HARLOW School of Journalism students get a tremendous boost each year from visits by top industry professionals.
They include the school’s two patrons – television presenter and award winning journalist John Stapleton and former editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger.
Both began their careers by studying for the National Council for the Training of Journalists exams at Harlow College and are keen to visit and welcome the new recruits into the industry.
Mr Stapleton has reported from war zones around the world and interviewed every British prime minister since Jim Callaghan.
He told journalism students when he visited Harlow: “You are there as a guardian of the public, to ask the questions they would ask if they were there themselves.”
Urging students to: “Go and do it” he told them: “It’s a great way to earn a living. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have done in my life than be a journalist. You are there as a guardian of the public, to ask the questions they would ask if they were there themselves.”
But he warned: “It’s not always been easy. It’s really hard graft and not for the faint-hearted.”
Mr Stapleton, whose work has included reporting on national newspapers, presenting on GMTV and researching and script writing for This is Your Life, was keen to point out that journalism is by no means an easy option.
He emphasised how difficult it can be to break into journalism in the first place and added: “Never give up. I wrote to 33 newspapers before I got a job. Get inside the building because that will create avenues for you. You’ve got to stand out. No one owes you a living.”
When Alan Rusbridger visited the college he spoke about his book, Breaking News, and told students this was the most exciting time to enter the profession.
When was asked what advice he would give to student journalists. Mr Rusbridger replied: “You don’t want to go into journalism to write rubbish. You want to go into journalism to speak the truth.”
He also spoke about the ethical responsibilities of journalists and the rise of social media and said: “A survey shows two thirds of adults can’t tell the difference between a good news source or a bad source. There are so many different types of journalism and we expect the public to be able to differentiate between them.”
Mr Rusbridger firmly believes in the future of journalism, and urged students: “Go and be a journalist in the field that you want to work in or are passionate about.
“Previously the only way into the industry was to work for a local newspaper, but there are so many other entrances now.”
He also had strong opinions about the future of print journalism, saying that he believed that the future would see the survival of weekly and monthly publications, despite a continuing decline in national newspapers..
Mr Rusbridger studied English at Cambridge University and then worked for the provincial press, including the Cambridge News. He spent much of his career at The Guardian, working there from 1995-2015 and launching its Weekend Magazine and G2 sections.
He is now principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, is chairman of Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and is on the board of the National Theatre. His publications include the 2018 book Breaking News about the industry and its future and he has written a screen play Fields of Gold.