Cătălina Albeanu talks about her professional journey and shares tips on how to get your career started abroad
There are many different career paths journalism students can take after graduation. How to choose the one that’s right for you? And what are the steps you can take to achieve your career goals? To help aspiring journalists navigate this fast-paced industry, we launched the monthly newsletter “100 Paths to Journalism”, featuring career tips and Q&As with industry professionals.
This month, we talked with Cătălina Albeanu, the digital editor at Romanian magazine Decât o Revistă (DoR). Originally from Romania, Cătălina studied Journalism at the City University of London and gained her first professional experience at journalism.co.uk. After volunteering as a student blogger, she was hired by the publication and in a few years became their international editor.
One year ago, Cătălina returned to her home country and joined the quarterly magazine DoR as a digital editor working on magazine’s digital presence and membership models.
This is what she told us about her experience of starting a career abroad and working her way up in the journalism industry.
My first full-time job in media was at journalism.co.uk, where I spent four years following the latest developments at the intersection of media and technology. I was writing, editing and organising training as well as the newsrewired conference, a knowledge-sharing space for media professionals.
A couple of years ago, I met the DoR team and found out more about their upcoming plans for organisational development — focusing on the existing community of readers. They were hiring for a few different roles at the time, so I reached out to see if there was a chance to work together.
After my first year of university, I worked for a month as a trainee for the Olympic Broadcasting Services during London 2012. Later, I was a volunteer student blogger for the conference journalism.co.uk organised. It was a one-day role to help cover the event on social media.
Several months later they were hiring, and I applied as they had contacted some of the previous student bloggers about the opportunity. The recruitment process was an interview followed by a week of paid trial-shifts. I was offered a reporter role after about two months.
I wasn’t so much worried about the application process for newsroom jobs, but about what the different roles would entail. I thought that was the decisive moment when I would choose the kind of journalism I would do forever and the subjects in which I would build expertise.
I was more attracted to online journalism roles because I felt they were more versatile. You could do text and audio, video and social media depending on what the story needed.
When I became a media reporter, the biggest challenge at first was building credibility and dealing with any potential mistakes. Our audience was professional journalists, who would definitely spot anything out of place, but a general audience is not very forgiving either.
Journalism.co.uk produced a podcast and we were all responsible for it on rotation. We each had one or two episodes a month to produce, from coming up with the idea to arranging interviews, recording, editing and publishing it.
I loved the editing most and I wish I had spent more time exploring the opportunities audio gave me as a storyteller. But very often, the podcast was just one of the things we had to do that week, and it became a matter of simply getting something out on time.
Find the journalism communities in your town, attend meetups as much as possible and get to know more about what life in newsrooms is like. You will start building contacts, feel less like an outsider, and learn about the skills that are currently needed.
If you’re studying journalism abroad, check out the events the university organises. The City University of London, where I studied, often organised panel discussions with media professionals, which were a good opportunity to meet journalists. It also helps to build your online accounts, but being present offline is important too.
Journalism.co.uk has an editorial team of three, so very shortly after I joined I was also editing my colleagues’ stories. We were each other’s copy editors. But the entire team changed within my first year there, which gave me the terrifying opportunity for promotion.
I became the news editor after about a year in the organisation. That meant I was looking after the editorial calendar and made sure we had stories coming up and activity on all social channels. I also took over the organisation of the newsrewired conference at that time, so it was a steep learning curve.
My job title is digital editor but my responsibilities have varied since I joined. I started with the mission to find and apply for funding for our digital transition process that would enable us to grow our community of members and to offer online options for readers to support us, in addition to subscribing to the print magazine. DoR has always had a strong link to its readers and it was time for a technology upgrade and for strategic thinking to help the community grow.
In 2019, we have been part of the Engaged Journalism Accelerator, Google’s DNI Fund and the Membership Puzzle Project, so I became more of a project manager. I was involved with recruitment, organising a survey of our community and I explored options for tools we could use. Alongside this, I support the editorial team with social media tasks, newsletter production and troubleshooting when needed.
Roles and tasks vary depending on the publication, the structure and the size of the team. In some organisations, digital editors upload content online and manage the website. In others, they focus on more interactive storytelling, or they coordinate reporters and collaborators or deal with budgets.
It really depends on the organisation that you’ll be working in, rather than on the job title. “Digital” is slowly disappearing from job titles as these tasks become more integrated into the workflow of everyone in the newsroom, and not just the expertise of a digital team.
Having an interest in technology and its opportunities for journalism is a given. It’s also important to build your understanding of analytics and how readers interact with stories online, as well as learn project management.
You’ll likely need to work with designers, developers, photographers and other collaborators, so it’s good to have a plan for coordinating teams as well as more traditional editorial skills.
Previous experience, especially for a starting position, could mean expertise you’ve developed working on passion projects, or it could mean student media. Don’t get discouraged if there’s a role you’d like to do and think you’d be good at — definitely apply if you have the skills. The way you built those skills is part of your journalism experience.
Training schemes and fellowships could also be a way to get your foot in the door, and there are more and more paid internships out there. My CV wasn’t built with media internships, because I was a journalism student at the peak of the unpaid internship situation and I had to work a paid job to support myself. But I found more and more short term paid opportunities towards my final months of university.
If you’re interested in community engagement, definitely subscribe to the Gather newsletter.
Columbia Journalism Review is a go-to place for bigger picture media analysis.
Journalism.co.uk and Adam Tinworth’s blog are great resources for case studies and thoughts on digital innovation and strategy.