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March 27, 2024 (Updated )

Are you obsessed with pop culture gossip? Are you a TV, film, or music buff? Do you want to build rapport with the brightest or up-and-coming stars? If so, entertainment journalism could be the path for you.

But, aside from passion, how do you get your first job as an ents journalist? At a recent panel discussion, News Associates brought together former Daily Express deputy TV and showbiz editor Tilly Pearce, former PinkNews entertainment reporter Asyia Iftikhar, and Bauer Media entertainment reporter and content producer Joy to discuss all things entertainment.

How To Start Off In Entertainment Journalism?

Whether you have a passion for entertainment or are just beginning to think about it, there are plenty of ways to dive in — each of the panellists had a different journey to where they are today.

For Asyia, the focus was following her areas of interest: “I knew I wanted to do journalism and was open to any field, but my entire life I’ve always had an affinity with culture, and it’s been the thing that’s always been on my mind.”

It can also be worth thinking about a niche within entertainment itself, as a way of standing out from the crowd. For example, in a previous Journo Resources piece about getting festival press passes, a volunteer for Glastonbury’s press team explained how they approved a student radio station that wanted to cover reggae acts because it was a genre not often well-covered by bigger media organisations.

On the other hand, Tilly came to the entertainment side of journalism by chance. Talking about an interaction at one of her first journalism jobs, she explains: “They said that there were positions available on the sports desk or the entertainment desk and, with that, I became an entertainment writer. Immediately, the second I did it, I knew I picked the right area.”

The key is that there isn’t one right way to get into entertainment — it’s a combination of taking opportunities you may not have considered, as well as actively seeking them out on jobs boards, reaching out to current entertainment reporters and PRs, and exploring opportunities within student media or your own online presence.

For Joy, it’s all about social media — something News Associates recently explored in a social media workshop. While it’s great to get other qualifications, showing your passion and practising your style on social media can give you an edge over others. She explains: “I had a page [on YouTube and Instagram]. It wasn’t what it is now, but there was clear evidence that I’m a passionate individual and I’ve been working in the media space for some time.

“Tap into social media because it’s more powerful than you think, especially if you’re thinking about entertainment. Don’t completely ignore it and maybe take it hand in hand with your studies.”

Journo Resources
“Tap into social media because it's more powerful than you think, especially if you're thinking about entertainment. Don't completely ignore it and maybe take it hand in hand with your studies.”
Joy, entertainment reporter and content producer, Bauer Media

Speaking in a YouTube video about her success, Joy stresses it doesn’t matter if you’re not talking to a huge following: “I think it helped my application [to my current job]. I mean I’m no Nella Rose or anything, with my 200 subscribers — I think at the time it was like 98. But I think having an online presence and just not being afraid to be myself […] helped me get this job.”

She also echoes comments about taking every experience you can, even if it’s not directly related to entertainment — as well as applying for a place on an IntoFilm scheme, Joy also worked for her local television station, KMTV, presenting the business news show and a series on genetics.

‘Write As Much As You Can About The Whole Cultural Remit’

Even if you don’t feel you know an area, the panel advises jumping into every opportunity you can. When starting at PinkNews Asyia found herself having to branch outside of her comfort zone of film and books — covering everything from music and fashion to Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

She says: “I think, if you’re starting out, it is valuable to try and learn as much as you can and write as much as you can about the whole cultural remit.

“Gaining the skills to be able to write a 1,000-word piece about why Pamela Anderson’s red-iconic outfit is doing numbers on Google search was really helpful for me to just learn how to throw myself at things that I don’t know.”

Journo Resources
Journo Resources

Joy attends a Hayu event (L), and Tilly Pearce attends an MTV VMA event (R)

At the same time, the goal is to spread your work as widely as possible — for many entertainment journalists, the goal is getting your ‘viral moment”. For example, Joy’s interview with Austin Butler, where he called her voice wonderful.

The question is, how do you get there? Do you always know when a piece of work will go viral, or is it a happy accident?

For Joy, it’s both. “We try to inform our questions,” she explains, “[asking ourselves] ‘what have they talked about before?’, ‘what are they in the news for’, and ‘how can we put a spin on that?’ That’s how we create content.”

However, sometimes it’s impossible to predict your viral moment. She continues: “When I went viral recently, [but when] I asked the question [that made it happen], I never asked it out of ‘Oh my God. I know [it’s] just gonna get clicks’, I just asked out of general interest.

“For it to blow up the way it did, I could have never anticipated that.”

Study For Your NCTJ Diploma With News Associates

All the advice shared in this article was delivered firsthand to trainees at News Associates, who run the UK’s number one journalism course. As well as hearing from inspirational speakers, trainees can learn in a range of flexible formats depending on their circumstances:

Fast Track Multimedia Diploma In Person: Complete your NCTJ training in just 22 weeks, studying at either their Manchester or London campuses. Intakes start in both September and February and in addition to their award-winning training, you’ll also complete a guaranteed placement to hone your skills for the world of work.

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 Saturday mornings, 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.

What Qualifications Do You Need?

While there are a multitude of ways to make it in journalism, both Tilly and Asyia completed their NCTJ qualification at News Associates.

For Asyia, getting her NCTJ was useful for two reasons, the first being a good understanding of media law. She explains: “Media law is always helpful in any place you go for any aspect of journalism, but like I guess of entertainment there’s always an aspect of making sure — especially with celebrities who are very sensitive and touchy about things — that you’re right.

“Just making sure that you have the best foot forward when you’re writing contentious topics; it’s reassuring to have a media law training background.”

The second reason for Asyia was that the NCTJ gave her a clear blueprint of journalistic writing to build from.

She adds: “Having the grounding of how to write clean, tight, good news copy that’s standardised across the sector is really helpful, because you can transfer that across any of the publications that you end up working for.

“Especially if you’re freelance, every place will have a different style guide and a different thing they want. Having a basis for writing a solid copy is really helpful.”

Try A Free Workshop With News Associates

Students at News Associates get even more than just their course — every year JournoFest brings together some of the biggest names in journalism to give exclusive advice to their trainees.

You can see even more top tips from the journalists who attended in 2023 here. And, if you take up a course at News Associates, you could be there in person at their next conference.

Tfree journalism workshopshink you might be interested in taking the plunge but want to try it out first? The team 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.

Sign Up For Free Journalism Workshops Here

Sophie Howarth
Sophie Howarth

Sophie Howarth is a trainee journalist at News Associates on their NCTJ course.

She has a long-held interest in working with vulnerable groups and currently works as the communication, social media, community engagement and fundraising officer at Safer Places Domestic Abuse Support Services.

News Associates
News Associates

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.

Find out more about their courses here.