dancingwithmissb


Interview: Scarlett Wrench, NCTJ Student Journalist of the Year

Scarlett Wrench has just won Student Journalist of the Year at the NCTJ Society of Editors Conference today.  She is 22, from Burgess Hill and studied at Brighton Journalist Works.

I interviewed her about this prestigious award and will publish the article I have written for tomorrow’s Argus on my blog tomorrow.

Congratulations Scarlett. How does it feel to win this award?

I’m very flattered. My award entries were stories I wrote while on my internship with the Crawley Observer, one of my local papers. I owe a lot to the people I was working with there for trusting me to take on some of the bigger stories – rather than just leaving me to make tea and chase up missing cats.

Who was the first person you told when you found out you’d been shortlisted?

I was with my Mum when I found out. She’d been eyeing up the letter for a while, clearly having guessed what it might be. I had no idea what the letter was for when I opened it, so there was no dramatic build-up.

How will you celebrate?

I’ve had a bit too much to celebrate recently – my new job, leaving home for the first time, turning 22… I’ve brought my Grandma to the awards to thank her for paying for my journalism course.

How were you at school?

I was a bit of a swot. I took my work very seriously – maybe too seriously! I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed school and I’m definitely having a better time now that I’m out of it, but I think I made the best of things while I was there.

How was your time studying at Varndean College?

I was a member of the journalism society (there were only two of us, it really wasn’t a very popular club) and I used to draft press releases about college goings-on and send them to the Argus.

What made you want to become a journalist?

I’d probably been reading too many books and had an idea that a career in journalism would be all Hemingway and Hunter S Thompson. Then I went to work on a local paper and quickly realised it wasn’t going to be much like that. Journalism is long hours in front a computer screen, looming deadlines and re-writing the same paragraph five times in one day. But I love it and I don’t even remotely regret going down this path.

How is your job working on Men’s Health?

I love it. It still feels slightly surreal sometimes, to have landed a job like this at a time when finding work is so difficult for people my age. I’m working quite long hours and the commute is a bit wearing, but it’s well worth it. And no one takes me any less seriously because of my age or lack of experience, which I’m grateful for. I’m enjoying the opportunity to work alongside so many talented people and for a publication that has a real chance to affect people’s lives. I’ve always been more drawn to men’s magazines than to magazines aimed at women. On the whole, men’s mags just tend to be funnier, more varied and a little less patronising – I don’t know why that is and I hope it’s not always the case.

What would be your best piece/s of advice to any aspiring journalists?

Get out there and do it. Don’t just learn about it. Get some real-world experience.

What made you choose the NCTJ route rather than university?

I didn’t want to be out of work for two years and end up saddled with a load of debt. I studied for my NCTJ part-time, so I was able to work about 25 hours a week in my local pub at the same time. It helped me retain some kind of independence.

What would you say to anyone thinking that maybe the university route isn’t for them?

Well, I’m no expert, but I think anyone would agree that so long as you work hard, stay focused and persevere in whatever it is you want to do, you can’t go far wrong.

What grades did you get on the NCTJ course?

News Writing was a B. All the others (Law, Public Affairs, Subbing, and the Business of Magazines) were A grades.

What was your favourite portfolio piece?

At Esquire magazine they let me write the contents page for their November issue and it managed to make it past the editor with relatively few changes. It felt very cool to see that in print.

Where was your favourite place to do work experience and why?

Esquire. It’s a magazine I have always enjoyed and admired, and that’s where I caught the ‘subbing bug’. It’s also where I met Emily Miles, who is now production editor at Men’s Health and who recommended me for the job. I owe a lot to Emily and to Esquire’s chief sub Jeremy White for their advice and support.

What do you aspire to do in the future?

I’m not writing much at the moment because I haven’t had the time, so ultimately I’d like to strike a balance between subbing and writing… and maybe be a production editor myself in five years time.

Anything else you would like to add?

If it’s of any interest to you, before I went down the journo route I used to be the lead singer of a band called The Malchicks. In 2007 we released an album in the UK and America, and we toured Europe and Japan. I also worked as a backing singer for cult 60s R&B band The Pretty Things. I’m telling you this because The Argus ran a story on me and the band about four years ago… they might even still have a slightly moody photo of me standing outside Varndean college!

Thanks Scarlett.

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