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Training Matters: From apprentice to senior reporter

Daniel Wright profile

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.


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  • June 2, 2016 at 7:51 am

    A senior reporter at 21 with almost 3 years ‘experience’

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  • June 2, 2016 at 9:28 am

    He’ll be a veteran by 25, Inky… or maybe just a vet because there won’t be anyone employed in local newspapers in four years. But Dan is obviously a man of drive and intelligence and will do well wherever he goes once the decline and fall of the newsprint empire has reached its sadly inevitable conclusion. Good luck, sir.

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  • June 2, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Not wishing to take anything away from Dan as he has obviously worked hard to achieve his accreditations and this first step on the ladder but the fact that a 21 year old can be appointed to a senior reporter role in less than three years says much about the state of an industry in rapid decline.
    with many seasoned and experienced journalists gone and a reliance on trainees and readers to supply content,the more traditional and sustainable path to a senior position was one built on key contacts,being known in the community,forging relationships with local business people,business groups and community leaders,and a good sound knowledge of the patch and it’s grass roots issues,all things that come with time and hands on experience,qualities that cannot be gleaned from a text book or absorbed by hot desking around departments.
    However Dans undoubted drive and delight at what he’s achieved so far will stand him in good stead for other positions outside of the regional press in the months, years to come as more closures are announced and more staff are moved on.
    A good future awaits keen young people like Dan, just probably not in the uk regional press

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  • June 2, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Another admirable attempt at finding something to moan about with every story.
    The KM has been pleased to be involved with the NCTJ’s apprenticeship scheme from the start because we think it’s important to offer as many paths into the industry as possible.
    Not everybody wants, or can afford, to go to university and I’m pleased the three apprentices we have recruited so far are all doing well. (I should add they were recruited in addition to our existing editorial team rather than to fill vacancies.)
    Dan’s a senior reporter because he worked really hard and put himself in a position where he was able to sit his exams at the age of 21. It’s preposterous to suggest he should be held back because he’s too young.
    As for Richard’s comments about contacts and knowing your patch, I’d have thought recruiting people who grew up and went to school in the area would be a positive thing.
    Don’t let the facts get in the way of a big old whinge though.

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  • June 2, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Problem with “….recruiting people who grew up and went to school in the area” is its ok if it was a little more than three years ago.
    if they’re to be taken seriously by business people and members of the community the will expect the local senior reporter to have some years of real life experience, it’s not about age it’s about credibility both for the individual and the business ( newspaper group) he or she represents.

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  • June 18, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Congratulations to him and good luck to him in his future whether that is in the regional press or not.

    I enjoyed speaking to him about the apprenticeship route and look forward to trying to emulate him even if not at the speed he is currently going at though.

    His advice about Lambeth was good advice to someboby going there as a beginner especially regarding shorthand.

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