Channel 5 News: Behind The Scenes

Minnie Stephenson interviews a guest for a Channel 5 News package

Minnie Stephenson interviews a guest for a Channel 5 News package

By Hannah Gray (@HanChan24)

During my two weeks of work experience at Channel 5 News I was lucky enough to spend a morning at Buckingham Palace, help create news packages, book experts to appear on 5 News Tonight and see correspondents deliver live reports from Westminster. If you’re looking to do work experience there too, keep on reading for everything you need to know.

The Programmes

Channel 5 is part of ITN and has two news programmes every weekday – one at 5pm and a second at 6.30pm. The majority of the time I worked on the later 6.30pm programme (5 News Tonight). This is more of a talk-show style programme with guests and experts discussing the news of the day in more detail. The 5pm show, on the other hand, is a bulletin made up of many short news packages and a few short live chats between the presenter and correspondents in the location of the story. This one keeps the majority of the editors, reporters and producers very busy.

The Location

Situated at London Bridge and close to monument station, the 5 News TV studios are in a great location for attracting guests, which is one of the tasks I was given. The blue glass building is also the home to the Express newspaper, the Star newspaper and OK magazine. There are great views of the Thames from the roof garden near the café, which is on the top floor – although most journalists will tell you they’re far too busy to spend any time up there!

A Typical Day

I spent the first few days with producers who were working on 5 News Tonight. Those days kicked off with a morning meeting where the programme editor would select stories from the day sheet that the planning team had produced earlier in the week. Everyone would make suggestions on appropriate guests to shed light on the stories.

On some days there would be a story that broke during the day which would change the agenda, so you had to be adaptable and prepared to cancel plans. Once three (or four) main stories are decided upon in the meeting, the producers then set about contacting guests.

Sometimes it was obvious who to bid for (for example, for a story about women suspected of taking their children to Syria to join ISIS, I arranged an interview with the MP of Bradford East, which is where the women were from). But other times a lot of research was needed.

Getting Guests

Securing a relevant guest who is articulate, enthusiastic and knowledgeable was always my goal. Once the guest was confirmed, I would then write up a story brief for the presenter. This needs to be concise, and must include notes on the guest’s opinions on the topic they will be talking about (which you will have found out by speaking to them on the phone beforehand).

Another responsibility was arranging cars to collect the guests and bring them to the studio on time. Once they arrived it was my job to greet them and take them to the green room, make them a drink if they wanted it and then take them into hair and make-up ahead of the programme.

The presenter would often come into the green room and get to know them a little first, which really put them at ease. One task I found to be the most difficult part of being a producer on 5 news Tonight was cancelling on a guest when the story  was cut from the show at the last minute. I only had to do it once or twice, but it felt a bit like breaking bad news to someone – like they hadn’t got a job they had applied for.

Shadowing Reporters

As well as learning from the producers on 5 News Tonight, I also got to spend three different days with reporters. The first person I got to shadow was Minnie Stephenson, the entertainment reporter. She was covering a story on Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Chris Gotke, who was awarded the Air Force Cross for crash-landing a historic plane.

I went with her and the cameraman to meet Chris at Buckingham Palace. I helped the cameraman carry all his equipment and briefed Minnie on the story (whilst also trying not to get in the way during the interview!) It’s interesting to see all the work that goes into making a TV news package. For example, the cameraman needed lots of extra footage of Chris on top of the interview itself, so that Minnie would have lots of different shots available when it came to having the report edited together.

After all the filming was done, we headed back to 5 News studios so she could edit the package, which was really interesting. Though the packages are short, to make them look, sound and flow really well it takes at least an hour of editing. All the footage has to be arranged to tell the story and the deadline is tight. Watching all the producers, editors and reporters frantically put their packages together in time for the show to go live is quite invigorating. Making tea for them during this period got me a lot of love!

Have you had an internship you would like to share with our readers? Email us if you would like to blog for us, or get in touch with us on Twitter, @JournoGrads


How To Get Work Experience At NME


Getting work experience with the iconic magazine was no easy feat for Anna. (Pic:

Anna Hall writes about her work experience this summer with one of the UK’s most well-known music journalism magazines…

NME magazine has been a British institution for decades and, if you’re looking to break into music journalism, it is quite possibly the holy grail of work experience placements. After having (relentlessly) applied for a placement through the Editor’s PA Karen Walter almost a year ago, I got offered a week of work experience this June. NME typically only offers one-week placements. That sounds short, but believe me, it is well worth it! Just being in the offices, surrounded by people who are doing exactly what I want to do was thrilling.

NME is part of Time Inc., a media company that occupies most of the Blue Fin building right behind the Tate Modern on the beautiful South Bank. When I arrived, there were three other interns and we were given a row of computers with an impressive view of the river and the City’s glittering skyscrapers. It was so exciting being in the heart of London and inside the offices of the magazine that I’ve grown up reading.

On the first day Karen showed us around the building and introduced us to the team, but after that it was really up to us to be productive. While occasionally people would come up to us and give us jobs to do, we were mostly expected to ask for work. That was really daunting.

You barely know anyone so it’s important to be proactive (otherwise you’ll end up doing nothing all week!) I got to do a lot of different things, from transcribing interviews with members of The Strokes and The Monkees, to researching for articles and sifting through back issues.

The most helpful thing I got out of the experience was feedback on my writing. Karen sent us a list of new singles and we were asked to write up a 100-word review of 3-4 tracks. One of the writers on the team then sits down with you on your last day and gives you advice on how to improve your writing . Getting  that one-to-one guidance from an experienced music journalist is invaluable, even if the article doesn’t get published.

They say breaking into journalism is tough. In truth, even getting work experience in the industry is hard. It wasn’t easy for me. My advice is that simply sending an email isn’t enough. Karen is no doubt flooded with applications and there is a rumour that NME gets 200 requests for work experience a week!

When I applied, I sent in my CV, covering letter, and writing samples by post, followed by an email. I did this simply because I think getting a physical copy in the mail is harder to ignore and it shows that you’re serious enough about the job to go through that effort. I generally apply for all internships and work experience by mailing my application in; I’ve always received positive feedback about that.

Aside from that simple trick, if you want to secure a work experience placement at any magazine you need to write! You don’t need to be a Journalism major or an English major – many of the other interns weren’t. The most important thing is to be writing prolifically and consistently. All of the other interns at NME that I worked with had music blogs and updated them constantly with gig reviews, album reviews, and anything music related.

While I don’t run a blog, I write monthly for several small, independent publications and my university newspaper. There are so many opportunities to write that if you are not writing consistently, you really won’t be taken seriously. Be passionate, write prolifically, and then bombard Karen with your writing samples and CV (don’t be creepy though – no stalking). Everyone at NME really was lovely and if you are passionate about music journalism, they will take notice.

Would you like to write for us about journalism work experience you have had? Get in touch! For the latest on jobs and internships, follow us on Twitter @Journograds and like us on Facebook

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.

Want to blog for Journograds? Or have you already written a post you think our audience would like? Get in touch by emailing the editor, or dropping us a line via Twitter @JournoGrads

Shadowing A Sky News Presenter

Sky News Tonight's Sarah Hewson

Sky News Tonight’s Sarah Hewson

Hannah Gray (@HanChan24) blogs about her day at Sky’s Westminster studio shadowing Sarah Hewson, news presenter for Sky News Tonight…

I met Sarah Hewson at an event I was invited to after featuring in a short video about my previous work experience at Sky. She was extremely warm and friendly and she chatted to me for a while about how she’d gotten to where she was today. A day or two later I emailed her to see if I could spend a day shadowing her to get a better idea of what her job entailed and she said it would be no problem (told you she was nice) and we set a date.

I arrived at the studio just before 11am and met the Sky News Tonight team. The show doesn’t start until 7pm but there is a lot of preparation to be done and so some of the producers arrive at 9am to get started. Both presenters (Adam Boulton and Sarah) arrive after lunch. First, I was given computer login details and was shown how to find Sky’s daily news agenda.

Sky’s Westminster studio shares a building with BBC and ITV News near the Houses of Parliament. The Sky News studio here is much smaller than the headquarters in West London, but for me that was nice as I could quickly find out where to make a cup of tea! In the meeting rooms there are pictures of the news presenters with President Obama, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and other world leaders from past and present – so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated!

The bold blue, red and white Sky News branding is everywhere and areas of the newsroom itself around the studio are used for filming too,  so there are always lights and cameras everywhere ready for action. I was recognising reporters every few minutes but there wasn’t long to stand around being impressed –  the team had a show to put together and I wanted to be helpful.

Two of the producers had the responsibility of finding guests and contributors for that evening’s show. The third producer was working on scripts and a graphic element which would explore the top story in more detail. The rest of the team were based at the Sky News HQ in West London, so we met with them via Skype to discuss which stories would be covered and which guests we should aim to find.

I helped with the challenge of finding guests but to be honest I struggled to get hold of any expert who was available that same evening. It’s more difficult than finding a guest for a radio interview as, obviously, there is the visual aspect! They have to be able to get to Westminster and come into the studio, or we have to arrange to have a camera crew to go and visit them – unlike radio, where you can just ask them to pick up their phone from wherever they are. When I worked in the news team at Heart FM, guests could call in from their living room if they wanted to – they needed to be heard not seen!

High on the agenda was a story on the Home Office’s drug report which claimed that tough laws on drugs weren’t having the desired effect – and we were tasked with finding two people with opposing views who could come in to the studio to debate the issue on-air. Eventually two people with contrasting views on the subject agreed to take part.

Another element of the show required an expert on drugs laws and their usage to provide their authoritative view on the matter. One of the team managed to confirm the guest at 5.30pm, an hour before they had to come in for a rehearsal – so things can really be quite last-minute. This guest, Kirsty Douse, who is head of Legal Services at Release, took a close look at the statistics which were presented on air via a large touchscreen and explained what they meant. I also helped the producer with the appearance of these stats and felt pretty proud of myself when my suggestions were taken on board.

One of my favourite parts of the day happened at 3pm when Sarah had a pre-recorded interview with the US ambassador to the United Nations, Sarah Power. I got to sit in the gallery with the technical team and producer, and was given the responsibility of taking the minutes (counting down for the presenter so they know how much time they have left).

I have studied the United Nations a lot in my degree and also have researched Ebola over my time in journalism and so it was brilliant to see a journalist have the opportunity to ask questions to an expert about this. Like all diplomats, Sarah Power was extremely polite and politically correct when Sarah Hewson asked direct questions. At one point she persisted with the same question, asking it in a variety of ways in order to get the information she wanted from the ambassador, who was being vague on the subject. Seeing a master at work was inspiring, and I definitely learnt a lot despite it being a relatively short interview.

When it got to 7pm and the show went live, I again sat in the gallery so I could hear the director’s communication with the team, see the autocue in operation and watch all the different monitors showing the studio and the incoming feeds. A story broke moments before the show began (about a fire in a Stafford fireworks factory) and both Adam and Sarah had to talk about it without having had time to do any research. I was so impressed with the way they make their job look so easy. There was a director talking in their ear, constantly giving them instructions, and they only had moments to read their script before they were live. That’s the excitement of breaking news, of course, but seeing it first-hand caused me to respect presenters even more.

It’ll take a lot of hard work before I could think about becoming a TV news presenter, but having the opportunity to see what it’s actually like has given me a clear vision of a job I would love to aim towards. There were lessons I had learned from interning in radio news that came in handy for this opportunity, but TV has a whole lot more to get your head around.

The day was fast-paced and you had to stay alert and be able to adapt to changes. Many things happened that viewers wouldn’t have been aware of. For example, a guest was late and missed his interview – but the presenters stayed cool, calm and collected and with the help of the team, they made sure the show always looked professional. I think it’s unlikely that anyone at home would suspect a problem had arisen at any point, because both Sarah Hewson and Adam Boulton are so fantastic at adapting and ad-libbing while live on air. This is a skill that probably only comes with a lot of practice so I will continue to apply for work placements and hope that one day soon I’ll get the opportunity to report a story of my own live on air. For now, the University radio station (URF) is an excellent place to be learning!

Have you had similar work experience that you would like to write about for us? Or have you already written a piece you think we should publish? Get in touch with us by email or drop us a line via Twitter, @JournoGrads

My Radio Internship With Heart FM

Hannah Heart Radio

Hannah completed a summer internship with Heart FM in Sussex

By Hannah Gray (@HanChan24)

My internship began in June and lasted for three months – and I have to say I really enjoyed it. The people I worked with were lovely and many had different backgrounds, having worked in different areas of news. They were all down-to-earth, approachable people who were keen to share their knowledge of the industry.

When I started, one of the first things I needed was an understanding of Heart FM’s script-writing style. Of course, meticulous attention to detail was needed and each story had to be accurate – but the news bulletins also needed to be extremely short (2 minutes). It was important that scripts sounded natural, whilst also being interesting and informative to the listener. I soon discovered that telling the story properly, in very few words, is quite a skill.

The news editor got me into the right way of thinking by asking me to write short scripts using press releases. He would then check and edit them, providing feedback which was always really encouraging. At first I had to keep remembering to write “police say the thief is thought to be average height…” rather than stating it as a fact that “the thief is average height”.

Another important aspect of working at Heart was getting to grips with the tight deadlines. There is a live news bulletin each half hour during the breakfast show (6-10am) and each half hour during “drive-time” (4.30pm-7pm). During the day, in between those peak times, it’s pre-recorded and played every hour.

Every moment of the day the team is working towards a deadline. I found that I really thrived in this fast-paced environment and I loved the task of searching for stories and then keeping them updated with fresh news lines – especially when they were big breaking stories.

My favourite aspect of the internship was getting out and about reporting. I had the opportunity to go out into Sussex and Surrey to interview people, attend events and collect vox pops (recorded informal opinions from people in public places to play on air). I loved the variety and the challenge that came with reporting.

During my time there I got to interview a wide range of people. I spoke to sports stars like England rugby player James Haskell and double olympic gold medalist and professional cyclist Laura Trott. I also interviewed many case studies and regular people who had great stories to tell – such as a married couple from Kent who had won the Euromillions, or the children who met Prince Charles’ during his Royal Visit to Wiston House.

Once I had recorded the interviews, I would take the content back to the office to upload it to the computer and edit it using a software called Burli. Normally I would ask a lot of questions during interviews, so I would have to make an editorial decision during the editing process over which part of the interview to play out on air.

It is brilliant to hear something you have worked on being played out – especially when it is a developing story. One example was the Eastbourne Pier fire this summer, where I interviewed residents who had witnessed it burn down.  I also monitored the story via Twitter and updated the radio station’s social media accounts as the story developed.

The situation was changing rapidly, so content had to go out quickly – all the while remaining accurate. It was demanding, yet exhilarating, to report on the story as it was unfolding. Heart Sussex won Global Radio’s bulletin of the week for its coverage of the disaster.

Towards the end of my internship I enjoyed finding my own stories, writing them up and sending them to the rest of the team as suggestions. It was great when they found them interesting and added them to the bulletin. I learnt a lot from my time at Heart and my colleagues there gave me lots of great advice. The experience definitely confirmed to me that I want to pursue broadcast journalism as a full-time career path.

Have you had an internship you would like to share with our readers? Email us if you would like to blog for us, or get in touch with us on Twitter, @JournoGrads


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