Over the Easter break, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do work experience at three fantastic newspapers: the Coventry Telegraph, the Times and the Guardian.
Here I am going to write a little about my experiences to give a brief overview of what I learned from the three weeks, if you’re interested – and of course, in case you’re considering applying to any of them!
The Coventry Telegraph
I had a fantastic week at the Telegraph, because the team were so welcoming and allowed me to actually get hands on with journalism. I was really excited to intern at a daily newspaper because I’d only worked with weekly publications in the past, and wanted to make some comparisons. They allowed me to go on the job to a number of places, including to a military funeral, a council (a step up from student council, it has to be said), a charity presentation, and to the Coventry Transport Museum to watch taxidermy animals and children be photographed in front of the ‘Back to the Future’ DeLorean (yes, really). It taught me that you should expect a huge variety of stories in local journalism – some more serious than others – and that no day is ever the same.
One of the best parts of going on these jobs was that I had the opportunity to pick the brains of the journalists and photographers who worked at the Telegraph. Speaking to editor Alun Thorne was especially useful as he gave me some hints about how to get into the industry: the two I wish to highlight are to make sure you get as much digital experience as you can to allow yourself to adapt to the ever-changing journalism industry, and also to just get ‘stuck in’, be fearless and be prepared to do anything.
The week certainly brought back the excitement I always feel when I’m in an active newsroom and it was great to see the everyday life of news reporters and journalists. I managed to grab some InDesign tips, which will certainly help with the Boar, and quickly became confident with using the phones. I managed to get two pieces published online: one on ‘The Voice’ and a list-style piece about statues around Coventry and Warwickshire, and a byline in the newspaper which was very exciting indeed: a piece about Sport Relief. The week was very enjoyable and really geared me up to hit London and the national newspapers.
To find out more information about work experience here, e-mail this address.
I can’t pretend I wasn’t nervous as I walked into Thomas More Square on the last day of March – I felt like I had been waiting for that moment for a long time, but I couldn’t quite believe I was actually going to work at a national newspaper. However, my nerves were quelled when I met the team on the Letters and Register desk – they were all really friendly and welcoming, and had lots of things for me to do. My favourite task by far was opening the letters to the editor every morning, which sounds fairly boring but actually, was hilarious. Not only were there the letters of the angry to deal with (who criticised the writing and the writers, posting back clippings of the articles they hated with red scribble all over them), but there were also the letters that made no sense: there was a drawing of a duck, a list of jokes and well… An actual novel. However, what really made reading the letters so fulfilling were the people who just wanted to write in and thank the journalists at the Times for all the work that they do, and for various reasons, including revealing the information that people need to know, informing people’s thinking, and in some cases people claimed the newspaper “kept them sane”. Suddenly I realised just how significant the media is and how important my future job as a journalist will be.
I spent a lot of the week researching individuals for the obituaries which were to go into the newspaper every day, and as well as finding this beneficial to my journalistic skills (I have to say, I am now very good at finding obscure information on Google) I learned a lot about people I would never have thought about before, from winemakers to people in the surfing industry. I also got to conduct some telephone interviews, which included having to call America, and also the press office of Margo MacDonald immediately after her death. I realised just how under pressure even the Register desk is to get up-to-date pieces, even though it’s not for news, and I discovered the changing nature of their section. Before the internet and e-mail, letters would not have arrived until a few days after the publication of an article, and the obituaries would have taken longer to write. However nowadays, responses to articles in the newspaper and online are immediate, and obituaries are even commissioned before people die – I was surprised at the huge number they had already written (“We’re very pessimistic on this desk,” said one of the journalists I was working with)!
I learned a lot that week, and although News would have been my preferred desk originally, I am really grateful that I got the chance to experience a different section, because in turn I have developed some new skills. From writing copy, to checking information, to proof-reading most of the section, I can say I contributed to the entire Register section of the Times for that week, and I think that’s a huge achievement. I also wrote a piece for the New Readers column and received my first ever byline for a national newspaper! It was the perfect first experience at a national newspaper that I could have asked for and a little dream completed along the way.
To find out more information about work experience here, e-mail this address.
Walking into the swanky offices at King’s Cross at the beginning of the week and approaching the news desk was one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking things I have ever done. However, one of the first things I noticed was how open the Guardian is as an organisation: I was allowed to go to about one meeting at the Times, but at this placement I was invited to three meetings a day: the news planning meeting, the main conference for all members of staff, and the news layout meeting. The conference every morning was always really interesting as editorial staff discussed the top articles of the day, statistics for the day and anything else of interest, for example the most popular articles since 2010 and guest speaker Brown Moses (Eliot Higgins) came to tell us about how he blogged about Syria from his front room – check him out by the way, his work is fantastic.
The Monday was tough – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, didn’t know anyone and it was a pretty quiet day in terms of news. I was asked to pitch my own stories, and luckily I’d previously filed some FOI requests, so I got writing up the results of those, which was pretty complicated. Top tip for work experience though, as suggested by my good friend Tash: make sure you come prepared with story ideas! You want to make the most of your time so if there is nothing for you to help out with, you will always have something to do if you have a back-up plan of your own articles. As soon as Tuesday hit though the tasks came flooding in, and similarly to the Coventry Telegraph, I found myself researching and writing all sorts of stories.
I certainly got a lot of experience with using the phone, as I called a whole list of councils across the country asking for statistics about primary school admissions, for the stories here and here, and also had to give the Eurostar a buzz about the traffic problems over the bank holiday weekend. Everyone was really helpful and gave me some useful feedback, which I really appreciated – I also had the chance to write a couple of lighter pieces which was a lot of fun, including celebrities who have had to do community service and the news round-up of the week. I also got three bylines in the newspaper too, which I was really surprised about: here, here and here (Rutland earthquakes)! The week zoomed by and I have to say that my highlight, aside from the free drinks machine and mini Easter eggs we were given, was the newspaper’s celebration of the Pulitzer prize win. We were all given a glass of champagne and Alan Rusbridger stood on top of the news desk to give an inspiring speech. It was amazing to be part of such a historical moment.
Overall my Easter break was one of the best times I’ve had so far in my life, and not only have I got some great bylines for my portfolio and stories to tell, I’ve gained some excellent skills to bring to my future career. And if possible, my thirst for journalism has become even more desperate than before. It has motivated me to succeed and all I have to say is, bring on the future.