How criticism made me a better journalist

“If your work doesn’t improve dramatically I think you should seriously reconsider your career as a journalist”

That was the advice I received around one week into my first writing job, as a freelancer. I was new to the news writing game and had barely written my 10th article. After four years at university, writing well over 80,000 words of essays and reports, I figured that I was a good writer. In truth, I didn’t have a clue how to write proper news stories.

I was angry, I was hurt and upset. I took the advice and seriously considered my future as a journalist… For about five seconds.

I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and right there and then took the criticism on the chin and decided to improve. It still took me another few months to reach a level that required little to no sub-editing and I’m still learning to this day, 8 months on from that piece of advice.

I happen to have quite the stubborn personality, which apparently helps in this field. If someone tells me “you can’t” or “you’re terrible at this” I’ll just think “watch me” and throw myself into becoming better. Criticism is very hard to take, and being a perfectionist/competitive person I always take it harder than I perhaps should. As soon as I hear the editor’s keyboard clacking after I submit a story I immediately castigate myself for messing up.

Yet it’s this attitude that has enabled me to get to where I am. I have no journalism qualifications (yet) and have gone up against candidates for jobs who have got the degrees and the qualifications over and over again and been pipped to the post. If you’re not willing to improve continually then you’ll end up in a dead end.

That piece of criticism I received barely days into my journey as a writer has stuck with me throughout what happened afterwards, and I often look back at the articles I wrote to remind myself how far I’ve come in such a short time.

Good god, some of them are awful.

Weekly tech news roundup – 21/05/14

Welcome to another week’s tech news roundup! As always there’s a good load of news for you to digest.

IBM has discovered a new polymer that is stronger than human bones and can fully repair itself. The possibilities are endless, as it can be sued to increase the strength of plastics and materials by 50%.

China and the US have been in a hissy-fit throwing contest. The States declares (in one of the most hypocritical announcements ever made) that China has been illegally spying on its industries. In retaliation China has decided to stop buying Windows 8 for its government computers. Poor Microsoft!

Here’s the rest of the news, as per usual!

Primary school develops unique social network for pupils

Cisco to free users from boardroom with cloud meeting service

Oracle acquires VDI startup GreenBytes

Companies risk all by skimping on security say Verizon

Dropbox taps up 3D photo startup Bubbli

Cisco CEO: Tech City is no Silicon Valley competitor

IBM discovers self-healing polymer stronger than bone

Microsoft Azure to ceritfy SAP apps in new cloud deal

Information overload driving up office worker stress

Box Android app overhaul introduces revamped UI & features

IBM to make big data accessible to users via cloud

Employees steal data to make good impression in a new job

Amazon & Snapchat ranked bottom for government requests

Google linked to $1bn acquisition of video game site Twitch

Apple & Google settle long-running patent war

Outage cripples Creative Cloud

US slams China for state-sponsored cyber-espionage

Windows 8 banned by Chinese government

Half of accountancy clients want cloud-based services

BlackShades malware distributors targeted in global arrests

WhatsApp for Windows Phone pulled due to 8.1 bug

Are Apple, Microsoft & Samsung using slave labour?

Tech news roundup – 14/05/2014

Aaaand I’m already late the party. I was in Amsterdam yesterday attending a meeting so I didn’t have the time or the Wi-Fi to get a good tech news roundup in.

At any rate I hope you haven’t missed me too much and are ready to dive into some choice news!

Samsung have made a bit of a blunder in revealing the specs and looks of their new tablet the Galaxy Tab 6 in a filing to the FCC in the US.

Facebook has said that it wants to open an office in China despite the company’s social network being banned in the country since 2009.

In a landmark ruling, search engines in Europe will be liable for the data that is shown by their results. Google has been successfully brought to court over failing to remove a man’s credentials.

As always, here’s the rest:

Samsung Galaxy S Tab specs revealed in FFC filing

Apple WWDC 2014: iOS 8, iWatch and OS X 10.10

Security being left in the dust amidst rising cloud adoption

AWS adds professional exams to cloud certification scheme

OpenStack Marketplace aims to clear up open-source confusion

Facebook wants to open an office in China by 2015

Office iPad apps top 27m downloads in 6 weeks

Box to light up General Electric with cloud collaboration

Google has to delete private data, says EU court

Samsung Galaxy S5 ships 10 million units in 25 days

IBM CEO outlines 10-year growth plan for Big Blue

Amazon CTO: focus on the customer to aid cloud adoption

Heartbleed bug still a threat after flawed patches

Apple iPhone 6 release set for August?

Data breach leaves Bitly accounts compromised

Met Police to trial body cameras

Apple waves goodbye to US sales head and PR chief

Is Microsoft planning a smartwatch?


Wednesday technews roundup – 07/05/14

It’s been a while since I did one of these!

But now I’m back with some lovely fresh news for all of you who look to WordPress (and me) for what’s going on in tech.

I’ll hopefully be doing these every Wednesday to keep everyone informed, since it seems to be when the news really peaks for us in the office.

So, without further ado, here we go!

HP have announced their new Helion portfolio, offering enterprise customers an open source solution to their cloud management whilst also protecting them from indemnity.

On the weirder side of cloud, spreadsheets hosted in it are being used to track Mexican immigrants and pregnant goats.

Google has caused a bit of a stir as emails have emerged detailing that they may have been a bit more friendly with the NSA than they claimed.

As always, here’s the lot, below:

HP backs open source cloud computing with Helion launch

Immigrants and goats tracked by cloud-based spreadsheets

Controversial copyright firm sets sights on UK

Cloud storage users accidentally leak vital data

Leaked emails show NSA’s close ties with Google

Oculus Rift headset trialled by Norwegian army

Companies confused by cloud security with encryption on the rise

AMD banks on ARM & x86 merger with Project SkyBridge

Symantec: “Anti-virus software is no moneymaker”

US court orders cloud providers to hand over customer data

Tesco to follow-up Hudl success with Samsung Galaxy S5 “challenger”

OneNote for Mac & iPhone receives functionality boost

Apple, Google & Microsoft set to notify users of government data requests

Apple headphones to feature health monitors in future?

Almost one-fifth of UK theft leads to data loss

“Dark Wallet” bitcoin software aims to keep users anonymous

Drop in data breach fines despite uptick in security leaks

Microsoft reinforces commitment to UK start-ups

Just keep swimming – part two

A little while ago I wrote a post on my blog emphasising that in a “chase your dreams” way, you should always work towards your goals. In essence, just keep swimming.

Since that post, which introduced the fact I had been tapped to start a career as a freelance journalist (something a lot do at the end of their careers, not the start), I’ve been in for a rather whirlwind seven months.

Through a tough month and a half or so, when my grammatical skills, spelling and syntax were put through the wringer (and I still struggle with the fact companies are singular), I was schooled in what would be required of me. I had no bones about journalism; I knew that without a degree I was going in blind, not really knowing what was expected.

All through my tenancy as a freelancer I was on the lookout for a job that could put me into writing full time. Applications were sent to the British Museum, National Heritage, Nintendo Magazine, Nuts, Men’s Health, FourFourTwo and more.

The rejection, refusals and simple non-answers flooded in, but I kept going. Soon enough along came a second freelance role at IT Pro Portal, which was handy, as Tech Radar Pro were slimming their news output and had no more room for me.

An application to PC Pro at Dennis Publishing pinged back to me one day. I hadn’t got the job, it read, but would I like to apply to work at two other of the company’s publications, IT Pro and Cloud Pro?

I accepted, having read through the webpages and their content. To my surprise I was accepted to interview. What followed was a rather nervous interview (I’ve since been told my frantic pen-clicking was driving the interviewer barmy) and a rather more relaxed trial day.

Then, just like that, I received a call asking if I would like to accept a full time job offer as a staff writer.

I still can’t really believe it. From despairing back in November 2013 that I had no time to write to get my name out there to suddenly being a writer for two of the most popular tech websites in the UK.

I never gave in, as much as I wanted to. Every temptation was there for me to sack it in and attempt an “any degree will do” job, but I stuck with it. Through thick and thin, and poor and poorer, I refused to apply for any job that wasn’t writing.

Here I am, and I couldn’t be happier.

(He says, before his probation period has finished).

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