So last week I headed to the Huffington Post for a week of work experience on the Students desk. Having done a fair amount of work experience now, I wasn’t really that nervous for this placement, just looking forward to getting back into the newsroom.
I must say that I had been pretty excited for this one, as although I have worked at other nationals before, those publications had print editions, so I was looking forward to seeing the difference when working somewhere which didn’t have print issues to worry about. As soon as I arrived the editor I was to be working with, Lucy, sat down with me and talked me through the publication’s editorial system. Fantastic – on no other work experience placement had I been given access to a publication’s editorial system; I had always typed up my articles on Microsoft Word or similar. I suppose that’s understandable, but by being given access to the back-end firstly I got a little more experience in the kind of software that I’ll be expected to use for a future job, and also, by having to edit my own work and upload my own photos and so on, it saves a lot more effort for the editors, too.
I was given a Mac to use for the week, and now I’ve actually learned how to use it I think I may have gone over to the dark side… I am actually struggling to use my Windows computer today. I was given access to the Students Twitter account too, and was essentially in charge of it for the week, which was a nice bit of responsibility and was useful in developing my social media skills. The first articles I wrote were some lighter pieces about my university for the section’s Freshers’ Week component: a freshers’ guide to the University of Warwick and a listicle on eight signs you’re a Warwick University student. My editor told me that the listicles usually do well but wow – I was not expecting the response I got for that piece. Twitter went mental and people were sharing my article all over the place. A couple of my friends also noticed it had been posted on the Warwick Freshers’ page, which was pretty hilarious… Anyway, I was told that my piece had become the most viewed article of the section over September so far – pretty happy with that!
I also got to interview a couple of people over the course of the week, which was fun – first of all I pitched my idea for a piece about transgender students, as I felt it was something which hadn’t been covered recently in the HuffPost Students section after having a look through it. I spoke to my friend Emily who was extremely brave in giving me an interview about her everyday experiences, and she also gave me an idea for a spin-off with advice on what to do if your friend comes out as transgender. In writing these pieces – particularly the interview with Emily, which is probably one of my favourite articles I’ve written so far in my journalistic career – I realised exactly why I want to become a journalist. Everyone has a story and someone needs to hear it, whether it’s important and worthy of a news piece so that people know exactly what’s happening all over the world, informing people of something they didn’t ever know existed, or – like Emily’s story – to help make the world become a better and more accepting place. And the number of people who shared my article saying how inspirational Em is has made me so proud to have interviewed her to tell her story, and well, hopefully make a little bit of difference. And if I have helped even a tiny, weeny bit, I’m happy.
I also got to interview Jay Carteré, an up and coming singer and rapper, which was a good experience because I got to do so in real life, rather than over email or the phone. I then got to write a few news stories, which is, after being news editor of the Boar, where my heart lies. I wrote a piece about a company who were offering six month unpaid internships, an article about teenagers trying to escape to Syria and join ISIS, and a club which tweeted a picture of a half-naked, unconscious woman. So all pretty serious stories and I got some excellent feedback from Lucy, so I know where I was going wrong, what I did well and how I need to improve. I further had the chance to write up an embargo.
Finally, what I really noticed about the Post was the atmosphere. It seemed a little more relaxed than the print nationals I’ve worked at like the Guardian and the Times, and the editors actually had time to sit down with me properly and give me feedback, which I’ve never had before. Of course there was huge importance placed on getting news out quickly and getting the splash of the website just right, but perhaps the calmer atmosphere was down to not being torn in two directions and having to fill the newspaper, as well as getting breaking news online as quickly as possible. This publication allows more focus on social media, breaking news, and getting more hits, and as this tweet seems to show, the Post is definitely doing something right. It was also pretty exciting to see a couple of my articles up on a screen in the office showing their most popular articles at that moment in time, as well as seeing the reaction in the newsroom to the verdict of the Oscar Pistorius trial.
I definitely got a lot out of the week and well, the more work experience I do, the more certain I am that I want to become a news reporter. The buzz of the newsroom is very addictive, and I just can’t wait until I can be working in one every day.