“Brighton Journalist Works will equip you with the skills you need to get as far as your desire will take you in journalism. Without the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism you’re nowhere; with it, you’ll go as far as you want to go,” says alumnus Luke Warren.
He shares his experiences applying the skills he developed on his diploma course to his career in journalism.
Where have you worked since finishing your NCTJ at Brighton Journalist Works?
A month after finishing at BJW I started as a reporter at the Crawley News, where I worked for two years.
Here I was highly commended in the Weekly Print Journalist of the Year category at the EDF Energy London and South of England Media Awards 2014, earned my National Qualification in Journalism and won the in-house Angriest Reporter of the Year award for 2014, after a heated interview with the West Sussex County Council cabinet member for highways.
In September 2015, I joined MoneySavingExpert.com as sub-editor, where I currently work. I sub a weekly email sent to more than ten million people and a website viewed by around 15 million people a month.
Describe your average day.
Quite simply I sub all day – working on copy ranging from news stories, money-saving guides and information on individual products, such as credit cards, to Martin Lewis’s blog.
Each has its own format and slight variation in style. It is my job to ensure that everything across the site is consistent, accurate and can be easily understood.
Most of the time I work in the program Dreamweaver, using the internet language HTML, so I have learned to code and one day hope to do so like a wizard (which is a technical term).
I start work at 10am (helpful given my commute into London (MSE Towers is just off Oxford Street) and finish at 6pm, though sometimes work later when required. For example if a news story is written late in the day and needs to subbed before being put live.
Tuesday is our press day, so our busiest and longest. We usually work till 7pm or 8pm.
The weekly email, called Martin’s Money Tips, is sent out in batches that evening and on Wednesday morning.
The email has a style of its own, different to that of the site itself, and I sub its component parts across the day.
What is the strangest thing that has happened to you while working on a story?
One of the most unexpected, but not exactly strange, things to happen was sometimes being invited into people’s homes when out door-knocking in Crawley when I was a reporter.
If there had been an incident on a particular street in the town I would often be sent there to find out more, being the only reporter at the time who lived in Crawley. So I would head off from home to do a door-knock before going into the office in Redhill.
It did not happen often, but moments after knocking on someone’s door to ask if, for example, they knew anything about a man being beaten over the head in their road, they would invite me into their homes for a cup of tea and a chat, not knowing me from Adam.
Another unusual thing to happen was having someone phone me and try to intimidate me after a court case.
It was a friend of the defendant, a bodybuilder and former Mr Britain, who had been convicted of assaulting his girlfriend.
The friend told me that the “boys down the gym [the bodybuilder’s friends] weren’t happy with me”.
I stood my metaphorical ground ―easy to do over the phone; I’m not sure if I would have been so bold if it’ had happened in person ― and told him he did not know what he was talking about. I had reported what was said in open court, and that was that.
What are your favourite stories you have worked on?
The most involving story surrounded a murder in Crawley in January 2014.
I was sent to the scene, near an industrial estate, the day afterwards to speak to people at businesses there.
I followed the case from then to arrests being made and the main suspect, Daniel Palmer, appearing in magistrates’ court and later at Lewes Crown Court.
Here the story of the evening of the murder unravelled and Palmer, who gave evidence a matter of feet away from me, was eventually convicted.
I am also proud of the stories that earned me the award short-listing ― three front-page exclusives in a row.
These were about West Sussex County Council spending far more repairing potholes in Chichester (where it is based) than in Crawley, despite more potholes being reported in the latter; an interview with the first gay couple to marry in West Sussex (who did so in Crawley) following a change to the law; and a report on a supply teacher who described her pupils as “feral” on her Twitter feed.
I also enjoyed reporting on stories in Crawley whose foundations stretched right back to war-torn Syria – including those about Abdul Waheed Majeed, who became the first British suicide bomber in Syria, and Kaiser Khan, who went to Syria on a humanitarian mission but claimed he had been held by Isis fighters alongside Alan Henning, who was later beheaded.
Mr Khan, a Muslim, was released and returned to the UK, where he was arrested on suspicion of being involved in “conflict overseas”. Later he was told he would face no further action.
What work are you particularly proud of?
I’m particularly proud of a five-part travel series I had published in VW Bus magazine.
The confidence to pitch this I gained from BJW. These articles were based on my travels in a VW camper van with my girlfriend around Europe and Morocco for eight months.
I have also had another travel piece, based on an ill-fated motorbike trip I took to France, published and shortlisted in a travel-writing competition in Bike magazine. The bike blew up in France and is still there.
What is your happiest memory of Brighton Journalist Works?
The whole experience was a happy one. Each module I found extremely interesting and the tutors and my fellow students were great.
What skills did you learn at Brighton Journalist Works that you still use today?
I still use shorthand, for note taking rather than taking down quotes as I do not really interview anyone as a sub.
Everything I learned at BJW is relevant in some way, whether that is applying what I learned in media law and production journalism when subbing or passing on what I learned in news writing when taking an editorial workshop and training colleagues.
What advice would you give to aspiring journalists?
Do the NCTJ diploma. Read and write as much as you can. Work hard.
Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Believe in yourself.
Be confident but not arrogant. Have a sense of humour and do not take yourself too seriously.
Luke studied for his Gold-Standard NCTJ diploma on the Fast Track course at Brighton Journalist Works.