Sunday, 23 March 2014

My Week as a Journalist

At the moment, I work in Public Relations as a PR Assistant. This means that part of job role is to work alongside the media, press and journalists. My Communications Manager managed to arrange me a week's work placement at my local series newspaper so that I could get a feel for what it's like to actually work as part of the press. I was so excited to start as I knew I would learn so much and pick up some helpful tips for dealing with the media. I thought I would let you guys in on what I got up to including going to court, getting a tour around a theme park and hearing about hanging out with One Direction!...

I was welcomed into the office by the Deputy Editor, Gareth, who showed me around and introduced me to the rest of the team. The team was split into five main sections; reporters/journalists; design team; online/digital; photographers and advertising & promotion. I was given my own desk and computer to work at and my first task was to scan the other neighbouring newspapers for any news on my town that they'd missed out on. I found a couple of stories that mentioned my town and passed them onto reporter, Hannah, for her to read up on and create a story from.

After that, I went out in the car with Hannah and photographer, Mike, to go for a tour around a theme park. The newspaper were covering a feature on how theme parks prepare for opening to the public in the summer. We were met by the park's Manager who gave us a guided tour around the whole park. Reporter, Hannah, was asking him various questions and jotting down his answers about how they prepare the park whilst Mike, the photographer, was taking snaps of the park's maintenance staff testing the rides and giving the park a spring clean and spruce up. The manager even took us onto the building sites where the new rides were being built and let us in on the some of their new plans. This was such a great experience as I'd always been very fond of the theme park from a young age and I felt very very special to be getting a guided tour from the manager!

When we got back from the theme park, Gareth had given me a few press releases that needed some extra work doing to them. I had to contact the PR (which is usually me!) and ask them for more information on the press release or request a picture. I then had to re-write the release to add more information and take out anything that I saw as irrelevant. This was so interesting from a PR point of view as it really made me think about some of the vital information that some PR's leave out of the press releases, which encouraged me to think about what information I need to include in my own releases.

During my second day, I spent most of my time with reporter, Vicki. She had a meeting booked in with some board members of a community centre who wanted to voice what they had been up to. Vicki and I arrived at the centre and were taken to a meeting room where five board members were sat along with a local ward councillor.

They explained to Vicki what they had been up to e.g. events, new staff and people that attend the community centre. They wanted to know how they could get more news in the paper and what kind of stories were suitable. Vicki explained to them what sort of thing she was looking for and took down some notes so that she could run a story in the next paper. She urged them to get across press releases on a regular basis so that their community centre was featured in the paper as regularly as possible. She pointed out that the more often they were seen featured in the paper, the more reaction and attention they will get from the general public. In other words, she was basically asking them to mither her every week!

After the meeting, Vicki explained that she had a lot of meetings similar to that one - where she has a group of people trying to get more coverage. She told me how sometimes she can get frustrated because people didn't understand that getting more coverage is a lot simpler than people think. The more press releases they send in, the more coverage you will get! She explained how she tries to get as many press releases and stories in the paper as possible each week and it's very rare that she won't include a release that's sent to her - aslong as it's newsworthy.

The paper currently run a "Yester Years" section where they find old photos and cover stories of what my town was like years ago. They also run a small feature where they find papers from as long ago as 1800's which are dated as close to the current date as possible. Gareth asked me to head to the local library and look through all their archives and find stories on local events and news. He asked me to choose 5 dates at random, going from hundreds of years ago to ten years ago. It was soo interesting to go through all the old archives and it was strange to see what papers used to look like way back in the 1800's. I found stories like an attempted murder in 1879, a mother's attempt to blockade a main road after the death of her son in 1918 and the planning applicatons being passed for our new shopping centre in 2004 (I couldn't believe it's been there for 10 years now!) I even found pictures of my old primary school which I was amazed by! I took notes on all the stories I'd found and went back to the office and typed them up.

I then headed out with Gareth, who was covering a celebration at a charity for blind and visually impaired people that had been open for 90 years that day. Gareth spoke to the manager who provided him with pictures of what the building looked like when it opened and also an article on the opening event written by the same paper. He spoke to Gareth about the volunteers and what sort of events and day trips they ran there. It was so interesting to watch Gareth write in short hand too! He explained on the way back to the office how he had learnt it as part of his university course and it took him just over 6 months to fully perfect it. Madness!

Today was the paper's deadline day. This means that all the journalists' articles and features had to be written and sent to the design team by 5pm that day. I was warned that deadline day is a pretty hectic day and to keep my head down but I was surprisingly shocked. Everyone actually seemed really calm and stayed as chatty and as friendly as they'd been on all the other days. I did, however, have to make sure that I'd sent everything that I'd written to Gareth too. There were a couple of PR's that didn't get back to me in time with the requested info and therefore weren't featured in that edition. This really taught me the significance of getting back to the journo as quickly as possible if you want to be featured in that week's paper. If you're not on the ball, then there's plenty of other press releases in the journo's inbox that will soon take your place!

I also got the chance to head down to a magistrates court for the afternoon as Lauren, another journalist, wanted to catch up on a couple of trials that she'd previously reported on. She said how important it was to follow up on articles especially if you reported on someone's arrest - their readers will want to read about the sentence they got when they appeared in court. There were only three cases on when we were there but it was so interesting to watch! There was a couple of drink driving cases who were given driving bans and a case where someone had stolen from a chemist which was the case that Lauren wanted to report on. As I'd never been to magistrates court before, I was really really intrigued by it all and when Lauren mentioned that she was going to the crown court (where all the juicier cases take place, like murders) the next day, I just HAD to go!

For my last day we headed out to crown court. I, unfortunately, can't disclose too many details about the case but it was basically a trial to find the defendant guilty or not guilty of causing the death a teenage boy.
Whilst on our way to court Lauren and I discussed what it was like to work as a journalist. She told me how diverse her job was and how no two weeks are the same. She told me about how on her first week on the job she got to interview Sophie Ellis Bextor and that last week she was interviewing Katie Price. She also went on to say how she gets a lot of VIP tickets for events. She told me how she was taken to the VIP area of a huge well-known festival and got to hang out with all the celebs including One Direction, Olly Murs and Pixie Lott! Her and her boyfriend got free drinks all night and got to watch the acts in a special enclosed area. All she had to do was review them. Other jobs she and colleagues had covered were; a horse riding lesson, a day working as a chef in a top restaurant and a special behind the scenes tour of The Lion King West End show.

When we arrived at court, we got searched along with our bags and headed off to find the courtroom. A freelance photographer approached us and informed us how he had taken a picture of the defendant outside (the photographer would have been hiding somewhere) and had sent it to her colleague at the office who was going to put it up on their website. When I later looked on the site, the picture that the photographer had taken in no way portrayed what he looked like in real life. He had a cigarette in his hand and was squinting because of the sun. In my opinion, this really depicted him a completely different light and made me realise how clever journalists/photographers were in order to get more views on their story. I suppose it's all part of the job!

When we got into the courtroom, it instantly reminded me of something you'd see on Coronation Street! It was all very formal and traditional, with the judges wearing those wigs. Lauren and I got our own little area to sit in which was called the press box. This is to ensure that the journalists are able to see and hear all that goes on. However, it also made it quite obvious to the defendant's family and friends that we were the press. This resulted in us getting quite a few funny looks and even a couple of sly comments when we broke for lunch. Lauren told me how she was used to it now and that she always informed them that she was only doing her job when faced with confrontation.

To watch the trial in court was SO interesting as I'd never been in that environment before. Seeing eye-witnesses get up in the stand and do the whole 'I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth..." and hearing the prosecution and defense refer to the judge as 'Your Honour' really made me feel like I was in a soap or a film! We were there pretty much all day and it was so insightful to read the story that Lauren had written up once the trial had finished. It was definitely one of my favourite days and had given me an insight to a completely different aspect of journalism that I didn't even know existed!

I had SUCH a great week working as part of the newspaper and I learnt so much from a PR point of view. It was so interesting to pick up on the sorts of information that PR's miss out of press releases and how frustrating it can be for a journo to try and chase up that information. The things that I've learnt will be so great to use in my current job role as now I know exactly what the journo's are looking for in a press release. It's also made me realise how busy they actually are, and how diverse the job is. As I mentioned previously, one day they could be interviewing a celebrity, and the next day they're off for a cooking course in a 5 star restaurant! But I've also gained an insight into the negative prejudice and complaints they constantly receive which they tell me is just part of their day and that they're never going to please everyone! It was such a great feeling seeing my name in the paper and reading things that I'd written that week. It will look so great to add to my portfolio for future job interviews! It's been so valuable for me to learn what it's like on the other end of the spectrum and to get a taste of journalism and how they put together a newspaper every week. God knows how they cope in daily newspapers!



  1. You lucky thing! Sounds like awesome fun - glad you had a good time!

    Shaun Nolan // Shaunyland

    1. Haha thanks! It was sooo interesting!

      Thanks for commenting :)

  2. You're so lucky, that sounds amazing!! I am a marketing exec, but I definitely want to specialise in PR further on in my career. Would love this kind of chance :) x

    1. Ahh wow, I'd love to get into marketing too. If you e-mail a few of your local publications, they should be able to arrange a week's work exp for you! That's how I managed to get this one :)


  3. That was a really interesting read as I am doing a journalism degree at the moment! :D

    1. I'm soo jealous that you're doing a degree in journalism! Doing a week's placement has made me really consider it!