Dan Wright, left, Herne Bay Gazette reporter and NCTJ Apprentice of the Year 2015, reflects on his journey from KM Group apprentice to becoming one of their senior reporters.
It’s a cliché I know, but if you told me in summer 2013 that two and a bit years later I’d be sitting at my desk as a senior reporter, I would never had believed you.
My journey started as the KM Media Group’s editorial apprentice in July 2013, fresh from finishing my sixth-form studies.
I had some GCSEs and A-Levels under my belt, but starting out at Kent’s only independent multimedia business at 18 years of age was always going to be a big change.
The KM scheme offered – and still does today – the chance to break into the media industry without spending thousands of pounds on university fees.
After spending three months at the Kent Messenger office in Maidstone, I went on a tour of the company’s editorial departments, stopping off for three-month stints at each.
Every day was a learning day and I quickly picked up the company style with help from my colleagues, developing my writing – and tea-making – skills along the way.
My course was neatly accompanied by day release training at Lambeth College every Friday, offering a nice balance of work and education.
It was hard work (we only had one shorthand lesson a week and the rest was down to you) but taking on the NCTJ-run scheme was well worth it.
I was fortunate enough to meet Prince Andrew twice – and even went to 10 Downing Street representing the journalism apprenticeships.
The scheme’s job description offered a structured two-year development plan, and it certainly delivered.
I went from struggling to understand Teeline to achieving my 100wpm, ticking off the rest of my exams on the way.
And I continued to learn in the office, too.
After switching from Maidstone to the company’s headquarters at Medway, I picked up how to publish stories online with the multimedia team, quickly adapting to the industry’s fast-paced nature.
A three-month stay on the East Kent sports desk followed, covering the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill for the first time and developing my feature writing with a number of extended pieces.
That helped when a switch to the What’s On leisure desk followed, interviewing a number of famous faces and adapting my style from straight news writing to flowery features.
And that was when the chance to jump up to trainee reporter at the Whitstable Gazette came about.
I spent a year covering the Whitstable patch in our busy Wraik Hill office, building my contacts list and learning how to fill the news pages every week.
In that time I won the NCTJ Apprentice of the Year award and completed my two-year apprenticeship scheme, leaving Lambeth College with a gold-standard Diploma in Journalism.
Since then I have switched to the busy Herne Bay Gazette and am already enjoying getting to grips with my new patch.
Earlier last month, I passed my NQJ and became a senior reporter aged 21.
Without the apprenticeship, I would never be in the position I am now – it has been a blast since the get-go.
While many of my school mates are just gearing up to leave university, I’m off and running as a senior reporter.
I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way.