Thursday, May 15, 2014

Journalist Interview: Q & A with Sarah-Jane Darcey


Today I'd like to welcome Sarah-Jane Darcey all the way from the UK. She shares her career story including how she continues to adapt in the ever-changing field of journalism.

How did you decide to become a journalist?
I’ve always loved writing, and studied for a degree in promotions.  During that time I specialised in journalism and dabbled in running my own online magazines.  After that I simply started contributing to outlets online and eventually I was writing for publications that were more high profile.

Can you describe your career history and current projects?
The bulk of my work has been as a fashion and lifestyle journalist, and I have written for Hello! Magazine, The Daily Sport, and been an official Beauty Insider for --Superdrug.  I’ve also blogged professionally and worked in areas such as copywriting.  In terms of current projects, I’ve just launched a new site for female writers and bloggers called Women In Their Own Words The aim of the site is to showcase authors and women who run their own blogs or businesses and provide useful tools and inspiration for others who’d like to get into the literary industry.

Would you recommend this same path to someone starting out today? Why or why not?
I think that journalism has really changed over the past few years, with such a shift towards digital content, more and more journalists are getting into the industry through new paths such as blogging. Whilst this is obviously a fantastic opportunity to get into professional writing that just didn’t exist five years ago, the market is getting crowded and bloggers are becoming more powerful, edging journalists out. For example, bloggers are being invited to fashion week with more traditional print journalists, and their resulting copy can usually be ready in a much shorter time and instantly reach thousands of online readers. There are short cuts now if you’re open to them.

Obviously professional training is never going to be obsolete, and a combination of a journalism qualification mixed with online experience is probably the best route, but there are other ways into the market now if you can capitalize on them.

What do you like best about your work?
Right now I’m working with lots of lovely writers, journalists and poets for Women In Their Own Words, and they have plenty of inspirational stories to tell and lots of great advice to share. Hearing how they’ve done it and how creative women are making writing work for them and their lives is a lot of fun and drives you on to become better in your own work.

What is your biggest headache?
It’s definitely not a headache but there’s a lot of admin that goes with setting up a website and business, and growing an audience for a start-up. It’s been great to connect with more people within the industry and we’ve had a great response so far so that’s really encouraging.

What are the important personal qualities or abilities necessary for a person to be a successful journalist?
The ability to research thoroughly, being able to cope with deadlines, and obviously you’ll need excellent language skills such as spelling, grammar, vocabulary, proofreading and editing. I think it’s also important now to be multi-skilled, and being able to use design software, produce and edit multi-media content or code websites makes you more employable. The days where journalists just wrote content are disappearing, and now they need to be able to design graphics and produce photography to go alongside their text. Self-promotion skills are also key, so you need to understand how to market yourself and get your work seen.

How many hours do you work each week?
Definitely not enough! As much as possible I try to I work long days, seven days a week. You have to be motivated and self-reliant to work freelance, and when I’m not working I’m reading books for review or thinking up new ideas, or trying to promote the new site on social media. I wish there were more hours that I could work!

What do you wish you would have known before becoming a journalist?
That the industry is changing. Journalists are in a precarious position in terms of the rise of digital content and blogging, and freelance competition is huge. People are getting their content from Instagram or Twitter, or from reading blogs or websites for free, rather than paying for magazines or newspapers. Lots of bloggers now call themselves journalists, and to an extent all of us are reporters and journalists now as we our chronicle our daily lives.

Things have also changed now in that journalists are no longer faceless hacks working behind the scenes to report the news or put out stories. Readers want to know who you are, rather than just what you have to say, and are invested in the lives of their favourite bloggers and writers. 

Are there any books you suggest reading, training courses that would be beneficial or professional organizations aspiring journalist consider joining?
Women In Their Own Words has a section for journalists, interviewing women who are already up and running in their careers, and reviewing books which would be of use to anyone interested in the field. I think if you’re looking to get into journalism, or writing in general, then you should be reading as much as you can, magazines, books, blogs, whatever you can get your hands on. Aside from that the usual industry suspects are the NUJ and journalism.co.uk, and there’s a wealth of information online. Savvy Working Gal is a great resource for working women in general.

How much can a journalist expect to earn?
This varies greatly according to the publications you’re writing for and whether you’re working in-house or freelance. Paid online opportunities can be hard to come by, especially with the rise of blogging and so many people who are willing to write for free in return for some exposure or freebies or to build their portfolios.

I see you are a member of The WoMentoring Project a mentoring program for creative types. Can you tell us more about this?
I’m currently mentoring with The WoMentoring Project, which offers free professional advice to women who wouldn’t normally have access to literary advice. You simply browse the website until you find a mentor who seems the best fit for you, and then follow the application process.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know about yourself or your career?
I hope Savvy Working Gal readers will be interested in joining us at Women In Their Own Words and following us on our journey to grow the site. Many thanks to SWG for allowing me the opportunity to share my story with you!

Where can we find you?
My own website is online at www.sarahjanedarcey.com, and Women In Their Own Words can be found at www.womenintheirownwords.com and www.facebook.com/womenintheirownwords I’m also on Twitter, @sarahjanedarcey

10 comments:

  1. Great interview and interesting to see how bloggers writing has impacted the news industry. Her organization Women in their own words sounds great, off to check it out. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I sometimes get nervous when I'm invited to events where professional journalists and/or photographers are present. As a blogger, my reviews are not at that level. So I can see and understand why there will always be a need for the professional journalist.

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  3. Fabulous interview! It's incredible how much journalism has changed with digital technology. Talk about having to keep on your toes!

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  4. Wow - love the way she shared her professional opinions without so much as a blip of negativity toward bloggers. She gave blogging the respect it deserves - so rare to find a journalist with such an open mind! I've bookmarked Women in Their Own Words and am so glad you shared this interview with us, Savvy.

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  5. Great information. Thanks for this content.

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  6. would have been nice to get at least a range of earnings. always nice to compare, since i had considered being a journalist at one point!

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  7. Great interview! So much information :)

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  8. Lovely interview! I enjoyed learning about the shift in journalism over the past years. Thanks for sharing at #smallvictoriessunday :)

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  9. Super interesting! I'll be sure to check out Women in their own Words!

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  10. I'm studying journalism in school right now and I absolutely love it. This interview was really insightful and interesting! I really get what she means, journalism is changing a lot and the courses that are offered at school have changed a lot, too, to suit the needs of employers. I even have a class where we have to create a WordPress blog.

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