How volunteering for Culture24 could help you

By Corrine Field | 01 January 2009
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Shows a photograph of a woman with short dark hair and glasses working at her computer.

This is me typing this article.

Corinne Field parted ways with Culture24 (then called 24 Hour Museum) in 2004 to start a family, but here she tells how she rose through the virtual ranks from volunteer to sub editor.

My first published article appeared on the old Culture24 website, 24 Hour Museum. It is the first time many new writers get to see their words in print and their name in lights.

Culture24 covers daily news stories about Britain’s arts and heritage scene, as well as exhibitions stories and features. It actively encourages contributions from volunteer writers and has a network of students and newly qualified journalists all over the UK.

I was in my sixth week of an NCTJ Magazine Journalism course when I first came across the 24 Hour Museum. As part of the news writing element each student went on a half-day work experience placement at the Brighton-based website.

It was a nerve-wracking experience but a chance to put my news writing skills to the test. Rather like the Handout exam, I was required to write a story from a press release in just an hour and I had only been studying journalism for a few weeks.

My biggest fear was getting the job done in the time. I also worried it would not be good enough to publish and leave them a story short. But my worries were unfounded. The journalists were very supportive and gave me lots of pointers about how to structure the story, who to approach for quotes as well as information about their house style – you can find out about house style in the For Volunteers section of the website.

After a busy afternoon I watched my story uploaded on to a mock-up site, where all new stories can be viewed before they go live. And the next morning the story was published with my byline.

Working in the office is not something that Culture24 can offer everyone who wants to write for them. But there is the opportunity to write news, reviews and sometimes features as a freelance.

While still studying for my NCTJ I wrote several exhibition stories, two of which I used in my portfolio as examples of press events that I had attended.

Culture24 journalists are invited to press viewings and private views for all the new museum and gallery exhibitions that take place in the UK including such prestigious events as the Turner Prize exhibition and the unveiling of important archaeological discoveries like the Viking Burial in Cumbria. There is so much going on in the world of arts and culture it is impossible for Culture24 editorial staff to cover these events themselves, which is where the army of volunteers come in.

If heritage and the arts is where your interest lies then writing for Culture24 can be a very rewarding experience and a great opportunity to build up a portfolio of published work.

And if your work catches the editor’s eye there are a small number of opportunities to work in the office. After completing my NCTJ I worked for two months as a research assistant, helping the editorial team out with research for features as well as writing news and exhibition stories.

I was trained on the editing client, our version of Quark, and learned the skills needed to be a successful online journalist and designer. This led to a permanent part-time position as a sub editor. I am now responsible for subbing the work of other volunteers, which involves sourcing pictures, making sure the copy is in a web-friendly format and conforms to our house style.

I still write news stories and exhibition reviews and have worked on several projects for Culture24 outside of my office hours, including a project in association with the BBC2 series Battlefield Britain.

Throughout my time with Culture24 I was given the benefit of advice from seasoned journalists with many years experience in the field of arts journalism. The team have not only helped me with my writing but also to build up a healthy contacts book and advised me about further freelance opportunities in my chosen field.

If you want to find out more about being a volunteer in the first instance contact Culture24 editor, Richard Moss at richard@culture24.org.uk