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At this year’s Student Radio Conference I gave a talk titled ‘Editing is Sexy’. The first thing I said was perhaps more accurate:

Instead of ‘Editing is sexy’ this talk should really be called this: ‘Getting better at audio editing will give you better career prospects in radio’

I was talking to people in student radio, but I think it’s good advice for anyone working in radio. Below is a summary of my thinking. Basically: don’t neglect the art of editing audio.



A cheesy metaphor

If you work as a blacksmith you need to be able to use a hammer. Sure – if you’re starting your own blacksmith business these days you might need to have good people skills, management skills, marketing and social media skills. You might need to employ other people and be an all-round good entrepreneur and businessperson. You might want to run big blacksmith events and even stream them live online. But fundamentally, if your profession is blacksmithery, you need to be able to use a hammer.

A blacksmith works with metal and uses a hammer to shape it.

A radio employee works with audio and uses audio editing to shape it.

Cheesy. But true. And cheesy metaphors taste the best.


This really is top secret. Don’t tell anyone.

Are you ready for this?

A LOT of people who work in radio…perhaps even MOST people who work in radio…AREN’T that good at editing audio.

That’s the secret. The emphasis is important there.

And once you know that – you know that getting better at editing audio is an easy way to get ahead.

What do I mean by ‘editing’ here?

I’m mainly talking about the ability to edit audio. Do I mean video as well? Yes – I probably do, and the basic nuts and bolts of editing audio or video aren’t that dissimilar.

And getting better at ‘editing’ doesn’t mean becoming an editing ‘expert’. All I’m talking about here is giving audio editing the basic attention it deserves.

Here’s what I said at the Student Radio Conference:

All I’m trying to sell you is the idea that getting better at editing should be something you think about. If you do that, and the person sitting next to you doesn’t, you’re giving yourself an advantage over them that you didn’t have before.

Some of you will be complete beginners. It’s fine to practice editing just speech with no effects or music. You don’t need fancy software – get used to using Audacity – it’s free – it’s fine.

What I’m talking about here is just doing something, anything, to get better at editing. It might be running a podcast. Editing your station’s SRA award entries. Trying to make a few jingles for the features on your show. Just anything that gets you editing.

Me me me

My argument is, unsurprisingly, partly based on my own experience. I have no doubt that at every stage of my career thus far being slightly more proficient at editing than the person sitting next to me has helped me out.

Again – I stress that I’m not talking about really advanced editing techniques.

At the moment I get to create reports and packages for the largest current affairs programme in Europe. I have creative freedom and can only do it because I can edit audio quickly; the turnaround time isn’t long. I think this is great. Thanks, editing.

Thing I’ve made recently are over here. Below is one recent example where I was proud to bring together journalism and editing to deliver FACTS and SCIENCE to a huge audience. It’s nothing special but the fact I get to do this day in, day out, is.


(At the conference I was also asked about putting together radio packages like the above in a short space of time – the answer to which is in this blog post about making radio packages quickly.)

The radio industry agrees…

People working in radio who I spoke to about my talk wholeheartedly agreed with what I had to say. Whether in music or news, commercial or BBC – editing is just as important. Jacob for example, a brilliant producer at Radio 1, was clear that editing both audio and video are vital skills if you want to work there.

And in news-radio, here are a couple more comments I gathered ahead of the student radio conference. Jeremy Vine says that editing is vital for creating good radio packages and reports:

UPDATE – 10/02/14 – The BBC JTS is now open to applicants who are doing, or have completed, a broadcast journalism qualification. This is a change of heart – scroll to the bottom of this article for more details of the change.


The BBC’s Journalism Trainee Scheme gets a lot of applicants. So it doesn’t really need any extra publicity.

But…this year a handful of people have said to me in passing “so, do you think that journalism scheme is worth applying for?”, or “do you think that trainee journalism thingy is worth it?”. The majority of these have been people with at least a passing interest in current affairs, and people who are young, talented, and want to work full time in radio.

So I would like to publicly declare that the overwhelming answer is YES.

A lot of the very ‘top’ BBC-types started out as BBC journalism trainees. Among others: Huw Edwards, Jeremy Vine, Nick Robinson and former DG Mark Thompson (although I’m not sure we talk about him at the moment). The list of ‘big names’ is quite huge once you start looking. But perhaps that puts people off – not everyone wants to be the next superstar political correspondent.

If you’re not sure whether to apply, consider a few things:

  • If you want to work in media, and aren’t dead-set on music or entertainment programming then consider applying. If you think that one day at any point in the future you might have an interest in working on any programme on any medium with a factual premise, a background in journalism could be really helpful.
  • Consider the range of programmes that require journalistic training. It’s not just the ‘main’ news programmes. Just within BBC radio, a journalism background helps put you ahead in all of BBC Local Radio. You need it for almost any job at 5 Live. Most Radio 4 programmes require it – that might obvious for Today or PM, but even something like the Food Programme will be made by people with a journalism background. Then there’s The Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2… And that’s just BBC radio! Nevermind TV (the majority of documentary-makers will be journalists, whether it’s for Benefits Street or Panorama), and nevermind the entire commericial sector (journalists will flourish at LBC and Talksport).
  • The clue’s in the money. As a ‘trainee’ you’re being offered around £20k for a full-time job in the media. Yes, if you get the job you probably have enough talent to go off and earn far more in a different sector – but a full-time ‘trainee’ job on this salary shows that it’s a serious position compared to any other entry job in the sector. And the level of funding behind the training and support you get is something else again.
  • As point three suggests – this scheme really is the jewel in the crown of BBC traineeships.

It’s also designed for ‘career-changers’ too – not just graduates or people in their early-20s looking to start their career.

Sadly, it’s not for people who already have a journalism qualification, so if you’re a journo graduate you can’t apply (UPDATE 10/02/14 – THIS HAS NOW CHANGED. SEE BELOW)**. I’ll defer to the official wording:

To be considered for the JTS you need to be an avid follower of news. You regularly read the local and national newspapers, watch television and listen to radio. You also have an excellent grasp of social media.

There is no age limit and the scheme welcomes career-changers who have ambitions to work in broadcast news, but have been pursuing a career in other industries.

Our scheme is not for complete beginners, but neither is it open to anyone who is already working as a broadcast journalist or has a qualification in broadcast journalism.

So basically – if you know you’re eligible and have at any point thought “I wonder if I should apply for this…” then APPLY!

Watch a video about it here – and apply here.

You have until the 10th February** (extended until the 17th February)



Rather oddly (not as many applicants as previous years? Too many complaints about the criteria?***) the JTS scheme is now open to anyone who has a Broadcast Journalism qualification, and the deadline to apply has been extended to the 17th February.

The JTS is DEFINITELY still worth applying for if you have this qualification. It’ll get you a full time paid job in journalism for the BBC – which, if you’ve been studying broadcast journalism – is presumably something you’d be very keen on!

This is a pretty big turn-around in the entry criteria, because I would imagine application numbers will massively swell.

It is – in my personal opinion – very much the right thing to do.

If you’ve got a qualification – make sure your application stands out. This course is going to be about you and your talents, they won’t care much that you’ve learnt the ‘legal stuff’ as part of your course, for example – because so will everyone else.

And, if you haven’t got a journalism qualification and are now worried about the competition, I wouldn’t worry unduly. They won’t be giving preference to those with the qualification, and their experience won’t necessarily put them ahead. But…it does mean there will be more people to compete against!


@BBCTrainees has Tweeted the reason for the change of heart on the entry criteria:

“For those of you who are wondering about the rationale behind widening the #bbcjts criteria, this year sees the BBC launch a brand new apprenticeship across its Local Radio network aimed at non-grads, with a purpose of growing future Broadcast Assistants with an interest in journalism. In light of this expansion to our entry-level opportunities, we’ve revisited the entry criteria for our higher-level Journalism Trainee Scheme and will for the first time be opening it up to those who’ve completed a Broadcast Journalism course at University.”