Agricultural Journalist: Career Advice from Catherina Cunnane
With years of experience in the publishing and digital media industry, our resident editor, Catherina Cunnane, shares advice for aspiring agricultural journalists.
- Keep up-to-date with agricultural news – Have your finger on the pulse;
- Be a proficient social media user – Have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, ect;
- Learn from others – Work shadow a journalist or editor to obtain real-world experience in the profession. Use this opportunity to your advantage and ask questions – that is key to becoming a successful journalist, after all!
- Establish your own identity and build an online portfolio – set up your own blog site on Wix, WordPress, Weebly or Blogger, for example. This will enable you to perfect your writing skills, explore various writing styles, practice your interviewing skills and become familiar with content and social media management systems;
- Broaden your skillset – There are several creative writing, blogging, graphic design, SEO, broadcasting, photography, social media management, podcasting, and/or video editing courses – some of which are short, free and virtual – available that can enhance your CV;
- Education – Unlike other professions or industries, there is no agricultural media/journalism specialist course/ formal degree programme in Ireland. Therefore, there are various pathways into the field, which may take the form of completing a degree – undergraduate or masters, for example – in journalism, media, PR, communications, or other related fields. If you desire, you could add to your educational portfolio with a Green Cert or an award in the agricultural field at a higher level. Alternatively, you may consider completing a degree in agricultural science or agriculture at level 7 or level 8 before undertaking a brief writing/journalism course. Some agriculture/agricultural science graduates with strong journalistic acumen, may not even need to complete a writing course but instead may receive some in-house training with a senior journalist or editor at a media company. Also, some ag students complete a placement at media companies as part of their work experience module. It is worth noting that the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists holds a journalism training award programme, sponsored by John Deere, for ten trainees from various backgrounds with “very little or no” practical experience in journalism. It is designed to unearth the next generation of ag journos and returned last year, following a two-year Covid-induced absence.
- Apprenticeships – Others secure their foot on the career ladder through a media internship. Readers should note that a digital marketing and media NFQ level 6 apprenticeship will roll-out in Ireland in quarter 4 of this year, as reported by That’s Farming.
- Freelancing – Some companies offer freelancing opportunities, which may involve intermittent and varied submissions. You can gain some experience in ag media before you make the jump and maintain your current employment/educational commitments. That’s Farming currently has a number of opportunities for freelance writers. To find out more information, email – [email protected]
- Be familiar with journalistic ethics – In brief, seek truth and report it – be accurate, fair and thorough;
- Be a responsible social media user – Avoid posting unprofessional photos or statements. Think twice before you post – build and maintain a positive digital reputation. Beware of your usage and engagement – journalists are public figures;
- Common misconceptions – You do not need to have a farming/rural background to succeed as an agricultural journalist, nor do you need to have a writing background. It is possible to learn about both on-the-job, although it is important that you have a passion for both writing and agriculture/ rural affairs, ect.
- Traits – You need to be passionate, driven, hard-working, flexible, curious, professional, persistent, trustworthy, a proficient communicator, able to work independently and/or as a team player, creative and organised and have strong attention to detail.
- Challenges and opportunities – As is the case with every profession, it comes with its share of challenges and opportunities. A particular piece of content that you have high hopes for may not trigger your desired response, or it may not be perceived as positively as you anticipate either. Likewise, you may have to burn out the midnight oil or clock in before dawn to break an exclusive story or prepare your leads. But agricultural journalism can make for an opportunity-packed, fulling career that enables you to travel, network, inform, educate, and inspire!
For more information or queries, email – [email protected]