Magazine Journalism

Some magazines, especially those who use ‘true life’ stories, advertise for journalists with newspaper experience but traditionally it hasn’t been so easy to swap in the opposite direction. But times are changing, now many local and national newspaper companies publish supplements and even stand-alone magazines, so the two products are becoming ever more interchangeable.

There are many different types of magazines and while there is sure to be one that is exactly right for you they will all usually expect you to have a degree and some formal training before you apply for a job.

Consumer magazines

Consumer magazines; both general interest (Company) and specialist (Crafty Carper), are the ones everyone wants to work on so they are always oversubscribed and could have up to a six-month waiting list for work placements. To improve your chances, show you understand and love the publication and have an in-depth knowledge of its readership when applying and be persistent.

Customer magazines

Customer magazines; (like M & S Magazine) are an ever-growing sector of the publishing industry. They pay better but you’ll be working for two masters, in this example, the editor who works for the publishing company and the client who represents Marks & Spencer.

B2B (Business to Business) / Trade magazines

B2B (Business to Business) magazines; or ‘trade’ magazines as they used to be called (i.e. The Grocer) don’t have the cachet of the glossies but pay best and usually have good training schemes for employees and excellent career progression. They are well worth considering, especially for a first job.

Professional Publishers’ Association

The magazine industry body is the PPA (Professional Publishers’ Association) that accredits university programmes and courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level.  These should give you the basic skills you’ll need: Media law, PA (national government), news and feature writing, subbing, design and layout (a working knowledge of publishing software like In-Design) and shorthand to 80 wpm – the latter isn’t an essential for magazine employment but it’s invaluable for interviews – you’ll never regret learning it. Most courses include mandatory work placements and portfolios.

Training

For those interested in magazines and periodicals, the Periodical Publishers’ Association has a specialist training arm:

Periodicals Training Council
Queens House
55/56 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London WC2A 3LJ

Accredited Courses

The PPA accredits courses and programmes every two years and keeps an updated list online.

The NCTJ also accredits courses and training schemes in magazine journalism.

A degree in a specific subject (like one of the sciences) will always give you a useful specialism that you can exploit by working for a magazine about that subject (New Scientist for instance).

There are of course also journalism degrees but no qualification is a guarantee of a job at the end of the course. Those posts advertised in The Guardian’s media jobs section have hundreds of applicants and are often filled before publication.

The very best way of securing employment is through work experience that gives you the opportunity to show what you can do and become indispensable.

You may have to take several unpaid work placements before securing that all-important first step on the employment ladder. Once you’ve done that, switching between magazines becomes much easier.