Alan Ferguson is a Reporter for the Clydebank Post and focuses on general news and entertainment.
You graduated from the University of the West of Scotland in 2014 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism. How did you make the most of your time at University and what was it like transitioning from being a student to taking the first steps in building your career?
Alan: University was a good chance to build my CV with work experience. That's what my lecturer advised, so that's what I did. I managed to rack up a lot of experience while at university. I had the nose for a story though I was awful at writing, but I think they sensed my passion for journalism. I managed to get a lot of bylines through the support I got from Bart Dickson at Pressteam Scotland, who I credit with me being able to get additional work experience elsewhere. I put the work in as well, though.
I took a year out and worked as a full-time reporter there and that job was where I made the most mistakes and had the worst writing skills. They did get better, and I did have the nose for a story, so I was able to get along okay. Going back to university and finishing there, going into the Clydebank Post, was fairly painless and a great moment in my life.
The second element from university that's helped me is doing the actual course work and accumulating knowledge about the media and politics. I found this useful and very interesting, and it has had a lasting impact. The course modules got me used to working with video and sound gear, which I was already not too bad with when I first went to university. It introduced me to inDesign, and having already known a lot of Photoshop I was able to pick it up easily and begin throwing together pages quite quickly. I still use all of these skills in my career, and given the growing digital nature of the job, I'm pretty glad of that.
You've gained an impressive amount of experience over the past few years with the likes of The Scottish Sun and South West News Service. What do you think you've done well in terms of getting yourself out there and getting work?
Alan: I had a lot of confidence in putting myself out there after that early introduction at Bart Dickson's Pressteam Scotland. It was an experience that got me a lot of bylines in the national press. I also managed to sell a lot of stories of my own after tapping into the Facebook and social media gaffs journalism, which not many were running back then. I sold a good few to the Sun and managed to bring in those bylines and get onto their work experience programme. I loved being at the Sun. I was on the features desk and was able to stay an additional two weeks, fully paid, to cover for someone. I was later invited back to cover T in the Park as well. I cringe now, though, remembering how bad my copy was. So indeed, I did do a lot of work experience and I would say that this, combined with my digital skills, got me into the jobs I have had at the Border Telegraph and here at the Clydebank Post. Despite all the experience, I'm still a very unexperienced journalist, though.
You've been with the Clydebank Post since September 2014. What does a typical day's work involve and what was the learning curve initially like?
Alan: I've been at the Post for a year now. The typical day involves coming into work, getting a coffee, scheduling stories from the website to go onto Facebook and chasing up stories I'm working on. Most days require different goals. On Tuesday, for example, in the morning we're finishing the paper. My job's to man the phones and do any odd jobs needed to finish the paper while my colleagues sub the paper. On Wednesday, I'm out doing interviews, story hunting and news gathering and don't tend to do a huge amount of writing. Later in the week, I do a lot of writing up. Writing wise, I do everything from politics, to crime and community events. Everything except sport.
During all of this I manage the website, and keep it updated with content. I use social media to drive traffic to the site and use ever-tempting headlines and pictures to make the stories all that more irresistible to click on. It's all good content, though, and our online readership numbers show that. We've a good team here and with some good online skills, the content can spread far and wide. We usually top the league table for online views in our company's papers, and that makes me very proud. I've put a lot of effort into making our social media feel alive and we now benefit from a loyal Facebook audience and a growing Twitter following. I enjoy this part of the job the most - the online coordinating. However, I should say that it does require quality journalism to flourish like it has done at the Clydebank Post.
Thinking back to your University days from 2009 until 2014, what advice would you give to your younger, student self, or to anyone else who is looking to work in a role similar to yours?
Alan: I would say to them to learn shorthand as soon as you can, because it's so much easier than going through a dictaphone and transcribing your waffle. I do use my phone to do a lot of recordings, though, as my shorthand isn't great. I'm working on it and it's a lot better than it was when I started with the Clydebank Post one year ago. Work experience is the most important thing, though, and you need to do as much as you possibly can and try get some good bylines. Practice writing, too, and read a hell of a lot of news. I'd be prepared to deal with crappy pay for a while... Though the job is rewarding, so you survive.
Follow Alan on Twitter: @alan_ferg