Good news, I have been offered a job as a trainee reporter with Archant London!
I haven’t been assigned to a particular paper yet, as trainee reporters rotate as part of the training until their skills and experience match a particular patch. So I could be anywhere from Hampstead to Hackney and out to Romford in Essex.
I’m ecstatic, the freedom and contact that local journalism offers is an absolute dream. Grass-roots reporting, if you like. I’ll be starting within the next couple of weeks, can’t wait.
Unfortunately, I may have to stop contributing to this blog due to the terms of my contract. I’ll give an update when I know.
Ken Livingstone: “If this was an election to be the permanent presenter of Have I Got News For You, I wouldn’t stand against Boris”
One of the many quips London mayor candidate Ken Livingstone made at a campaign launch I attended in Colliers Wood last week.
He spoke to supporters about his policies including the 7% fare cut, affordable housing, crime reduction, police numbers and environmental improvement. With 98 days before the election, the 66-year-old political veteran was relaxed in front of his friendly audience. He even genuinely answered the question: “How do you keep your youthful good looks.” Apparently it’s about what age you feel.
I interviewed Mr Livingstone at the end of the meeting for the Wimbledon Guardian and you can see the article here. I have put a transcript of the interview in the ‘Unpublished articles’ section for anyone interested in the full text. There were many more questions I would have liked to ask but stuck with local issues for the paper’s audience.
These are all the reasons I haven’t been blogging much recently, what an absolute fail. December has been an insane month so far. It started with my birthday, which was lovely, followed by law and public affairs exams, which weren’t. These were quickly followed by a Christmas panic and a sudden onset of Norovirus, which had me laid up for the last week.
I’ve also started a temporary Christmas job waitressing in Harrods. It’s hard work but celebrity spotting keeps me happening. Last week I had a lovely chat with Rupert Grint about Harrods’ Harry Potter World. I was tempted to give him my card but figured losing my job before Christmas wasn’t a great plan.
My work experience placement at The Surrey Comet ended today, which was quite sad. Working there was a great experience and I’ll miss the Friday office banter. To plug the gap, I’ve organised another Friday placement at The Wimbledon Guardian for the new year. Changing patch will be a challenge but I’m looking forward to it.
Incredibly, after Christmas I will only have three weeks left of my NCTJ course. It seems unbelievable after 3 years of a degree that it’s only taken a couple of months to get my most useful qualification. The prospect of the job hunt is making me panic, so I’m saving that until the new year. Especially because reporting exam results aren’t back yet…expect an emotional post when they are.
Yesterday national newspapers went mad with the news that Vince Cable had made yet another blunder: leaving confidential constituency documents outside his constituency office. But eagle-eyed readers would have noticed that these articles lacked details. The documents ‘had been found’, ‘were seen’. Only one article I read condescended to mention ‘a local newspaper’.
That local newpaper was The Richmond and Twickenham Times, who ran the story, along with pictures and details of the actual documents found, first. The paper is in the same office as The Surrey Comet, where I do work experience. The Friday before all the letters were given to a journalist, Christine Fleming, by an anonymous whistleblower who had been picking up the neglected papers for some time.
That day we started sorting them and for the next week everyone worked tirelessly sifting through all the documents to create an outstanding seven-page exclusive for yesterday’s paper. One national newspaper paid for the story but, disappointingly, others were happy to erase the Richmond and Twickenham Times from their reports completely.
It made me really sad, Christine deserves so much more. I wonder how many stories are siphoned off like this, how many reporters’ hard work goes unnoticed and local papers’ glory gets stolen. Journalism really is dog-eat dog.
On the plus side, I did make a brief appearance on ITV’s London Tonight. Albeit studiously typing in the background while the editor was interviewed. Best cameo ever.
Read the full Cable story along with documents, pictures and more juicy details than you can shake a stick at here.
Just some of the completely random and sometimes bizarre subjects of my news articles for The Surrey Comet and Elmbridge Guardian. Check them out in the catalogue, it’s amazing what news can turn up in such a small area.
On a side note, I went to the Occupy London protest camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral today. It was fantastic! There was music, dancing, a library, lectures and a performance of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ all happening at once. It’s very chilled-out and welcoming place, I’d urge anyone in London to go and have a look. Plenty of food for thought and opportunities to get involved in the multitude of organisations camped out there.
Today was my third Friday on placement at The Surrey Comet. It’s based at the Newsquest headquarters in Twickenham so I also technically write for The Elmbridge Guardian and a few other titles. It’s going really well so far, a lot of phone interviews in the office but I’ve been given a lot of articles to write (see the ‘Surrey Comet’ section in the catalogue for links to published ones).
Last Friday I was let loose on my own for the first time to report on a charity fashion show in Weybridge. Of course, being in Weybridge, it was no ordinary charity event. All the second-hand clothes donated were designer, mostly coming from celebrities from Louise Redknapp to Amanda Holden. The fashion show was put together by a celebrity stylist and London Fashion Week models were on the catwalk.
The evening was compared by Nick Ede from Project Catwalk and England captain John Terry and his wife, presenter Lizzy Cundy, Big Brother 2010 winner Josie Gibson and international model Katya Elizarova were there to support the cause. Imagine my delight when I was the only journalist allowed in the VIP suite to interview them! Happy days.
The article was picked as the leisure lead for The Elmbridge Guardian this week, feast your eyes here. More updates soon!
Yesterday my course got even more hardcore when we were assigned patch work. No, not the grandma-chic sewing technique. It’s journalist slang (we’re so cool) for being assigned a small area to report from. We were put in groups and told to pick a patch out a hat. My group got…Wandsworth. Not the most glamorous borough, but definitely newsworthy. We hopped on the train straight away to get a feel for the area and there is definitely a lot of news to be rustled up.
Every member of the group needs to write their own story for our editor to assemble on our ‘patch page’. So the challenge is to get story ideas, find ones that will be suitably long and varied and make it all look very pretty and professional. In just over 2 weeks. Best get on it!
P.S. If you live/have relatives in/know anything about Wandsworth some info or a contact would be great.
Today was officially my first day as a trainee journalist. And it was fantastic. News Associates seems like a great college and they do not mess around. We started the day with plenty of coffee, biscuits and introductions, but by 1.30pm we were in an intense shorthand lesson and two hours later, we were hurled onto the street under orders to find a story and report back within the hour. This is definitely what being thrown into the deep end feels like. But I’m loving it, it feels like such a practical and dynamic course. We’re not just learning about journalism, we’re living it and by all accounts that’s what you really need in today’s job market. So noone’s complaining!
I got sent out on the reporting assignment with two other trainees and rather than turning towards the centre of Wimbledon with the crowd, we decided to go in exactly the opposite direction. Our first calling point was South Wimbledon tube station and we called into the cafe to see if we could pick up any stories or leads. Nothing had occurred so, having heard that there was a film studio in the area, one of the members of our group asked for directions to it. The lady in the cafe said it was a 10 minute walk down the road and kindly gave us some free pastries (the pain au chocolat was delicious) and we set off. Unsurprisingly, we got lost a few minutes later and asked a passing businessman for directions. Disappointingly, he said he’d never heard of the studio and walked on. But a few seconds later, he turned back and casually remarked “I don’t know about any studios, but the set of The Bill is just around the corner”.
We followed his directions and suddenly, we were at Sunhill. The police station and hospital set of the long-running TV show was sitting in the middle of an industrial estate completely open and untouched. On closer inspection, the police station set was still fully kitted out with props like folders, phones and signposts. It was incredible, but it was deserted, and the second part of our assignment was to talk to a stranger and have our photo taken with them. Luckily, a man wearing full black, earphones, a mic and looking extremely important stormed out from behind the building. Clearly, the studios were still in use. We quickly jumped him and he kindly agreed to the photo and talked to us briefly. His name was Tiernan and he was working on the set of a short film called ‘Counting Backwards’, which is apparently by a highly reputed writer. Watch this space.
By that point we were running out of time so we made our way back to the college in time to hear everyone else’s reports. People had picked up all sorts of stories, from a chewing-gum heist at Morrison’s to NDubz buying £7,000 of fishing eqiupment from a local shop. And yes, both of those were confirmed. Maybe an early career in regional journalism will be more exciting than I thought…
Bring on tomorrow.