MMU journalism students receive masterclass from Cosmo editor Farrah Storr

  • Five MMU students traveled to the Guardian's HQ in London
  • Farrah Storr gave a three hour talk
  • The talk concerned how to write for the magazine

From gossip to great ideas and from your tone to your twist, writing for one of the world’s most famous magazines can seem overwhelming.

But five MMU multimedia journalism students were given an exclusive masterclass into what exactly the editor of Cosmopolitan is looking for in upcoming writers when they attended an event hosted at The Guardian’s headquarters in London.

Guardian HQ
The talk was held at the Guardian’s HQ in London

Rebecca Byatt, Amelia Britten, Courtney O’Riordan, Sarah Storer and Josh Else – who have all studied magazine journalism this year – travelled to the newspaper’s offices to hear Cosmopolitan editor Farrah Storr give a three-hour presentation on how to write for one of the most iconic magazines in the UK and worldwide.

Farrah – who this week left Cosmo to become Editor in Chief at Elle – has previously written for Good Housekeeping and also edited Women’s Health. She met the group during a break and was happy to advise on everything from men writing about feminism to getting a foot in the door when starting a journalism career.

One of her key messages was to always leave your reader with a takeaway; something new they have learned, felt or experienced after reading an article. So what did the group take away from Farrah’s masterclass? Here are their eight top tips for anyone wanting to write or pitch ideas to a magazine.

Students and Farrah
The students had the opportunity to meet Cosmo editor, Farrah Storr (Second from right)

1. Always ask ‘but?’ Why should I be reporting a story? What is going to make it a truly memorable piece that is going to have an impact on my readers? It is very easy to simply report on what is trending at the moment, but a great twist within the story will allow your readers to take away a unique feeling or a fresh perspective on a particular issue that may not get from other reports. 

2. Do not pitch a story. Pitch an idea. There is no point in going out to find a story and spending the time to write it up if it isn’t going to end up going anywhere. Therefore it is a much better idea to pitch ideas to publications rather than pitch a finished story. This way you will be open to advice and direction and will be able to tailor your content to fit in with the usual style of the publication’s regular content. 

3. Think about Gossip. Gossip shouldn’t read like gossip as stories should have structure and tone – but it still should be written as people like to read it

4. Find a trend. Noticing a trend in society through social media, through what’s on at Netflix, though reading local and national newspapers and through what your friends are talking about is the start of an idea for a magazine feature.

5. Never go into journalism for the money because you will always be disappointed. Go into for the love of the job and curiosity. 

6. Always ‘so what’ your work. Ask yourself ‘so what?’ at the end of the headline, and the article. This pulls out the best work in regards to fresh angles and unique takes on a story.

7. Be unique. Set yourself out from the crowd when pitching ideas to magazines and don’t be afraid to write in your own voice and include elements of your own personality. This not only makes your idea unique and your writing but also will make you stand out to editors you are pitching ideas to.

8. Find the angle. You can use a similar formula or approach to a story and translate it across different stories to create a unique idea that editors will want to commission for their publication. For example, going undercover in a situation to tell the story from a different angle.