“Wannabe Hacks”: The Ultimate Resource for Aspiring Journalists

Special thanks to today’s guest blogger  – Dee Mason!

“Breaking into” any sort of creative field has always been difficult.  It often requires years of building up a body of work, creating relationships, building a reputation, and finally, receiving recognition, to feel as if one has truly achieved some level of appreciable success as a writer, actor, designer, musician, or other creative.  For journalists, the simple act of getting one’s foot in the door can be incredibly hard.  One’s work has to be read, interest has to be shown, and contact must be made.  These are three seemingly simple steps, over which one has virtually no control.  For a new journalist, it is a rather terrifying and daunting concept.  In the summer of 2010, a small group of young journalists took matters into their own hands, and Wannabe Hacks was born.

Wannabe Hacks is a blog for aspiring journalists by other aspiring journalists.  Rather than focusing on advice from people who are already well established in the journalism field, the site caters to advice from early to mid-career journalists who have found different ways of approaching their job search.  As the site says, “Wannabe Hacks is five aspiring journalists blogging about getting into the media via different routes. It provides tips and guidance on how to get into the media from people trying to do just that, right now.”  The site has become immensely popular, as it focuses on current media trends and reflects the state of the economy in relation to job hunting, as well as providing useful advice for student journalists and recent graduates.  A combination of guest bloggers and five main journalists, answer questions about job hunting, application procedures, query letters, etc., moderate debates and discussion about current journalism practices, and write about their own trials and tribulations as they attempt to find steady work.  The immediacy of their responses, the fact that the journalists contributing to the site are, for all intents and purposes, still “in the trenches”, makes the site an invaluable resource for journalists at the beginning of their careers.  The site offers how-to guides, reporting and writing tips, and useful information on how to make one’s resume more effective.  It has a great deal of information about how to handle the interview process, what to expect in different work environments and the various industries that require journalism work.  There is also a section devoted to the various ways one can become a journalist, and the ways in which a student journalist can get their foot in the door prior to graduation.  Since the site launched, it has been featured in multiple publications, including the New Statesmen and The Guardian.

Wannabe Hacks is the brainchild of four University of Birmingham students, who found themselves without useful guidance post-graduation.  Most of their advice was coming from people who were already well established, and consequently had no real understanding of the current job-market or from professors or academics who had long been out of the job field.  The result was that what they were hearing was not applicable to the real world.  The four young men, Matt Caines, Tom Clarke, Nick Petrie, and Ben Whitelaw, launched their blog in 2010, and added Alice Vincent a few months later.  The site took off immediately, and they began getting write ups a mere two months after launching.  Since then, the five original members of the team have all found paid work of one sort or another.  Matt Caines is now a journalist for The Guardian, writing for the housing and society sections, along with writing for a number of online lifestyle publications.  Tom Clarke is currently working as a trainee sub-editor and is one half of the popular sports blog, Pope and Swift.  Nick Petrie is the Community Manager at The Telegraph.  Ben Whitelaw is now a journalist for Guardian Healthcare and Government Computing, as well as being the other half of Pope and Swift.  Alice Vincent is now the Editorial Assistant for Huffington Post UK. 

Since all five of the original Wannabes are no longer wannabes, they began their search for five replacement bloggers in August of 2011.  With the new class, the blog has now become a moving company of journalists, who will most likely change each year.  The original team subsequently selected Hannah Bass, a postgraduate student in journalism school; Jonathan Frost, a writer and entrepreneur; Emily Handord, a journalism intern; Natalie Josh, a third year undergraduate; and Jon Offredo, a recent graduate who is currently job hunting.  It will be interesting to see if the new crop of aspiring journalists is as successful as the first class of Wannabe Hacks.  In the meantime, the site continues to be an excellent source of information, ideas, and most importantly, inspiration.  For all of those who are struggling to find their way as writers and other creatives, Wannabe Hacks offers up a much appreciated serving of guidance.