We caught up with Centre for Journalism graduate Oliver Trapnell who’s just secured a job as an overnight reporter for Express.co.uk. Oliver graduated with a 1st after completing his MA at Kent in 2020.
Why did you choose to study an MA Multimedia Journalism degree at Kent?
My journey to study an MA Multimedia Journalism degree at Kent was born from my undergraduate studies. I was doing an Anthropology degree at Kent but I still hadn’t made up my mind about my future career. It was when I was studying abroad in Japan that I was introduced to travel blogging. It allowed me to combine my interests in anthropology and travel with a form of journalism that I realised could become a career. I only wrote a few articles while I was there, but I can distinctly remember the feeling of gratification when I published an article I was passionate about.
One such article was a piece about a cafe in Hiroshima that invites the nuclear bomb survivors to give their testimonies to its patrons. I distinctly remember the feeling that this story was important because, in my mind, the survivors are 70, 80 or 90 years old and soon won’t be able to tell their stories in person. For me, to be able to listen to their stories and share that experience with others was one of the main reasons why I decided to become a journalist. I wanted to share life-changing, incredible stories like those shared by the bomb survivors. Going into my final year of uni as an undergraduate, I got involved in the student news publication and quickly built up a small portfolio. I knew that I wanted to take this passion and turn it into a career. I started researching universities that taught journalism as a Master’s and landed on Kent. I was taken in by the staff and facilities, both of which I thought were excellent.
Can you describe your time at CfJ?
It’s difficult to put into words… I felt every day was so different and the rate of my improvement was so extreme that comparing my abilities at the start and end of my time at Kent was like night and day. It was a space for experimentation where I could try different styles and ideas, and having immediate feedback on those ideas drove me to keep trying new things and learn from my mistakes. CFJ is a very close-knit community of staff and students and I often felt there was a mutual respect for each other not just as students and teachers but as journalists. I had a great bond with everyone on my course and ultimately every day was a blast.
What was good about it?
Put simply, I worked hard and felt that my hard work was rewarded. You get out exactly what you put into it; working on my NCTJ alongside my university studies gave me an immediate sense of gratification.
What did you think of the facilities at Kent?
The facilities at Kent are top class. At CFJ, we had state of the art computers and software on which to practice our skills. I learned very quickly after I left university that employers really value skills in these areas, and so I was incredibly privileged to have the chance to use them while studying. CFJ also has great radio and TV equipment, which really helped me make the most out of the modules available.
Did your course live up to your expectations?
It completely blew them away! I learned a great deal about what it means to be and thrive as a journalist. I had incredible support from the lecturers who were able to give me advice and guidance both in and out of the classroom.
What are you doing now?
I’m working as an overnight reporter for express.co.uk! I was applying to every position I was eligible for but struck gold with landing a job at a national publication right out the gate. I was very fortunate to get to this point.
Can you describe a typical day?
It would be more apt to say a ‘typical night’. I wake up around 7pm and my shift starts at 11pm! As soon as I sit down to work I can usually see my editor has a bunch of pre-planned stories for us to do. We usually cover world, royal and Brexit stories but have scope to cover a range of different topics. I work through the night until my shift ends as 7am, but the work doesn’t really end…I’m constantly reading and watching more news in order to come up with original story ideas. I love that about journalism! I love to think of watching and understanding world events as my job! I’m tasked with pitching at least three exclusive articles a week, so I usually put my feelers out to my sources after I sign off from my shift. For each article I produce, I need to make a headline, find appropriate images and resize them, and of course upload them onto the website.
How did Kent help you into a career?
Back in February 2020, while I was studying at CFJ, Angela Harrison (Lecturer in Reporting and Writing) posted a job advert on the CFJ blog for a position in the showbiz section of the Express. By this point I was doing applications to graduate schemes at all the major UK publications and thought ‘I’ll just apply’. I heard back within a week to say that another team was interested in my CV. I got to talking with them and they seemed to have a good feeling for me as a candidate. They advised me to finish my studies and apply again as they hired on a rolling basis.
The UK then entered into lockdown which put a stop to a lot of my plans, but I kept in touch with them and in November they contacted me to say they were hiring again. After a few rounds of back and forth, and a couple of interviews, they found me a place on the overnight reporting team. About one year since I completed that initial application, I was working for them.
Without having the support of Kent and its staff I wouldn’t be where I am today! I was also very lucky to attend CFJ on the same year as a general election. I was offered the opportunity to help out in KMTV’s 24h live coverage of the event where I was in a small team covering the Medway constituencies. This short bit of experience was enough to help push me to that additional height that employers were looking for on multiple occasions.
How do you see your career progressing?
I’d like to continue to work at national or local papers for a while, but at some point, I’d like to try my hand at doing travel pieces. It was where my journey began and I’d like to have another go at it. I feel as though I’m only constrained by my motivation to do something, so if I set my mind on doing something then I’ll try very hard to get it done!
Any advice for aspiring journalists and/or students thinking about studying at Kent?
If you’re considering pursuing a career in journalism then Kent is a fantastic option. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have constructive feedback and constant support from staff and that is something that Kent can provide in spades. Over my time at Kent my news writing skills improved drastically, and I can attribute that to having continuous feedback on my writing, television and radio work. For all those aspiring journalists, don’t give up! Keep writing and keep doing those applications because you never know which one will work out!
MA Multimedia Journalism at Kent
Our professionally accredited MA teaches multimedia journalism to graduates who intend to pursue a career in the news industry. Find out more.