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What I Learnt On My Reuters Placement

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Amber Holland did a placement with Reuters in 2013

Amber Holland gives an insight into her placement at one of the world’s most recognised news organisations…

If you’re on work experience at Reuters, your duties will very much depend on the news agenda. During my time there I had the chance to work on a variety of stories, from Nelson Mandela being admitted to hospital to the imminent arrival of Prince George.

I was taught how to use different editing platforms and was given the opportunity to edit old library footage of the former South African President into sellable packages. I also learnt several shooting techniques and found out just how hard it can be to perfect that ‘crisp but not brisk’ voice-over.

The great thing about my placement is that I wasn’t just learning new skills – I was also making a contribution to Reuters’ coverage of the stories I worked on. For example, I was involved in researching the latest trends in pregnancy fashion in anticipation of the birth of the royal baby – and when the big day happened, it was really exciting to see the figures I collated being used.

During my placement I spent time in all different departments, from the executive floor to the heart of the newsroom. This meant my duties sometimes entailed the less glamorous activities as well, like carrying around camera stands or filing documents – but even tasks like these taught me something. As I organised countless files from photographers from all around the world, it made me appreciate the sheer scale of the Reuters newsgathering operation – so don’t dismiss the menial stuff!

You should also be prepared to take in as much as you can from every department possible. Even if your heart is totally set on being a journalist, you should try and find out what other employees within the company get up to. Spending time in the edit suites for live broadcasts, for example,  will help you understand how reports come together. 

Doing this made me realise just how important these guys are to the process – their talent is astounding and their ability to think on their feet (particularly when certain feeds might not be working) is impressive. If you ask questions you might even learn more about some of their editing techniques, which could always prove useful at a future point.

No matter what you end up doing, the key thing to understand is that there will always be opportunities to experience some really amazing things if you grab them. When in the newsroom, make sure you ask for phone numbers, email addresses and business cards. 

Then at the end of the day, drop those people a quick text saying thank you. That way they will remember you and are more likely to offer you stuff to do the next day. This really helped me pick up extra duties and it was because of this that I was lucky enough to be called back out on shoots on numerous occasions.

By continually asking if I could be of any help to anyone, I was given the opportunity to work on sound and lighting during interviews at press conferences, and even got to film the auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding dress at Christies.

My placement really was action-packed and I felt I learnt a lot. My best advice for anyone else who is fortunate enough to spend time at Reuters would be to keep in touch with the contacts you make there.

Once you are finished, be sure to send an email thanking everyone you got to work with because, you never know – these people could be your potential employers in the future. 

Have you taken part in a placement recently? Get in touch if you’d like to blog about your experiences! For more from Amber Holland, you can follow her on Twitter @funkyredhead98

To Blog Or Not To Blog?

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Does your blog’s homepage look something like this?

If you’ve ever set up a blog without knowing what to write about, you’re not alone. Student Alexander Woolley shares the pitfalls of personal blogging…

Lots of money can be made out of advertising revenue on popular blogs and today they commonly employ several people full time. During the 1990s blogs were the preserve of masturbating teenagers; today they’re business.

I was recently asked by someone whether I keep a personal blog. I sheepishly replied that I don’t, and gave some excuses about not having enough time.

I felt I was being judged. I felt inadequate, as if I’d been caught trying to avoid handing in homework. I felt all the more pathetic because, actually, I have a blog.

In fact, I have several blogs. But in each instance when I’ve ‘founded’ a blog (i.e. handed over personal details to some American corporation), I’ve failed to upload any articles.

The furthest I’ve got is to put up a pretty picture for the background – the digital equivalent of re-ordering notes with nicely-coloured dividers in the days before an exam. The more I think about keeping a blog, the more impossible the task seems to be.

Yet I am constantly advised that it would be in my best interests to have one. Why? I’m usually given some generalities about “getting my name out there” or “getting my writing seen”. “Just start a blog, and all the world will be reading it,” I am told.

I would really like to believe that. I’d love to genuinely think that if I begin a blog in earnest, everyone will want to read it. But I am sceptical. The only personal blogs I have ever read are those of friends who would be offended if I didn’t read them.

It isn’t just my cynicism in the ability to build a readership that makes me hesitant. There are other reasons for my reluctance to start blogging. For one, I am terrified of self-editing.

I don’t worry about being able to spell or form coherent sentences (that’s what spell check is for, right?), but I do worry about having no one who can look at an article as a whole and say, “Alex, why did you even bother writing that?  Hell, why did you even get up today?”

There are only so many times you can ask friends to be your editor without employing them; plus, it gets awkward when they say things like that to you.

And then what if you produce something dull and tedious – or, even worse, something unintentionally offensive? Perhaps you’ll get a few facts wrong. Maybe you’ll lose a follower or two. But what if you write about something that others out there are more clued up on than you? And what if it’s a really sensitive issue?

What if, through ignorance, or through misunderstanding, you write something that comes over as nasty and bigoted? Then you get attacked on Twitter for your unfounded or uneducated opinions.

Even if you take down the blog post, those tweets will be public for all to see – and all for the sake of some blog post that you hadn’t researched thoroughly enough before you wrote it.

Okay, so that may seem like an extreme situation – but there are still other issues with writing a blog. Even if I plucked up the courage to edit my own work, I would then have to find something to write about.

Blogs only work if they are regularly updated. That means I would need to find a topic I’d want to write about around fifty-two times a year (roughly once a week). That’s a huge number of articles. There are lots of things I’m interested in, but I really struggle to think of a subject that I could produce fifty-two interesting, original articles on.

I suppose I could revert to the 90s and blog about my everyday existence. I wouldn’t struggle to come up with fifty two articles about that. But I cannot imagine anyone else cares about the details of my life to such an extent that they’d want to read fifty two blog posts about it – I’m not even sure I’d want to read that.

Have you had trouble getting your blog up and running? Or do you feel the importance of having one is something that is exaggerated? Share your thoughts via Twitter @Journograds 

Where Are All The Journalism Jobs?

Danielle McGarry

English literature graduate Danielle McGarry

Content and social media management intern Danielle McGarry gives her thoughts on the differences between London and Hull when it comes to the journo jobs market.. 

As a recent English literature graduate who had far too much fun at uni and subsequently blew her bank balance, I know only too well the difficulties that arise when looking for work after study.

Times are tough and unemployment can often be a reality for graduates – as previous blogger Ellie Matthews highlighted.

That’s not to say that there aren’t opportunities out there – providing you take advantage of your situation. (Take it from me – I live in Hull, a city with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country).

Despite the grim odds, and much to my surprise, I eventually managed to find an internship as a content and social media manager. I’m not sure if it was through hard work, determination or luck (or maybe a combination of all), but after showing them my blog and having a successful interview, I was offered the role.

Regardless of my good fortune, there is little debate as to whether or not journalism is a tough industry to break into -  I’ve been warned countless times that it can be an unrewarding and competitive career. It is especially tough for someone like myself who is looking for work in the regions, at a time when it still seems like all the jobs are in London.

On my latest online job search, the search term ‘journalism’ yielded just fourteen results for roles in Manchester (the majority of which were unpaid) and just one in Hull. Compare that to the 400 that I found in London.

There is no doubt that London is the hub for wannabe writers. There really is nowhere else with anywhere near that level of jobs – particularly ones where we can actually get paid!

The old rhetoric of young people lacking the drive to go out and find jobs is often given as a reason for our woes. Obviously this is something I disagree with.

Young people, specifically graduates, are working harder than ever to secure work in journalism, with the vast majority of paid jobs asking for significant experience first.

The real issue here is nothing to do with our lack of motivation, but our proximity to the actual jobs and the disparity of between the capital and the regions when it comes to the opportunities available. There are a lot of jobs in London, but if you don’t already live there, the cost of living is a significant barrier.

It’s difficult enough to afford a living even where I am based – I have two jobs (and have recently attended an interview for a third) but I still can’t afford a living.

Have you struggled to find work outside London? Or have you been forced to relocate to get a job? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @JournoGrads

‘Job Snobs’ And Unemployed Graduates

Ellie Matthews conducts an interview for JournoGrads

Ellie Mathews conducts an interview for JournoGrads

Can fresh graduates afford to be picky when it comes to employment? Freelance journalist Ellie Mathews joins the debate…

In an interview with BBC Newsbeat in August, recruitment expert Norman Rose suggested recent graduates believe they are ‘too good’ to do entry level jobs and are guilty of so-called ‘job snobbery’.

Nick Hurd, a fourth-generation MP and an Old Etonian, added to the attack on the work ethic of young people in a subsequent Telegraph interview by saying we lack the ‘grit’ to go out and find jobs.

I highly disagree with both their comments and believe they further damage the already negative environment around youth employment.

There has, in fact, been a decrease in young people out of work compared to this time last year – which would suggest graduates are actively seeking, and successfully finding, jobs.

Figures released in August by the Office for National Statistics showed that: “For April to June 2013, there were 1.09 million young people (aged from 16 to 24) in the UK who were Not in Education, Employment or Training (Neet) … down 104,000 from a year earlier.”

Compare this again to the same time in 2011, where the Neet figure was reported at 1.16 million between April and June.

The change in these stats shows a genuine improvement in work opportunities for young people.

Alex Spicer, a recent First Class graduate in Architecture at the University of Northumbria says comments by the likes of Rose and Hurd are misleading, particularly as financial circumstances have changed dramatically over time.

“The people making these statements attended university at a time when it was for them, free. I am adamant they would hold a different view if they, like us, had needed to pay £30,000 or more for an education,” he says.

University lecturer and multiple degree holder Laura Lacey provides context to the changing times. “We live in an age where children have been spoilt,” she says.

“From a young age this generation has had televisions in their rooms, iPods, video games, DVD players, computers, laptops etc.  All effectively without having to work for it.”

“In this day and age a job is a job; it brings in money.  So this generation of graduates needs a reality check.  Having no job does not look good on a CV.”

Lacey also feels previous governments have contributed to the current generation’s attitude towards work.

“Tony Blair said tertiary education should be for all, and almost overnight polytechnics disappeared,” she says. “Who wanted an apprenticeship when they could get a degree, whether they were intelligent enough or not?  It was deemed to be their right.”

“We have a generation who have undertaken degree courses at a time where there are more students studying the subjects than there are jobs in the UK.”

Regardless, graduates should still expect a return on investment for the courses they pay for.

Graduate Alex Spicer sums it up perfectly, saying: “In my first three years of study I made many sacrifices to ensure I achieved everything I wanted to with my BA. It seems like madness to even suggest that I would make these sacrifices for nothing.”

Do you think graduates have a right to be selective when looking for work? Share your thoughts on Twitter @Journograds or post a comment on Facebook. If you’d like to join our team of bloggers, get in touch via editor@journograds.com

The Life Of A Diarist – All Glitz & Glamour?

Champagne Glass by 1.Raymondo

A half-empty champagne glass – every diarist’s best friend? (Pic: 1.Raymondo)

Ever considered looking into newspaper diary writing as a line of work? Student Alexander Woolley fills us in on what life is like for those in the trade…

“Are you Scottish?”

I was wearing a tartan-looking tie. Well, striped, at any rate. “No,” I reply, a bit taken aback, in a very un-Scottish accent.

“Most of us are Scots, Catholics or Jews, that’s why I ask.”

It was the end of a week I’d spent in the office with the Mail on Sunday’s diary department, and I was chatting to a journalist friend of a journalist friend. “They’re all on the margins of society, you see,” he added.

Diversity of staff and diversity of roles – that was his message. And it’s something I’ve come to agree with this summer. Who knew that newspapers employ people to go to parties?

A diarist’s work revolves around reporting the comings and goings of the rich and famous, often in a light-hearted way, and appears somewhere towards the middle pages of a newspaper.

The Mail on Sundays diary is imaginatively called the Mail on Sunday diary, whereas other papers give theirs more exciting names. The Evening Standard has the Londoner’s Diary, the Telegraph has Mandrake, and the Mirror calls theirs the 3am column. The articles are often printed anonymously.

The life of a diarist is hardly what you’d expect journalism to be – which, in my imagination, was either sitting behind a desk armed with a telephone, email account and various caffeinated substances, or it was looking into a TV camera to the sound of gunfire.

Diarists, on the other hand, make a living out of going to parties, hunting celebrities and getting gossip out of them. “Go for the up-and-coming celebrities,” I was told. “They’re not so well media-trained.”

Diary work gets you in to places you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance, or reason, to visit. I’ve been to a Freemason’s lodge, the bar at the top of the Gherkin and a former fish market – all in the past couple of months. The job also makes you a pro at quaffing bubbly. “I’m just so used to drinking champagne,” a freelancer I’ve met a couple of times confided in me. “I drink so much of it for work.”

But it’s not entirely fun and games. Working at a party is never as enjoyable as simply being invited to one. Although the half emptied champagne glass is a potent tool, it doesn’t take long before you can no longer think of incisive questions to ask. You’re always slightly on edge, looking out for celebrities and determining when the best moment to approach them is.

But it is the sort of journalism that involves going places, meeting people and reporting on events that are taking place in front of you. It’s not just coughing up text to put around pictures.

Diarists aren’t the only type of journalists who attend these parties – which are almost all in London, by the way.

A lot of the events diarists work at are hosted by fashion brands, who like to promote new lines of clothing with glitzy parties. “Him? Oh he’s a famous fashion blogger,” a photographer told me at a recent event. That’s a thing you can make a living out of, apparently.

Mostly when people talk about journalism, it’s in sad and hushed tones, like you’d use at the funeral of a fondly-remembered great uncle. But with such a variety of ways that people are making a living in this trade, diary writing included, I’m struggling to see it that way now.

Do you think diary writing sounds like an exciting profession? Is it something you would pursue? Join in the debate on Twitter @Journograds or post a comment on Facebook

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