Industry Voices

Annabel Nugent | PPA Student of the Year | Culture Reporter, The Independent

By Jess Browne-Swinburne

2 Dec 2020

Winner of PPA Student of the Year tells us the reasons behind choosing a career in journalism, those she looks up to, the work she is most proud of and the advice she would give to anyone embarking on a masters in journalism.

What made you want to go into journalism?

I really loved writing when I was young and I was better at it than I was at maths or science so I thought it made sense that I would write for a living. I had previously thought maybe I wanted to be a fiction author but when I was around 12 I tried writing what turned out to be an unintentionally really bad spoof of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, so I decided that wasn’t for me. Then when I was doing my BA I got involved with some of the university’s publications first as a writer then as an editor, which made me consider journalism as a career.

How did it feel to win the PPA Student of the Year award?

Really, really shocking! I had just applied on a whim at the suggestion of my tutor, but I never thought I’d win it. I had thought the award would likely go to a political journalist as opposed to a culture writer but I’m so thrilled that it did. It gave me a huge boost of confidence coming out of my MA, which I think everyone needs once in a while especially in an industry where it’s really easy to feel a sort of “imposter syndrome”.

Which journalists do you look up to and why?

For the most part I tend to be loyal to reading certain publications (The Atlantic, NY Mag, The Independent, The Guardian, New Statesman, Vanity Fair) as opposed to specific journalists. That being said, there are some writers who I’ll always click on when they post on Twitter about something new that they’ve written. I really like to read Taffy Brodesner-Akner and E Alex Jung for profile pieces, Emily Nussbaum for TV reviews, and also Sophie Gilbert, Jia Tolentino, and Hunter Harris – there’s heaps of others too. I also really enjoy reading Anna Leskiewicz, Sarah Manavis & Jason Okundaye. I’m currently a culture reporter at The Independent, and I feel really lucky to be part of such a great team there – all of their writing is great so I’m really grateful to be able to learn from them.

What has been the highlight of your journalism masters?

Mostly I think it was being surrounded by people who wanted to do the same thing and pursue the same goals – that was really motivating and I felt extremely supported. It wasn’t competitive on the course and it felt like everyone wanted to help each other out as much as possible. It was also a great chance to read other styles of writing and hear feedback from peers, who would likely be the target audience for features that I’m writing/want to write.

What advice would you give someone about to start a masters in journalism?

Probably to be prepared to put your life on hold for a little while, which is kind of a joke but also not. The course at City was great because it was really intense and the fact it’s only one-year was really appealing to me – but it did mean fitting in a lot of work in a short space of time. Also to consider saying yes to every opportunity, even the ones you’re not especially keen on because there’s a chance that it will lead to something else.

What work are you most proud of and why?

I recently interviewed Radha Blank, the filmmaker and actor behind The Forty Year-Old Version (which is on Netflix and everyone should watch if you haven’t already!). I always get nervous before interviews but this one was a really great chat, and I’m proud of the piece it turned into.

What’s on your radar?

I mostly write about film and TV, so I’m always checking to see what new releases are coming out. Although the Oscars are still months away, buzz around which films/actors will receive nominations in March has already started so trying to keep an eye out for that too.

What magazine would you stockpile?

I’d love to be really intellectual and say something like The New Yorker (which I do love but can never actually get through a whole issue) but realistically I would much prefer flipping back through pages of NYMag. The magazine also has great artwork and photography.

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