Working in journalism: Employer case study

Editor Mike Firth gives a flavour of what it's like to work at Heron Publications.

What does your company do?

Our company started about fourteen years ago by producing one local magazine. We now have four free magazines and one paid for magazine about Sheffield nostalgia.

We carry out our own distribution. Magazines are carefully delivered to all homes and businesses in our chosen circulation areas. In total, we produce and distribute 51,000 local magazines.

How many people do you employ?

We have 12 staff based at our main office and around 150 casual delivery staff.

Where are you based?

Our office is based in Sheffield.

What types of roles do you offer?

We offer the following roles:

  • journalist
  • editor
  • graphic designer
  • distribution manager
  • accountant
  • advertising sales staff
  • receptionist.

Do you have to be qualified in a specific area or subject to work for the company?

We’re not necessarily looking for qualifications, more experience really. Having said that, when we have been looking for journalists, we’ve always looked for someone who has completed NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualifications.

On the whole, experience, interest and attitude are just as important as qualifications.

For a journalist, we’d be looking for:

  • accurate writing skills
  • a friendly personality for dealing with the public
  • local knowledge
  • knowledge of shorthand
  • knowledge of newspaper law.

What’s next for your business?

Magazines have a faster turnaround and are of higher quality than they were ten years ago.

Another change in the industry is that we mostly deal with people over the internet now. Advertising proofs are sent digitally and the whole magazine is sent to the printing press digitally too.

We have to work hard to attract readership. We include lots of local content and pictures to keep it bright and colourful. We distribute to the whole community and find that advertisers get a good response and come back to us.

All of this means that our magazines are continuing to grow while local newspapers are in decline.

What advice would you give young people thinking of getting into journalism?

When you start applying for job vacancies or university courses, it helps to demonstrate that you’ve been thinking of this career for a while. Working on something like a school or church magazine would be a good start.

Try to get some work experience. You may find that smaller publications are more willing to offer this.

Mike Firth

Mike Firth, editor at Heron Publications

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