Book Review: Red Top – Being A Reporter… by Bill Coles

Reviewed by Amy Pay

Anyone who has been on work experience will know that one of the best ways to find out about a potential career is to ask people currently working in the area about their job. Sometimes, the things that industry insiders tell you about their work are a thousand times more useful than the disconnected, generic advice drafted out of careers guides.

Unfortunately, for budding journos it is notoriously difficult to score relevant work experience unless you have a well-connected friend with a chunky book of contacts. Even those who are studying for a postgraduate journalism degree sometimes have to beg for weeks before they are allowed to poke their head around a newsroom door. This is where Red Top – Being A Reporter: Ethically, Legally and With Panache steps in.

Written by Bill Coles, a journalist with 25 years of experience on papers including The Sun and The Wall Street Journal, Red Top… provides a helpful insight into the life of a reporter. In concise, fluently written chapters, Coles takes time to run through industry definitions and buzzwords, explain the differences between various types of printed media and describe the hectic daily life of a typical journalist.

Coles’ book stands apart from theoretical journalism studies books because it includes handy tips for getting through the practical tasks that journalists carry out. For example, there is advice on developing contact directories, guidance on how to come across as confident on the phone, suggestions on how to schmooze without degrading yourself and even a little help on how to dress for specific media offices. This sort of insider info is interesting to read about and, importantly, priceless in the workplace.

While it focusses mainly on newspaper journalism, many of the discussions in the book apply to all fields in the industry. Sure, an editor of a monthly magazine may not have the exact same demanding immediacy for newsgathering that broadcasters and newspaper editors face, but the techniques and principles of working in the publications industry and the acceptable ways in which to act are largely the same. Red Top is a streamlined guide for those who want to be personable, ethical, productive and successful in the difficult, fast-paced journalism sphere.

Red Top – Being A Reporter: Ethically, Legally and With Panache is available now from Legend Press.

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