While the pandemic has helped to normalise working from home and a more flexible approach, it’s also contributed to a significant blurring of the lines between work life and home life. And what happens if you’re just at the start of your career journey?
To help you navigate the industry with confidence, we spoke to two News Associates alumni about their experiences studying, as well as navigating the world of journalism as a new mum.
Training As A Journalist While Pregnant
Summer Raemason knew she wanted to become a journalist since she was 19, but felt under pressure to ditch her plans after finding out she was pregnant in her final year of university.
“I felt an immense sense of pressure to graduate and get on the career path I’d decided on because a lot of people around me told me I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it as a young mum,” she says.
Summer Raemason and her son Scott (L) and Emily Coady-Stemp (R)
Refusing to be deterred, Raemason enrolled on a part-time NCTJ multimedia journalism course with News Associates in October 2021. Her son, Scott, is now 18 months old and she now works at The Sun after a stint as a court reporter.
Emily Coady-Stemp, who now works as a local democracy reporter, gave birth to her first child, Arthur, in 2015, and started her part-time NCTJ multimedia journalism course in 2017. However, the experience didn’t quite go as she’d imagined.
“Literally two weeks after I started the part-time course I found out I was pregnant and I thought, ‘Here we go again!’,” she tells Journo Resources.
But, as she already had a child, she had a different outlook on things. “It was my second baby so it felt different. Because I already had a toddler, I thought ‘well let’s get on with it then’,” she says.
“The course was something I really wanted to do and it was infinitely better than doing the washing up. It meant I got out an evening and a day every week. It was 'me time' as well as being pregnant."
Emily Coady-Stemp, Local Democracy Reporter
“The course was something I really wanted to do and it was infinitely better than doing the washing up. It meant I got out an evening and a day every week. It was ‘me time’ as well as being pregnant — it was a nice balance.”
“Motherhood for me made me aware of how much there is to achieve and how much you can achieve.”
Her son Silas was born towards the end of Coady-Stemp’s course at News Associates.
The Realities Of Part-Time Study
Raemason also chose to study on the same course as Coady-Stemp, made up of one full day and one evening class per week. “Studying part-time was vital as I had a five-month-old baby when the course began,” she says.
However, parenthood is certainly no stroll in the park, and Raemason did face difficulties along the way. “The main challenge I faced was coming into the office in Twickenham on Saturdays because my son wouldn’t feed from bottles. My parents had to come to London each week and wait in cafés and shops while I worked, and I would pop out every two to three hours to breastfeed my son,” she says.
Study Part-Time For An NCTJ Qualification With The UK’s Top Journalism School
The team offer a number of options for people looking to study part-time, helping you to balance other life commitments in a way that suits you.
• Part-Time Multimedia Diploma In Person: Offered at both their Manchester and London campuses, you’ll complete the course in just 40 weeks. Depending on where you study, there are intakes in October and February. Lectures take place on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays, with all sessions taught by an experienced tutor.
• Part-Time Multimedia Diploma Remotely: For those based elsewhere, the remote course can be taken entirely from a location of your choice — although their facilities and campuses are open to you if you’d like to use them. You’ll study every Tuesday evening and every other Thursday, with the programme taking 18 months to complete. All sessions are taught live by an experienced tutor.
“Evening classes at home were a lot easier, but by 8pm I was exhausted. At the time, my son was waking up about three times a night for a feed so I was constantly tired.”
Despite how draining childcare was together with learning, Raemason pulled through, and she says it was in no small part due to how approachable and helpful the News Associates tutors were to her.
She says: “I never felt judged by anyone. It sounds stupid in this day and age, but as a young single mum I was terrified of being judged and not being accepted onto the course.”
“Passing the course and achieving my NCTJ was one of the biggest things that helped me overcome this fear and made me believe I could go on to get a job in my chosen field. It massively boosted my confidence.”
Work-Life Balance For Mothers In The Newsroom
Coady-Stemp went from getting her NCTJ diploma to a role at the BBC as a local democracy reporter. Like almost everyone else, she worked mainly from home during the pandemic — this meant juggling full-time work while being a full-time mother to her children aged four and two.
“They needed constant attention and we had to find ways to slot work in,” she shares. “It’s quite intense and if I try and finish off a piece of work whilst trying to look after the kids, it doesn’t work.”
Coady-Stemp suggests everyone needs to try and find a better work-life balance, even if you don’t have young children and a fast-paced job. “I think the pandemic had a big effect on everything; all of us were expected to do our work and with kids at home. From a parenting perspective and from the perspective of a working journalist, that was quite a switch,” she says.
For Raemason, full-time work became too draining. After gaining her diploma, she worked full-time for two months, but quickly found that it was too much to handle. “I felt too much of an emotional pull to be at home to raise my son and I couldn’t rely [on] or afford full-time childcare,” she says.
“Part-time worked a lot better for me but every mother is different and I wouldn’t judge anyone who works full-time.”
“I felt an immense sense of pressure to graduate and get on the career path I’d decided on because a lot of people around me told me I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it as a young mum.”
Summer Raemason, Journalist
Raemason is also no stranger to the common assumption that journalists have no work-life balance, but she says the juggling is easier with a boss who understands the individual needs of those on their team.
She reflects: “Being a mum does not make it difficult to work in journalism if you have a boss who understands your boundaries and how much you can offer.
“I’d say journalism is a flexible work environment but it depends on where you work. I’ve had experience at an agency where the tone was ‘work comes first’ but I imagine this could be the same in any industry.
“So work-life balance is really what you make [of] it. I know people who live at the office and I know people who enjoy taking trips abroad on their days off.”
Even though she knows how important it is, Coady-Stemp, also says her biggest challenge is to switch off and call it a day.
“People who you’ve been talking to for a story have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes so they don’t mind calling you at 8pm. [Meanwhile] you’ve just put the kids to bed and you’re trying to have your dinner,” she explains.
“In order for me to be as present as I can for my kids, at some point I have to say, ‘I need to put that to one side’. I think you have to push for it, there will be people out there that don’t balance it, but I am getting to a point where I’m nearly there.
“I think for most journalists it’s hard to do that, and it’s quite difficult to switch off.”
Although working part-time works for Raemason, she says it does have its drawbacks, such as her work schedule getting in the way of following up on stories.
“Sometimes I will contact someone about an issue and they’re willing to speak, but if I’m then out of the office for three days at a time, it’s a slower and more frustrating process to get the story done,” she explains.
Additionally, working outside of London causes problems, with many roles still requiring people to attend their offices in the capital.
Raemason adds: “Many of the key jobs in journalism are based in London, which means I’m up before five each work day for the commute and night shifts are a complete nightmare. I leave the office at one in the morning and then have to take two trains and a taxi to get home just after 3am.
“The hardest part for me is organising childcare. My son is 18 months old, so not in school yet. I can’t move because of childcare and house prices — whereas if I didn’t have a child I could work full-time and afford to move to London.”
Try A Free Workshop With News Associates
Think you might be interested in taking the plunge but want to try it out first? The team at News Associates offer a range of remote and in-person journalism workshops to give you a taste of their teaching and lecturers.
News journalism workshops will see you tackle a breaking news story and receive individual feedback on your work, while sports journalism workshops are delivered alongside Sportsbeat, the UK’s leading sports news agency.
The team also run occasional panels, discussions, and Q&As about your route into the journalism industry.
According to Coady-Stemp, the top qualities you need when entering the industry with young children are self-belief and self-confidence. She says: “One of the first things I would say to anyone is to back yourself. You have to believe that you can do it.
“That was one of my biggest barriers. I didn’t know the first way in but then once you get it, you realise the road is pretty clear.”
Raemason’s first piece of advice for those who are pregnant or a parent to young children is to “definitely pursue your NCTJ qualification; even though a part-time course may get you there slower, it is worth it.”
She stresses how important it is to not let preconceptions about the industry scare you away before you’ve even tried. In general, Raemason feels that journalism attracts people from all walks of life, so young mothers should not worry about feeling out of place.
“If I could go back, I wouldn’t change anything — I would just have less anxiety and fear about starting on my career path as a young mum. It is the most rewarding feeling to know you can raise a child and also provide for them.”
Summer Raemason, Journalist
“Journalism is one industry where there is such a variety of ages and personalities in the office. A lot of your employers will have children themselves and understand the work that goes into raising a child, and they may even see you as more reliable and organised because of this,” she says.
Coady-Stemp agrees with how being a journalist and a new mother takes — and publicly shows — a certain level of tenacity. “I proved to myself that I could do it. Also, turning up to a shorthand exam with a streak of sick down your shoulder is not the best look, but it showed resilience,” she assures.
That said, Raemason reminds young mothers that they should familiarise themselves with their rights as a parent in the workplace. “Read up on any forms of discrimination and how your employer is legally allowed to treat you,” she says.
Despite the challenges, both mothers assert that they have no regrets about the path they have chosen to go down.
Raemason says: “If I could go back, I wouldn’t change anything — I would just have less anxiety and fear about starting on my career path as a young mum. It is the most rewarding feeling to know you can raise a child and also provide for them.”
Similar sentiments echo in Coady-Stemp, who wanted to pursue journalism not just for herself, but also for her children. She says: “If I’m going to walk out the door every morning and leave them with a childminder, it has to be worth it — and this job really is worth it.
“I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.”
Header image courtesy of Hollie Santos via Unsplash
News Associates are proud to be the UK’s number one NCTJ journalism course — and they do things differently. You’ll be treated like a journalist from day one, with an innovative and experienced approach to teaching.
They offer a range of part-time and full-time courses, with locations in London, Manchester, and remote learning.