‘Arts journalism can seem closed off when you don’t see people who look like you’ – Roda Musa, The Stage BAME placement
As part of The Stage’s inaugural BAME arts journalism placement, Roda Musa joined the newspaper’s editorial team for three months. She tells Giverny Masso about why the internship appealed and what she has learned from the experience…
What kind of journalism and theatre experience did you have before applying?
I worked for the student newspaper at Leicester Uni and the Tab, which launched a new site for girl-only writers. I did a lot of writing for them, mainly opinion stuff, as they wanted to know what my experience was being a young, black Muslim at university. I was always interested in theatre – one of my best friends is an actress and she’s always wanted to be, so we had a shared interest. I’m still a Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse young member, which means you get £5 tickets to shows. It really helps to be connected to your local theatre.
Why did this placement appeal to you?
By the time I saw this opportunity, I definitely knew I wanted to be a journalist. I was thinking about doing a journalism masters or something, and I saw someone retweet this on Twitter. I researched The Stage and found out it’s really well respected. On Wikipedia I saw that Idris Elba got his first job from The Stage and I thought, ‘That’s so cool’. I just applied because I thought it would be a really interesting opportunity.
What was your experience of the placement?
It’s been amazing, from the beginning you hit the floor running. The first week was The Stage Debut Awards and I had never been to an event like that. There were famous people, a red carpet and press – I thought it was really exciting. Even though it’s only been a short period of time, I feel like I’ve experienced a lot. I really like working on the news desk because it works so fast, and I also like reviewing because you get to say what you think and write more creatively. Everyone’s been really helpful and nice, and I really appreciate it; it’s impacted me a lot.
What have you learned during your time at The Stage?
I don’t want to brag – but I feel like I know loads now. I’ve learnt a lot about the theatre industry and I feel like I could hold my own; I could go and review a theatre show and I’d have background knowledge. The placement has most definitely given me more confidence. Working with everyone here has meant they critique your work and tell you what you need to be doing. I’ve found it all really helpful. If I find a news story I now know all the things I need to ask, including the small details. I am much better at asking probing questions.
Why are placements like this important?
I really admire Alistair [Smith, editor] with what he’s trying to do to get better representation within arts journalism. I feel like people are always talking about it, but no one actually does anything or offers opportunities to do it. If you don’t see many people that look like you within an industry, it’s kind of intimidating to try to break into it because you feel it’s quite closed off. I also think it’s really important because it’s not an easy route to get into. A lot of other career journeys have a set way – for example, one of my friends from uni had a five-year plan of how she wanted to get into finance – but there’s nothing like that with journalism.