5 Minutes with the Media – Melanie May

Every week here at MediaHQ we chat with a member of the media landscape to get an insight into what’s it’s like to work in the Irish industry, including the challenges media professionals currently face. 

This week we chat with freelance journalist, Melanie May. 

What is your current role and what does it involve day to day?

As a freelance journalist, I have a few different roles that help pay the bills.

I’m the motoring correspondent for TheJournal.ie where I write and produce all the content for the weekly Motoring Magazine. I test drive and review new cars, research and write feature articles and report on the latest motoring news.

I’m also the Content and Social Media Editor for CompleteCar.ie. As you can guess from the title, it’s another motoring website. My role there is to develop and grow the company’s digital presence across various social media platforms. I also create and oversee the implementation of our digital marketing strategies. Another aspect of my job is sub-editing. I edit all the articles for style, grammar and keywords. Then, I create headlines with SEO awareness before uploading them to the company website.

I also create motoring content for other clients including specialist websites, newspapers and magazines.

But wait, there’s more! I am also a freelance travel journalist. I’ve had travel features published in The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Mail and the Sunday Times.

In my free time, I write for my own food and travel blog, Travel Eat Write Repeat at www.melaniemay.com.

Did you always want to be a journalist? What piqued your interest?

I have dyslexia, so I didn’t think a job as a journalist was an option. So, I never considered it as a career. I studied drama and film studies at university and then went on to become a school teacher.

After university, I went travelling and started sending weekly emails detailing my adventures. I thought nothing of them, but people would reply saying I was a great storyteller and they enjoyed my writing. This positive reception to my writing piqued my interest in pursuing a career in writing. It’s amazing what some positive feedback and encouragement can do.

I then went back to University and studied Psychology where I honed my technical writing skills.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I love that I set my own hours and can work from home. This means I don’t have to sit in rush hour traffic. Oh, and I also get to travel the world test driving new cars on some magnificent roads.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?

You need discipline when working from home. Working for myself means I find it hard to stop working sometimes. There is always more I could and should be doing. I definitely work more hours now and take fewer holidays than I did when I worked for other people. I find it hard to strike a healthy balance between work and relaxing.

Do you think there are any challenges facing the media industry at the moment?

I think that the impact fake news has had on trust in journalism is the biggest challenge. I feel that in many cases audiences don’t believe anything anymore. They don’t know whom to believe or what news sources to trust.

With the amount of misinformation on social media, it is now more important to publish news which is right rather than to publish first.

On the plus side, I think that the rise of fake news has led to journalists becoming much more conscious about what they publish. Audiences are also questioning sources and biases in the media a lot more too.

Do you have any advice for those looking to get into the industry?

I got my current roles because the right people read my work and liked it. It is important that you publish your work so people can read it. Setting up your own blog is a cheap and easy way to do this. Think of it as an online portfolio where you can direct prospective employers to your work.

Pitch stories to as many online and print publications as you can. Pitch more than once. If rejected, send another pitch for a different idea.

If you are fortunate enough to be in a position to take up an internship, do. They are valuable for gaining insight, skills and connections. Unfortunately, these don’t pay well, if at all, so they are not suitable for everyone. I did a poorly paid internship but it was in addition to my paid work. I worked long hours every day!

Gain skills in as many different areas as possible. It is not enough to just be a good writer. You need to know how to write for print as well as online. Learn about SEO and social media and how they can help with journalism. Up-skill and learn how to take photographs, make videos and produce podcasts. You need many skills in today’s digital age. You don’t need to spend a fortune doing this either, you can learn all of these from YouTube.

However, if you are still in school or thinking about going back to university, consider doing a journalism course. This will enhance your CV and give you a great foundation from which to start your career.