I have a keen interest in pursuing a career in animal journalism. I have extensive experience in the field including dog training and behaviour as well as being a qualified guide dog for the blind trainer. I am also currently completing a BSc in Animal Behaviour Science. I would appreciate any help you could give me regarding job applications and progressing in animal journalism.
When I was a little girl my career teacher shook her head, in those days she didn't think there was a way to make doggie journalism a full time job. It was obvious even then that I was dog mad. Animal journalism was not much known of as a career choice and there's a good reason for that! There are very few jobs!
Every day I encounter journalists who would love to stop writing about the economy, world poverty, politics and concentrate on all things doggy as that is their passion.
But there are very few specialist animal magazines and lots and lots of people wanting to write.
I would suggest training first as a journalist and then attempting to specialise if you aren't independently wealthy! It doesn't have to be a full time course, there are some great part time courses. I went on a wonderful evening class with the excellent Faye Ainscough entitled 'how to write for publication'. And that is definitely the trick if you are to be a freelance, writing for a specific market rather than just writing for your own amusement.
We very rarely have an opening in our office - many of our staff have been with us many, many years! When we do take someone on they have to live locally.
I would hate to discourage anyone from this career, but there are easier paths!
Books to check out - the Writer's and Artists Yearbook - a good place to start.
Beverley Cuddy, Editor, Dogs Today
I got into journalism in a roundabout way, but some of my experience may be helpful to you. I qualified as a teacher, but stopped work to be a stay-at-home Mom. During that time my husband was developing his IT business, so I gradually took on more and more of a role in that - learning a lot about computers whether I wanted to or not! Being a techie, my husband knew that podcasting was about to take off about four years ago. He also knew that I had an endless capacity to fall into conversation with other dog owners. He connected the two and suggested we make a podcast about dogs. This suited me well, as I had always written, but in a very casual relaxed way, lacking self discipline.
DogCast Radio is a magazine style podcast (or Internet radio show) featuring interviews with expert trainers, carefully selected breeders, and owners, as well as news from around the world and original fiction. Writing and hosting the show made me develop the discipline I had lacked for years. Suddenly I had deadlines to meet, and from the beginning we strove to have high production values and to be professional.
I met Beverley Cuddy and began to write for her. I joined the NUJ and now write for a variety of publications. I love dogs and I love writing so it's the perfect job for me. Oh yes - and I love talking too!
The best advice I can give you is to play to your strengths - you have a great qualification and a lot of practical experience, so keep that prominent when you pitch an idea or fill in a job application or talk in an interview. Also - and this sounds obvious - be professional. By this I mean look the part, and act the part - if you say you'll be somewhere or have something written by a certain date then do it. If you are at all IT minded use the Internet -it's an excellent resource. At the very least join lots of forums, and get yourself known. Many people get noticed through their blog. Try and get known in person too; I've been
knocked back by editors who welcomed me once I met them and chatted to them for a while.
Don't be afraid to ask people - I was amazed at who said yes to an interview in the early days. Start locally, approaching newspapers magazines and even radio stations that are near you. Keep at it, don't be discouraged, it may take time.
I wish you lots of luck,
Julie Hill, Host of DogCast Radio