IF YOU ARE A STUDENT LOOKING FOR ADVICE
There are ways of making it easier for me to help - here are some pointers:
If you contact me, make sure you’ve watched some of my films. Tell me why you chose to contact me specifically and how I can help you. It’s so much easier to respond to a clear request. Please don’t just ask for ‘a coffee’ or ‘a chat’. It makes me feel that I will have to do all the work.
I really love it when people are pitching ideas; it’s a great way of finding out where someone sees a story. Don’t make them longer than half a page; a pared down pitch shows good judgement and discipline. An indication of access is crucial. Strong, concise pitches are a strong selling point and show that you are proactive.
Most people get a job because they have special talents. That could be regional knowledge and contacts, language, or even a background in environmental studies or accountancy (for financial investigations). Whenever I’ve given students a first job, it’s because they had an expertise that I needed for a production.
Know your strands. At Al Jazeera English “Witness” is the observational documentary strand, “People & Power” does investigations and “101 East” covers Asia. Other networks have similar strands. Having watched the output and knowing the difference is crucial and a great way to start asking deeper questions.
If I don’t answer immediately, try me again. We all get so many emails and sometimes I forget to answer an email or I overlook something. A degree of polite persistence is needed to make it in journalism so it’s good to see it applied.
It’s good to focus on stories and subjects that you really care about and that you genuinely believe are important. Passion is contagious and helps put in the long hours that are often required.