By Simon Cadman, Senior Lecturer BA Journalism
From the ‘mystical world of sleepwalking’ to ‘a history of punk rock and squatting’, Jak Hutchcraft has spent eleven years exploring extremes since he graduated from London Met with a Journalism degree.
The Face, Guardian, Kerrang! and VICE are amongst the wide portfolio of magazines and newspapers Jak’s written for as a freelancer.
So it was a triumphant return to London Met for Jak for a guest speaker appearance organised by Senior Lecturer Simon Cadman, who was one of his tutors back in the day.
Jak explained how his career gradually got traction, as he balanced jobs to pay the bills with his true calling – writing about bands, environmental activism, and groups of people on the fringes of society.
His number one tip for First Years? “Start writing about what you’re really interested in and never stop, whatever else is going on in your life.”
Blogging is the gateway to getting paid commissions, said Jak, because employers can see your showcased work, and know you’re serious: “You don’t need the green light from a newspaper or a magazine, or wait for them to offer to pay for it. You can say to yourself, right, I’m just going to do it. I’m going to write a New York Times-style article – it’s not going to be published there, but I’m going to write it to that standard, and take some great photos and put it on my own blog.
“You feel good, it’s fun, and it’s really good practice. And then when the real thing does come round, it’s not that daunting. The stuff I was writing before Kerrang! and VICE for my blog was very much like I ended up writing for those magazines.”
Jak was brimming with enthusiasm for his work, but had words of caution for students considering life as a freelance journalist: “Being a freelance, there’s a weird feeling, like it always feels like you’re working. You have to be disciplined to actually stop working. Last night I was working until midnight on my computer; that’s not good really, but it’s hard to switch off. You need to get paid. You need to get your articles done. Getting that discipline does come.”
But the immersive drive to get himself into places where other journalists fear to tread does not feel like work to Jak. Like when he was in deepest Cumbria being ‘baptised’ by the organiser of a secret Death Metal festival, a man who freely admitted he talks to wood nymphs.
“Does that feel like work? No, not at all. That’s the fun bit because you do find yourself in some interesting places. And you think, ‘Wow, I would never be here if it wasn’t for this story’. So, I was on a porn set once when I was writing about this porno channel, and it was like ‘what am I doing here?’. People were having sex in front of me and I was thinking, ‘This is ridiculous’. I’ve also been with religious groups when they’ve been trying to contact aliens; holding hands and trying to speak to our extra-terrestrial overlords. This does not feel like work. This is just interesting.”
Jak stayed on to talk to students who had more questions after the session, and generously shared a long list of music and lifestyle magazine contacts for students who want to get going early with their writing careers.
He made a big impression on First Year Lauren Spencer: “The biggest characteristic that struck me about Jak was his excitement and creativity. It was palpable from the moment he started talking. I came away from the lecture feeling reassured that I CAN follow every little creative whim and curiosity that I have; Jak is a living example of that. He’s telling stories from people we’d otherwise never hear from, and, because of that, he’s an asset to the media world. He’s been my favourite guest speaker so far.”
Read/hear/view Jak’s work on his website. Photo by Stephen Blunt.