Young Post editor-in-chief Susan Ramsay's top tips for aspiring journalists

Written by Chi Ching cHow


With over three decades of experience in the field of journalism, Ms. Ramsay had lots of advice to share with students. Here are some of Ms. Ramsay’s top tips for an aspiring journalist.

1. “Journalism needs to be fast.”

Be timely with your articles. When reporting an event, the article needs to be written, edited, and published as soon as possible. Your readers don’t want to read about something that happened two weeks ago - they need to know the latest news and information. An article doesn’t need to be a two-thousand word essay dissecting cause and effect of an incident - two paragraphs covering the six W’s will suffice.

2. “Convey information - not delight readers with your extensive vocabulary.”

Vocabulary is not the focal point of your article. Communicate information in a way that everyone can understand.

3. The truth, and the truth only!

The foundation of journalism is to get all the facts right. If you’re interviewing someone, you must understand what they are saying. If you don’t, ask them to repeat and repeat until you grasp it. Do not bluff any of your stories!


4. “Make your article the best you can in the chance that you’ve got.”

There is no such thing as perfect. Once your article is completed and published, let it go and move onto the next. Don’t dwell!

5. Dig for information under the surface.

A newspaper relays information, not things that can just be deduced with common sense. For example, when interviewing someone who just won a swimming competition, “I’m happy that I won” is not what you’re looking for! Ask them for tips and strategies: what do they do differently from other swimmers? How did they deal with difficulties during training? A journalist’s job is to get the details.

6. Important facts go in the first sentence.

Readers want to know what’s going on within their first glimpse of the article or even the headline. Not everyone ends up reading the entire article, which is why it’s important to deliver the essential facts in the opening paragraph.


7. And lastly… “the thing about journalism is… just do it. Just freaking do it.”

Year 11 students offered overall positive feedback in regards to Ms. Ramsay’s speech.

There was no shortage of questions from the Year 11 students, especially those who were interested in the Journalism career. “It was a productive talk,” Emily Li said, “Most students were very engaged.”

“Her presentation was rather engaging and I particularly enjoyed the stories she told us about her own experiences,” Miriam Lo said. “Her story was awe-inspiring and I really appreciate her vulnerability.”

“She’s a very charming speaker,” Li, expressed. She also added how interesting it was when Ms. Ramsay discussed ethical issues in journalism. When asked how reporting has affected her “faith in humanity”, Ms. Ramsay replied, “Who said I had any faith in humanity?”