Compiled September 2013
A 10-minute radio documentary produced in May 2013.
On Saturday 17th of November, I attended the ‘How to be a Journalist’ Guardian Masterclass at the London School of Economics. As I walked into the event, the first thing that struck me was the age of the participants – ranging from early teens to late sixties. I spoke to several people over the course of the day and realised that, while many of the participants were starting out in their careers as journalists, many people had come along to the event merely to learn more about how to adapt their online portfolio, learn about data journalism, and get their head around how to have a worthwhile social media presence. Therefore ‘How to be a Journalist’ did not appear to an all-encompassing title for this event.
“When you’re young, don’t be scared to ask the cheeky questions.”
The day began with a talk from Simon Hattenstone, a features writer for The Guardian, who immediately divulged that Andy Murray once called him “the weirdest man I’ve ever met.” His humorous approach engaged the somewhat weary we-had-to-arrive-at-9am-on-a-Saturday audience and led into his talk on the art of the interview. He elaborated on what to and what not to ask in an interview and told us what he feels to be the most important attributes of any interviewer – nosiness, inquisitiveness and, ultimately, passion. We were told to never underestimate the importance of preparation; however, we must understand how integral flexibility is. You need to be able to go along with what your interviewee is telling you; however, you must be able to steer them back to what you are ultimately trying to get out of them. He spoke at length about asking questions. More specifically: asking the hard questions.
“Always be prepared to get your hands dirty.”
The next speaker (Carla Buzasi, Editor of Huffington Post UK) described the highs and lows of her route into journalism. This included a month spent interning (and crying) at a well-known women’s publication and seemed, to me, like a long and painful scene from The Devil Wears Prada. She graduated from Warwick and, after months of trying, was persistent enough to work her way into Conde Nast. Throughout her talk, she emphasised the importance of online journalism and was adamant that journalists should incorporate the best of the old (fact-checking, media law, investigative journalism) into the best of the new (multimedia, SEO optimisation, etc.)
“Never underestimate the intelligence of the reader, but never overestimate his information.”
Tim Arthur, the editor of Time Out London, was up next. He shared his “Top Ten Home Truths” and spoke about what editors are looking for. Throughout his talk, he stressed the importance of both passion and precision in getting ahead in journalism. You need to know the company you want to work for inside and out and convince the editor that you know who their audience is and what they want. Making an impression when you are on placement is also important. The best home truth? It’s not about you – stick to the brief.
“I’m all for the stupid question.”
The most uplifting and positivity-inducing talk of the day was from Tim Radford who told us that journalism is the only career you can get into just by wanting to. He highlighted how important it is to attract the attention of the reader and keep it, bearing in mind that you can lose them in a fifth of a second. You need to learn to write without adjectives and adverbs as far as possible. I can vouch for him on this, as this point has been drilled into me over the past few months as a trainee broadcast journalist.
The next talk was from Paul Lewis, the Guardian’s special projects editor who made a name for himself during the riots by utilising Twitter. He spoke about reporting events in a digital context and about collaborative reporting. He told us that every major news event is on Twitter first and your twitter followers can often be co-collaborators on a story. When I spoke again to some of the people who had told me their main reason for coming to the event was to learn more about social media, they said that Lewis presented what can be a bewildering topic for the technology novice in a clear and accessible way.
“Don’t just pitch one idea; pitch three.”
A panel discussion chaired by Benji Lanyado followed and this featured journalist Bim Adewunmi and Wannabe Hacks co-founder Matthew Caines. They spoke about the realities of freelancing, the debate surrounding the journalism course vs. the work experience route into the industry, the rise of data journalism, and the language of pitching.
“Journalism is not art. We can fish anything out of contemporary culture and fling it against the wall.”
The last word was from the Observer’s food critic Jay Rayner whose brilliant projection ensured he was the only speaker whose voice was almost at the same decibel level both when he was on-mic and when he walked away from it. He talked us through four of his articles ranging from news features to restaurant reviews, talked about the influence of form in relation to content, and offered advice to aspiring feature writers. Further to this, he advised against undergraduate courses in journalism and said that his undergraduate degree in politics had helped him throughout his journalistic career.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my day. What did I take away from the Masterclass? Ultimately, I learned that trust and truth should be at the forefront of journalism – without trust, you don’t get your story; without truth, you don’t keep your integrity. In an era when journalism itself is getting such bad press, it pays to listen to the people who have come before and learn from their experiences and, more importantly, their mistakes.
Image on the homepage by Jenni Graham.
Were you at the Guardian ‘How to be a Journalist’ Masterclass? Are you an aspiring journalist and looking for tips on how to get ahead? Comment below or tweet us @wannabehacks.
Social media presence. It is a topic that divides journalists into their respective camps: those who tweet regularly and see social media profiles as a means of putting yourself out there, as the outside world’s window to their world; and those who tweet occasionally (or not at all) and struggle to understand the potential professional implications.
Strangely, I find myself somewhere between these two camps. There is a fortnightly lecture at City in which we are encouraged to tweet. The lecture even has its own hashtag. I have had three of these lectures thus far and have tried my very best to tweet. I think I’ve managed two tweets in the space of a month. Not great.
With many elements of traditional journalism dying out, it is becoming increasingly important that a new generation of journalists enter the industry tech-savvy and well-versed in social media. I’m working on it.
In the first week of the course, a guest speaker told us that we should treat Twitter like our CV. Many people in the room were perplexed. Obviously, we know not to post inappropriate tweets/compromising photographs on public pages; however, should we really go so far as to turn our social media profiles into clinical documents outlining how suitable we are for a particular job/position/career?
I can understand using your Twitter bio as a mini CV – @’ing both academic institutions you have studied at and publications for which you write. Is my Twitter profile like my CV? Not at all. My bio references relevant information about my academic and professional background; however, this is merely a snippet of what would appear on my CV. I tweet about journalism, my course, things I hear on the train, funny things the cat does… and I would be loathed to remove all traces of personality and individuality from my page.
To be honest: until sitting down to write this post, I hadn’t really thought much at all about what my Twitter profile says about me. Sure, I keep most aspects of my personal/private life away from social media; however, I think it’s important that my Twitter profile isn’t entirely clinical and, well, boring.
I tweeted on this topic last night and asked my followers what they think. A couple of journalism students replied to me and I think their comments reiterate how divided people are on this topic:
“I think Twitter is definitely a mixture of personal but not professionally inappropriate stuff! I wouldn’t say it’s a second CV but it’s a mistake to let your Twitter account land you in hot water! Never know who might google you…”
“I literally don’t know. I’m worried about tweeting non news/political related tweets so I’m just tweeting less…”
For me, it’s all about common sense. If you choose to have a public Twitter profile – as many people do in order to allow maximum interaction with friends and followers – then you have to be aware that everyone can see you what you post. Do you need to be constantly tweeting about breaking news, politics, and the future of journalism? Of course not.
How do we get around this issue of the personal vs. the professional? Some journalist friends of mine have two Twitter profiles: one for personal tweets; the other for work/industry-related tweets. Personally, I would find that exhausting, as I struggle to tweet regularly from one account and I would probably end up confusing the two. It really is a matter of personal (or professional!) choice.
Should we treat our Twitter profiles as we would our CVs? Would you consider having both a personal and professional profile? Is it possible to have one profile and balance personal and work-related tweets? Or are we overthinking the importance of social media? Let us know what you think either in the comments section below or in a tweet @wannabehacks.
My name is Sydney Baloue and I started boxing in October 2011.
You’re in Berlin. How do you feel about the boxing scene here?
I’ve had quite a journey, as far as boxing goes. It’s definitely been a very interesting cultural experience for me. I’m originally from the US and coming to Berlin has given me a real sense of community, in multiple ways – as a sport and also in terms of the people who are involved with the sport. Berlin has these different Bezirke…
The different districts…
Yeah, the different neighbourhoods. I see how different clubs are and how they each interact with the space that they’re in.
Have you found that there are distinct boxing communities in Berlin, or do people often travel to different neighbourhoods to box?
When I first got here, I started out at this place called Boxgirls International. They’re located in Kreuzberg and I had seen an interview with their head coach Cameron and just I thought I’d check them out. I spent my year abroad – during my undergraduate degree – in Paris and one of my friends there was on the volleyball team. She loved it and it was also a way for her to learn the language.
Then, when I came to Berlin on a fellowship, I decided that I should do something outside of the realm of the original purpose of why I am here. I should do something that’s not my work, something that’s not just research. I decided to check out boxing and it was really cool.
Did you find that boxing provided you with a means of learning more colloquial and less standard or generic phrases in German?
I was learning grammar and I was living in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft – a flatshare) and I had boxing, too. These three things were working together and all helping me to learn the language.
There is more of an established community for women’s boxing in the US. I know you didn’t start boxing until you came to Berlin, but do you think there is scope for a bigger German community of female boxers?
When I first came to Berlin I saw that there is a lot of amateur boxing, which is what I do. I see kickboxing at these places and I don’t know whether or not it is a Zeitgeist thing right now, the “in thing.” I think that there was a time when everyone was doing yoga and now maybe boxing or kickboxing is “the thing” to be doing. I learned that Berlin has a small boxing community. The two strictly women/trans-friendly/queer-friendly places here are Boxgirls and Seitenwechsel.
And Boxgirls is based in Kreuzberg?
That’s also Kreuzberg, yeah. There are also a few clubs that will have some women here and there. The place where I train now has quite a few women. It’s called Blau-Gelb and it’s located in Weissensee, just north of Prenzlauer Berg.
And what are your coaches like?
The coaches are really nice guys and they have trained women before.
You mentioned your first fight. I know you just started boxing 18 months ago in Berlin. How was that experience? How nerve-wracking was it?
Nerve-wracking… Hmm… It was obviously a challenge, but it was really great. I had my first fight in February but I’d been definitely working up to that point long before. When I first arrived in Berlin I was 75kg and by the time I fought I was probably about 58-59kg.
Whoa, that’s a big loss!
Yeah, it was crazy. I went through a really enormous transformation. In a good way, though. It’s healthy – building muscle, losing fat – all that stuff.
Is your club Blau-Gelb a big support?
One of the luxuries is that there are so many women, so you can practice sparring with people who are around your weight class. It definitely helps. Sparring is completely different from actually being in a fight. You need your Kopfschutz (head protection) and your mouth guard and you’re supposed to go at 100% intensity and speed. The adrenalin rush during the actual fight is something else. There is a little bit of extra kick there.
Tell me more about the day of your first fight.
I remember the day. I’d seen my opponent that day and I thought ‘Oh, alright. She’s about my height and, obviously, in my weight class.’ We were weighed in the morning and there was a lot of waiting around after that, so I just tried to stay calm and focus what I could do really well. My coach and the other girls at my boxing club are a big help.
And after that, my coach said “You need to save some for the rest of the match!”
By rounds three and four both me and my opponent were pretty tired. You just keep going. It was a wonderful feeling. I wanted to do boxing as a means of learning the language, but I also wanted to do it as there were no sports I really stuck to as a kid. With boxing, I really wanted to test my own limits and try to get past those limits. I think that’s somewhat clichéd, but I do think that it’s very true with boxing.
Sydney Baloue is originally from San Francisco. She lives and boxes in Berlin, Germany.
Follow her on Twitter @SydneyBaloue.
Photo on the homepage by Jenni Graham
One Billion Rising was a global day of action on 14.02.2013 with the slogan “STRIKE – DANCE – RISE.”
In the below radio package, I tried to get a sense of what the event meant to different people across London. I attended the final rehearsal of a dance ‘flashmob’ that had formed especially for the event and spoke to Baroness Anita Gale who raised a question in the House of Lords about One Billion Rising. She spoke to me about what she thinks needs to change about sex and relationship education in Britain’s schools.
It seems so long ago that I was sitting in my flat recording my first-ever YouTube video, awkwardly avoiding eye contact with the webcam in an attempt to introduce myself and fill you in on the first few days of my induction week last September.
It’s been an exceptionally busy, exciting, exhausting, and rewarding few weeks for me on my broadcast journalism course. Assessed newsdays coupled with 7am breakfast meetings and too many please-don’t-tell-me-the-audio-I’ve-been-editing-for-seven-hours-has-corrupted-and-I’ll-have-to-start-from-scratch moments. I haven’t really had a moment to sit down and reflect on everything that has happened in the past few weeks, so – in a way – I’m doing exactly that now.
I’m aware masters application season is upon us and some of you reading this will be tossing up whether or not a journalism masters should be your next move, so I thought I’d share some of the highs and lows (mainly highs) of the past few weeks with you.
In the past fortnight alone I’ve conducted interviews inside Westminster Palace and at City Hall. I remember all too clearly how much I struggled to find interviewees way back at the beginning of the course. I found myself getting increasingly frustrated and I was constantly asking myself why nobody would talk to me.
The process of finding interviewees and case studies (and convincing them to talk to me as a student/trainee journalist) became a great deal easier as the course progressed. I realise now that it’s all down to a combination of using the few contacts you do have and just being prepared to pick up the phone and be bold. Luck and chance do come into it, too. Sometimes everything just falls into place.
When I started the course, I had been quite happy in behind-the-scenes roles and working as an editor. I’d presented podcasts, but never live radio. Then, earlier this month, my team voted me to present our assessed radio show and I ended up co-presenting our assessed television programme a week later. I doubt I would have thought myself capable of that a year ago.
This time last year, I was preparing my masters application and juggling dissertation stresses with a demanding role in student radio. Now, I’m beginning to think about life beyond the postgrad and slowly convincing myself that it’s okay not to have a career plan. Why pigeonhole myself into one facet of “journalism” when I’m now interested in so much more than just radio? Plans change, the industry evolves, and – for now – I’m happy evolving with it.
What will your next move be? Are you applying for a masters or joining the jobhunt? Do you think it’s important to have a firm idea of where you will be working in five, ten, or fifteen years time? Do you have a plan or are you quite happy without one? Let us know in the comments section or tweet us @wannabehacks.
Image on the homepage courtesy of thisisbossi
I read last week that The New York Times wants to launch a “Juniors” edition.
The headline of the article I read coupled with the accompanying photo of a baby reinforced for me that the proposed product was going to be a newspaper for kids. About three quarters of the way through the article there was an update from the author saying that he now knows more about the potential target audience for this new product. The readers won’t be kids; they will be college and university students.
Click here to view the original post on Wannabe Hacks.
The specifics of this NYT Junior edition are not exactly clear; however, it got me thinking — do teens really need their own newspaper? There are long-established teen editions of magazines and a multitude of websites dedicated to content exclusively designed for teens, but are university students in need of their own “young” paper? I don’t think so. Perhaps I’m naïve in thinking that every university student either reads a paper or at least glances at a news site each day. While I’m probably not the target audience for a publication aimed at younger readers, I understand that a paper like this could make newspapers more accessible for people who would normally find them a bit bewildering. Personally? I know that – as a teen – I have found a teen-focused newspaper infuriatingly patronising.
So, what about the even younger readers? Do kids really need their own designated newspaper? Well, in a way, they already have one. There’s First News, a children’s newspaper available via a subscription service, who focus on writing the news in a way that is simple and succinct. Take this recent article on MPs voting for gay marriage, for example.
First News say on their website that they are the world’s first interactive newspaper and a YouTube video shows all of the new features available to those kid subscribers with access to a smartphone or tablet.
The below video shows an app that ‘translates’ grown-up newspaper articles into child-friendly stories with pop-up headlines and sometimes with narration provided by an animated character. I love this as an idea, especially as this avoids the need for a separate children’s paper or Sunday supplement edition; however, I’m not sure how this sort of app would work in the UK. Would Kindle/eReader editions of newspapers be compatible with a smartphone app? What about websites?
What do you think? Would a newspaper aimed at younger readers make broadsheets more accessible? What do you think of the app in the above video? Would this work in the UK market? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us @wannabehacks.
Image on the homepage courtesy of PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE.