Goldsmiths MA Journ
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Patrick Barkham


Class of 1998

Undergraduate degree: Social and Political Science, Cambridge University
First job:
Reporter at Guardian Unlimited

Current job:
Feature writer and reporter at The Guardian


“My first proper job after graduating was at The Guardian. It was during the time when news websites were really starting to take off, and I saw an advertisement for a writer/researcher on Guardian Unlimited in June, while I was still writing my dissertation. It was an entry-level job, and I remember it had a rather humble salary, just £15,000, but I managed to survive. Two years later I was offered a job as The Guardian's Australia correspondent.

After two years in Australia, I came home to work as a reporter for The Times before finding myself back at The Guardian two years later. I've worked as a home news reporter and now as a feature writer (on G2).

The big challenge for all journalists, young and old, is adapting to the new media age. Churning out content for the web could be deskilling but it is also an opportunity to learn new skills, including telling stories in audio and video. It is a hoary old cliché but you have to keep learning new skills to survive in journalism.

It was the chance to study the theoretical side of journalism - the side that the postgraduate diplomas I looked at didn't offer - that first attracted me to the Goldsmiths course. But since graduating, the most useful part of the course has been the practical skill of learning how to construct news stories and my media law training, which I use regularly.

Doing a postgraduate course in journalism is almost essential if you want to go into the national press, and I definitely wouldn't have had the same opportunities without it. My only regret is that I didn't take shorthand very seriously and have since had to relearn it by myself, which is much harder. If you want to be a reporter, you can't really do without it.

The best advice I can give to any aspiring journalists is do as much work experience as you can while you're a student. I filled the holidays with it, and it helped me to improve my writing skills. It's also important for building up contacts, which in the small world of journalism are invaluable.

Being a journalist is the best job in the world. You get to go to so many places and cover such a wide range of subjects. In the last couple years at the Guardian I've been to the Democratic Republic of Congo to write about Aids, Malawi to write about famine and asylum seekers and Estonia to report on property prices.

The work I'm most proud are the pieces I produced as the only embedded journalist on a hospital ship during the Gulf War. I wrote a story about some soldiers injured by friendly fire that got picked up by news organisations across the world. It appeared in a lot of papers, and it was great to see my story get that kind of attention."

Interview by Laura Deeley (additional reporting by Ali Nobil Ahmad)

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