My Day At The Daily Express

Selina was able to get a couple of bylines while on work experience

Selina was able to get a couple of bylines while on work experience

By Selina Sykes (@Selina_Sykes)

Before the end of last term I was lucky enough to be invited in for a day of work experience at the Daily Express newsroom. My lecturer at Kingston had asked if I would like to shadow him during his Sunday shift as news editor – though shadowing was far from what he had in mind.

I managed to get into the building with no problems by nabbing myself a pass from security. As it was a Sunday shift, the newsroom was fairly quiet, but it filled up and was buzzing by the evening. As soon as I sat down I could tell that I was in for a challenging day. I was logged in and shown how to check the wires (a platform which newspapers, magazines and broadcasters subscribe to for reports from news agencies trying to sell their stories).

My first task was to get to grips with checking the main agencies for stories that could be used for tomorrow’s paper. Although I was a bit nervous about picking the ‘wrong’ thing, I had done my homework and read a few Daily Express papers beforehand and suggested some property stories, which are popular with their readers. I was then assigned some stories to get on with.

I had only been in the newsroom for about an hour when a reporter doing the night shift rang in ill. Before I knew it, my lecturer was suggesting me as the replacement and I was cancelling my evening dinner plans. “You’ll have to learn a hell of a lot very quickly,” I was warned. I had arrived at 9am and would finish at midnight. Time for another coffee, I thought.

Though, in keeping with true journalist form, I found myself down the pub with a pint at lunchtime. I took a quick detour on the way back to the office for a caffeine fix. I was going to need it if I wanted to stay on the ball till midnight. I carried on working on stories while keeping an eye on the wires – which is easy to forget if you’ve got lots on your plate. After submitting some stories I was shown the news list and how the paper is laid out. Seeing how quickly the pros work made me realise that I have a long way to go.

As the day and night staff turnover began to take place, I was introduced to the night news editor. He was really nice, which put me at ease. My lecturer assured him that I was good and wouldn’t cock things up, wished me luck and left me to it. I had been told during the day that it would be a busy shift as it was the X Factor final and Sports Personality of the Year.

As by far the youngest person in the newsroom, the news editor gave me the X Factor final to cover. I had not watched a series since I was about 15, but I had just over an hour to rectify that before the final kicked off. I had assumed I would be researching and helping out with bits and bobs, but instead I was asked to write two different articles to cover each eventuality – one written as if Ben Haenow had won, another written as if Fleur East had won. That way we would be able to have the piece ready as soon as the result was declared. The pressure was on.

During a mini break I admired the view from the top of the building, shared the news with a few friends, slapped my cheeks a few times to keep myself awake and Googled like I never have before. Thankfully, finding the finalists’ back stories and details of the prize wasn’t too difficult and I managed to get two articles in before my deadline. There was no time to sit back and relax however, as we sat poised ready to lift quotes once the winner was announced. Luckily the news editor was at hand also taking notes – my shorthand is sadly not up to speed yet. Seeing how quickly and effortlessly he picked out the quotes and inserted them into the article ready for print was very impressive – I hope I can be that good one day.

I got such a thrill from being in a newsroom. I’ve worked at a local newspaper before, but there is so much more going on at a national. You feel that you are at the heart of the news and that you get to find things out before everyone else does – which is really exciting. We even knew who was being knocked out of the Strictly semi-final hours before it aired, as it was all pre-recorded. I had  to bite my tongue so as not to tell anyone, and made sure I didn’t text my mum. In the run up to the first edition of the paper, which went to print at 11pm, proof copies were slid on the desks – which is when I saw my first national byline. I couldn’t help but grin.

I had to get over my excitement quickly as my next task was already lined up. I was shown how to access a site where all the national papers are uploaded to check out the competition. The first edition of each paper is uploaded bang on 11pm as it goes to print. I was asked to go through rivals and note down their headlines. This is expected to be done with quite some speed so there is no chance to get a sneaky read.

By the time the shift ended, it felt like the adrenaline-fuelled hours had flown by. I said goodbye to the news editor, who said he hoped to see me again soon before I ran for the last train – I was due to start a work placement at a local newspaper the next day. Starting out in journalism may involve a lot of graft, but when you finally get somewhere you know you’ve earned it.

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