A self-proclaimed ‘East London boy through and through’, Shingi Mararike, 22, grew up in Newham before studying English Literature at the University of Warwick where he edited his student paper The Boar.
He later trained to be a journalist at News Associates and is now a reporter at The Sunday Times, after becoming the paper’s first ever apprentice. He talks to Journo Resources about exactly what he does, and more crucially, how he got there.
My day starts at…
7am, if I’m good! I listen to the Today Programme on Radio 4 and I try and read through the majority of the day’s newspapers – broadsheets and tabloids. Geeking out on newspapers is something I do for much of the day.
On Tuesdays I put together a list of stories I think may work for the paper, and then I sit in fear waiting for my boss to say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If she says ‘yes’ she takes them into conference and I start working on the ideas when I get into the office at about 11am. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I spend a lot of the time meeting people for stories.
News Associates is officially the UK’s number one NCTJ journalism school – and has been for the past three years. Our graduates go on to work across the world as news presenters, foreign correspondents, investigative reporters, sports journalists and much more.
Thursday is crunch time because there is another news conference and if you have a story that’s quite big you need to give the editors an update. I have to be as honest as possible – if it hasn’t worked I just say so because they are now deciding which story will go on which page. So, on Thursday the pressure ramps up. And on Friday I start writing my copy.
On Saturdays, we get in at 9.30am and it’s a live news day. So, anything that happens on the day you could be put on – whether it’s a terror attack or a concert.
I always thought I’d be…
A journalist – since I was about 14 when I found out I could write for money! I wanted to be a sports journalist at first, I love tennis and I had a tennis blog that about four people read and my mum edited extensively – she was my first editor!
The thing that surprises me most about my job is…
The variation. One week you can be covering the royal wedding in Brixton asking people what they think about the royal family, and the next week you could be doing a story on a big murder case in London, or the Grenfell Tower fire, or something data-driven.
My typical day involves…
Reading the papers in the morning, then getting into the office and working on my stories. A lot of it is communicating with the news desk. And on a Sunday paper you can pitch to other desks, so I always make sure I have a good rapport with everyone.
Also keeping up with the news – you never know what’s going to happen. The biggest news story of the week could break on a Thursday so we’re always watching the TV.
I got the job because…
Of persistence and consistency. When I graduated I had interned at a lot of desks at The Sunday Times and so a lot of the staff knew me, including the managing editor. I was in the newsroom all the bloody time so they knew me!
I didn’t want to go into any old job just to make money. I wanted to go into journalism. So, I emailed the managing editor of The Sunday Times and I said: “Is there anything going for me? I really, really want to come back.”
The worst he could have said was “no”. And he said: “I remember you from interning, I will have a think and come back to you.”
After an agonising wait, he came back to me at the end of summer saying: “There’s a place in south London called News Associates, you’re going to go there and do an NCTJ and work here one day a week and transition into the newsroom as an apprentice.”
The second thing that helped me get a job was being polite and generally interested in what people do. I immersed myself in the culture of The Sunday Times. Being someone who people want to work with is important.
I’m most proud of…
A story I did when I was at university on acid attacks. It was an investigation which spawned from my brother saying: “People are bringing acid into school”. I pitched it on a whim while I was interning at The Sunday Times.
I saw the news editor, told him kids were taking acid into school, he took it into conference and people were terrified but also thought it was an interesting story.
I didn’t realise how big a story it would become. We then started a campaign ‘Acid Attack Britain’. And a year later I had a front-page byline with the political editor when Amber Rudd changed the law on acid attacks. That’s when I realised, in a roundabout kind of way, I had helped make a difference.
If I was starting again…
I would learn more data-based skills. Journalism needs you to be able to crunch numbers and reach conclusions based on figures. But I wouldn’t substitute any of the other skills I’ve learnt, like how to do a death knock and report accurately.
If people wanted to follow in my footsteps, I’d say…
Be consistent. Once I’d done one internship at The Sunday Times I started to think: “What other desks could I go on?” I started on sport then I decided I wanted to do news then I got asked to work for The Sunday Times Magazine for the summer.
Once you’ve built a contact you have to stay in touch and ask them how you can improve. I used to politely ask: “How can I be of more use?” – both during my internships and afterwards. Someone is more likely to hire someone they know puts in the hard yards consistently than someone they met once who decides to email out of the blue a few years later.
Sometimes I go for drinks with my colleagues – journalists are quite sociable! If not, I love music, so I listen to music and go to concerts. I also play a lot of tennis or go for a run or to the gym.
Shingi achieved a gold-standard NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism after studying at News Associates – officially the UK’s number one NCTJ journalism school – in London on their 22-week fast-track course in September 2017. News Associates kindly supported this content on Journo Resources.