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Kevin Maguire: How to succeed in the journalism industry

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Published: 7 September 2017

Want to know what it takes to become a journalist? We asked British political journalist and Associate Editor at the Daily Mirror, Kevin Maguire, to share his expert insight into what it takes to make it in the journalism industry.

Kevin Maguire

Kevin Maguire, Associate Editor of the Daily Mirror

Kevin has had a career in journalism for almost 30 years, working for some of the biggest names in British press such as The Guardian and The Telegraph, and he regularly contributes to Sky News and the BBC. As Visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Sunderland, he often gives lectures and masterclasses to our journalism students, here's what he had to say on a recent visit to the University.

What are the top five qualities of a good journalist?

“You’ve got to be nosey, you’ve got to have some cunning, writing and storytelling ability, and you’ve got to have a sense of mischief.”

What does the University of Sunderland offer to its journalism students?

“The University of Sunderland has fantastic facilities, terrific staff and it’s in a brilliant location being right on the coast. If you want to be a journalist, come to Sunderland, it might be a ticket to a job down the line. You can go to an employer afterwards and hit the ground running, you’ll have a lot to offer. I’m coming across a lot of people who’ve studied journalism at Sunderland and they’re in big jobs in London in papers and TV.”

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All of the Journalism courses at Sunderland are NCTJ accredited. What would you say to any students pursuing the qualification?

“I passed my NCTJ. It’s great – it shows you can do all the basics, you know your law, you’ve got your shorthand, you can spot a story, and you can produce a story. I use my shorthand every day, absolutely every day.

"I use it at work, I now use it in general life – I can’t believe some people say that they’re journalists and they don’t have shorthand. If you go around with your tape recorder it takes a long time to transcribe. Get your shorthand and you can take a note very quickly - shorthand’s essential."

How important is Media Law post-Leveson inquiry?

“Media Law is more important than ever. You don’t want to get sued. It’s also about respecting people and that’s vital. You never know when you’re going to have to challenge a magistrate or a judge in a court. Privacy law is expanding all the time. Law is absolutely crucial.”


As an employer, what are you looking for in a journalist? And is a CV enough?

“Your CV has to show you’re committed to journalism. It’s no good saying you have a passion for journalism, if you’ve not done any journalism. When you’re doing the course you want things published online, in print, on TV and video – wherever you can. You’ve got to show your commitment, not just say you’re committed. You want people to be bright, keen and to be working hard to be a journalist.

“What will mark you out is showing you can be a journalist, and I like people when they come for jobs at the Daily Mirror to be thinking they’re journalists before they get a job, because they’ve been thinking like a journalist on the course and they’ve got their NCTC record to show it.”

What is the positive for you by coming to the University of Sunderland and speaking to journalism students?

“You know the buzz is when you see people who are interested and who want to be a journalist, and you might be helping them along. You hope down the line you will be meeting them and, you never know, I might be employing you. I got help from people and from experienced journalists when I was on my course and I benefitted from that.

“No one had been a journalist in our family and yet I fancied doing it and managed to get there as hopefully many University of Sunderland students will. You’ve got to be prepared to learn. You listen, you think, you ask questions, and you pick things up, and hopefully just as I benefitted from listening to journalists and asking questions, people in Sunderland, in turn, will learn a little bit from me.”


What interested you in the Visiting Professor position at the University?

“It’s a great university, I love the area and it’s a chance to give something back. I remember when I started out, I had lecturers and people with good experience coming along and speaking to me and I appreciated that. I like to see people at the University of Sunderland and people in the North East doing well.”

Being a Sanddancer (Kevin is originally from South Shields) do you have a personal connection to the North East?

“The North East is a fantastic area. I live in London now but I come back all the time, my family are here and I love it. The people in the North East deserve a fair crack of the whip and they’ll get it. One of the ways of achieving that is through education, and through the University broadening people’s horizons, and giving them a chance to live their dreams, chase their dreams and fulfil those dreams.”