to other newspapers for circulation.
Megan works specifically for the social media team which consists of just 6 employees and an editor, Steve. The job, of course, involves the writing of articles, but also searching for stories using platforms like Twitter. The topics Megan finds she is drawn to are the ones involving real people and their personal experiences. Another important part of the job involves the verification of information, and tracking down people for quotes and stories. This is where the job can be particularly challenging, as the journalists are faced with tweets and replies the likes of which cannot be repeated in this piece. Despite being deemed “essential workers” during this crisis, journalists tend to be quite unpopular with much of the public, even though they are providing the country with vital updates regarding virus testing and lockdown restrictions. When writing serious articles journalists are criticised for spreading negative news. When writing uplifting stories they receive comments saying they are ignoring key issues, and Megan stated this is particularly bad on Twitter.
"Be ambitious but realistic"
Megan stressed the importance of work experience in getting into the journalism industry. Writing for papers, like UEA’s Concrete and the Clark University student paper in her year abroad in America led her to her first job in journalism as a democracy reporter on the Isle of Wight. Evidence of having written for papers is extremely useful in showing potential employers that you are serious in your endeavour of becoming a journalist. Since she experienced over 15 rejections before finally getting an interview for her current job, Megan advocates putting yourself out there and applying for as much as you can. “Be ambitious, but realistic.” Moving from Norwich to the Isle of Wight was a massive step for a recent graduate to take, but this was a vital step in Megan’s career, especially as her NCTJ training was fully funded.
Since the country is in lockdown, Megan is now working from home. She did this once a week anyway due to the ‘hot desking’ nature of the office (there are not assigned desks for employees for added flexibility). There are of course some hardships that come with the job, such as the online abuse. Megan has been talking to those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 and also frontline NHS workers, which has proved extremely emotionally draining. However, it is also an exciting and rewarding career: being in the centre of what is going on in the world and experiencing the adrenaline rush of breaking news. Megan said it is a privilege to be able to tell people’s stories and that everyday on the job is different.
- Be open to anything
- Try to have a thick skin
- Retain your empathy
- Put yourself out there
- Don’t be afraid to express your ideas
- No route will be same
- Work experience is vital