Trainee update - PA bursary scheme

PA BAME Bursary

To help PA better reflect the communities we cover, our bursary scheme helps budding journalists from socially and ethnically diverse backgrounds enter the profession.

Grace Rahman, Maariyah Pathan and Olawale Kuponipe are at varying stages of their traineeships at PA, and took a few minutes to share their experiences so far. 

Grace Raham, NCTJ News

​Grace is halfway through PA Training’s News Journalism course. Before that, she was editor of Imperial College’s weekly paper, where she described spending her time “annoying the student union, FOI-ing how much the college was invested in arms companies and generally causing headaches for the university”. She applied for the PA bursary after seeing the details on Facebook.

What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve experienced so far?

I suppose I knew this before, but journalists now have to be multifaceted. Video production, being a decent Twitter user, getting that shorthand, not getting sued and of course, the ability to write good copy are all necessary skills for today's young journalists. Luckily we're doing it all on the PA news course, and soon I'll be multitasking with the best of them upstairs.

Did you have any thoughts or misconceptions about journalism that have changed since you joined PA?

Before I started the course I thought journalists had to very quickly find their niche and decide early on whether to be a sports, features, news or funny writer. After nine weeks on this course I've realised it's good to keep your options open, and know a little bit about everything. I even know a few tidbits about sport now, which I never thought would happen, but I know it'll make me a better journalist.

What are you most looking forward to?

I'm looking forward to the variation in my working day. I know that once I'm upstairs one day I could be interviewing an actor and the next day throwing hard hitting questions at MPs.

What do you hope to get out of the traineeship?

I hope the traineeship makes me a well-rounded journalist, and hopefully chuck a few challenges at me. A scoop that went national would be nice! I also need to get to 35,000 Twitter followers by 2018 or I lose a bet with a university friend, but that's less pressing.

Maariyah Pathan, NCTJ News

​Maariyah is two months into her traineeship with the News team. A graduate of PA Training’s News Journalism course at VBR, she was encouraged to apply for the bursary during her interview for the course.

What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve experienced so far? 

The thing that has surprised me the most is how closely PRs and journalists work. I think this is something you only truly understand once you start working in the newsroom. I think I have found this especially surprising because I started my traineeship on Snappa which is stylistically more open to press releases and quirky PR campaigns. I have really enjoyed working with PRs and feel like I have created some pretty cool stories out of the content I have been sent.

Another thing I have found surprising is the pace at which things move. For example I was working an evening shift when a video of a police officer in London attacking a car broke. It was fascinating to see how fast the story grew and how social content created a pretty epic story within itself.

Did you have any thoughts or misconceptions about journalism that have changed since you joined PA?

Misconception: That journalists can be very unapproachable people who are always too busy to talk to.

Reality: Yes journalists are very busy, however everyone from editors, to junior reporters will take the time to answer your questions and give advice whenever you ask for it. Everyone is really friendly, and although people are working under immense time pressures they are still approachable.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The thing I enjoy the most is being able to communicate through writing. I enjoy the process of receiving a brief or finding something interesting online and turning it into a news story available for people everywhere to read. It is this transition of knowledge, from my words to readers, that I find  incredibly exciting.

I am looking forward to gaining experience from the different desks. I can't wait to spend time on the Wire as I will have the opportunity to visit courtrooms and truly feel like I am in the thick of all the action. I’m also looking forward to learning a host of more technical skills on the video desk as this is something I haven't done much of in the past.

What do you hope to get out of the traineeship?

I only started in August so I still feel like it’s still early days. However I really enjoy being in the newsroom, the buzz and atmosphere make me feel like I belong here. I hope the traineeship teaches me the skills that I need to become a successful and highly-regarded journalist.

Olawale Kuponipe, NCTJ Sports

Olawale is 15 months into his traineeship with the Sports team. He graduated from university last year and enrolled on the NCTJ Multimedia Journalism course at VBR. His potential was spotted by Tony Johnston, former Head of PA Training, who encouraged him to apply for the bursary.

What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve experienced so far?

How varied the days are. One day I could be sent out to record video at Arsenal’s press conference, and the next day I’ll be covering cricket at Lord’s. You never know what the next day will offer but that brings an element of excitement to the job.

Did you have any thoughts or misconceptions about journalism that have changed since you joined PA?

My thoughts on preparation have changed. It is so important for any journalist to be mentally and physically prepared for an event because you never know when your number will be called. Being versatile is also a virtue that can help you in the long run. Having general knowledge on most, if not all, sports, for example, is essential for a sports journalist because you will always be in consideration for most events.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The range of sporting events I get the opportunity to cover. A year and half ago I used to watch most of these events on television but PA have given me the chance to go out into the field and learn the trade first hand.

What do you hope to get out of the traineeship?

As well as experience in journalism, I hope to grow as a person during the traineeship. Journalism teaches you how to be thick-skinned and deal with pressure. From conducting phone interviews to filing copies of work on a deadline, the skills I have picked up will stay with me in the future.

Successful applicants receive a place on PA Training’s NCTJ-accredited Diploma in Journalism course, with fees covered by the PA; a bursary to cover living expenses whilst studying in London; and a two-year training placement with PA’s News or Sports teams, on a full trainee salary.
The scheme will reopen for applications early next year.

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PA BAME Bursary


Clara Strunck

"If you really want to pursue a career as a journalist, I would say that doing your NCTJ diploma at PA is one of the best decisions you can make. You leave qualified, confident and much more employable – and you make some great friends along the way."

Clara Strunck // Freelance Video Journalist

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